Updated Desk With Hidden Storage




Reuse an old secretary desk to be an electronic charging station.

Step 1: Find or Buy an Old Desk.

This poor desk might have been heading soon to the landfill, when I rescued it from a yard sale. She was having a serious mid-life crisis with lots of wear, and was suffering from a bad attempt at refinishing. I started my project by gathering supplies, and examining the desk. I know that it is silly, but I often talk about hearing old pieces of furniture “speaking” to me. I do not literally “hear” the furniture talk, but sometimes I like to imagine that they speak.

This piece of furniture started its life as a secretary in the mid 1900s. A “secretary” in this post is not meant to designate an occupation, but a type of furniture. A “secretary” is a piece of furniture that would be used for correspondence, mail, and bills. If used by a lady, it would be used to write personal letters in flowing cursive on lightly scented stationary. During this era, there was no Facebook, Twitter, or even Internet. Expensive long distance phone calls were only made to warn of impeding visits, or to deliver news of death. Hearing an operator connecting a long distance call was a source of anxiety (Who died?). For births, marriages, and the status of our vegetable gardens, letters were the only source of news. Each lady would have her own stationary, carefully selected to reflect her tastes, and often monogrammed. She would sit at a “secretary” writing long letters of love lost, rheumatic ailments, and prize winning roses.

Step 2: Select Your Accessories and Paint.

Perhaps, this desk was used by the male head of household to pay bills, but the desk has a delicate appearance, and I think that it would like to belong to someone female. I dug all the way to the back of one of my storage areas to find the perfect stool. It is rectangular, has long legs like the desk legs, and is an ugly duckling screaming that it wants to be beautiful again!

I look through my stash of upholstery fabric. Most of my fabrics are samples from custom upholstery shops, and were purchased very inexpensively. The fabric pieces are just big enough for a chair or bench. I choose a pastel paisley fabric which looks feminine, but not too prissy to offend a man, since this desk will be placed in my antique booth for sale.

The wood will be painted classic beige. My paint is “Ooops” paint, mixed incorrectly and put in a clearance area for five dollars a gallon at a local paint store. If the color isn’t quite perfect, I can always tint it with a squirt of bottled craft paint. For a hidden surprise, I will apply lavender paint inside of the two drawers. It will add a little femininity to the desk, but the beige outer paint and paisley upholstery will blend well in a modern family room.

After I have finished painting, I lightly sand the edges to give the desk a trendy "worn" look.

Step 3: Prime and Paint.

I started by grabbing a screw driver and removing everything that can possibly be removed. I pull out the drawers, remove the drawer pulls, and even unscrewed the hinges for the lid. Some of the hardware is damaged, and it will need to be replaced. I lightly sand the whole piece of furniture. I coat the wood pieces with a white primer coat. This week, I was out of primer, so I used plain white paint that I got for a good price. It doesn’t cover as well, and may take more coats, but it is also much cheaper than buying a can of new primer.

I really slopped the first primer coat on the desk. I got my hands messy, and stuffed the primer paint in the remote crevices. If it drips, I can always sand before the next coat of paint. The last beige layer will be a light coating applied carefully. If I miss a few back crevices with the beige paint, it will still be a good paint job, since the white primer coat will camouflage any spots that I may have missed. I always apply paint in the hardest to reach places first. I paint underneath and behind the desk. I paint all the insides of the cubicle holes. I paint the big obvious areas, such as the front and top of the desk last. If the paint drips onto other areas, the drips will not be on the most prominent areas.

Step 4: Reupholster the Bench or Chair.

The bench was easy to update. I flipped the bench over, and removed four screws which attached the fabric covered seat to the bench. I primed and painted the wood bench to match the desk. Using a flat head screwdriver and pliers, I ripped the old upholstery off of the seat top. I cut new padding (quilt batting works fine) the size of the seat. The upholstery fabric was cut about six inches longer and six inches wider than the seat. Put the fabric (printed side down) on a flat sturdy surface. Put the padding, then the seat on top. Fold the fabric to the back of the seat, and staple securely with a heavy utility stapler (not the kind of stapler that you use with office papers).

Step 5: Add Finishing Touches.

My updated secretary will be a charging station for electronics, and a place to rest a laptop for short tasks. A laptop slides easily into the larger drawer, and cell phones live in the larger holes. Closed (or open if needed for air circulation), the desk would make a great charging station for all sorts of electronic devices. Power cables flow through a hole in the back of the desk. The bench can be used to sit and do quick updates on Facebook (my vegetable garden is doing great!), or pulled out for extra seating when guests arrive.



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    3 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I love it! I want one! Can you tell us where the hidden storage is? Thanks!


    3 years ago on Introduction

    You never know what you find in oops paint. Now that the prices have gone up, I am not buying as much, just enough for immediate use.


    3 years ago

    Wow, that turned out great! I'm glad that we sold you that piece, it definitely got the makeover it needed and deserved! It's so random that it popped up in my feed but I'm excited that it did! Great job!