Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a relaxing weekend. Things are pretty busy here in the ranch this week, but Slav and I still managed to get some things done. We are moving along nicely with the ceiling demo in our garage, which I am hoping to show you soon. We even had a little time to restore another piece of furniture – a 1919 secretary desk!
I’ve been looking for a desk like this one. I prefer a big surface to work off, where I can spread out my papers and three different cups of tea (which happens regularly). The problem is? Slav also loves a big desk. And he already had one. So we just do not have room for another.
In the past, I have been always working off our dining table(s), whichever one we have/had in the house. It is not a bad setup if there are just two of us, since we both eat in front of our computers 99% of the time (bad, I know). But now with in-law’s visit, we would like keep my papers and laptops off the dining table. So a few weeks ago, we hit the Mile High flea market , in hope to find an expendable table with a small floor print for me.
And this is what we came home with, $20 less in our pocket:
It is a secretary-style writing desk, which was made in 1919 (!). This is the first “antique” piece I ever owned, and truth to be told, I am beyond impressed by how solid this 98-year-old desk is. It is so heavy that it takes two people to lift it.
Please excuse Charlie in the above picture – I could not get him to stop licking the table, as if some other dog has done something really naughty there – now I think about it, it might be the case.
The whole desk is 20 inches deep, with the shelves taking up 10 inches of the depth. Luckily, the writing surface can be pulled out another 6 inches, making a 16″ depth. My computer can fit comfortably.
The top board of the desk can be closed to conceal anything inside the shelves. It acts like the fallboard/keylid on a piano. When not in use, I can push back the writing surface, close the lid, and make a 20″ x 35″ flat surface. This style is called “flip-top” and was very popular among antique writing desks.
Below the writing surface, there is a very shallow drawer. It is merely 1 3/4″ deep, presumably for storing papers, envelops and pencils. It is perfect for storing my laptop away when it is not in use.
The writing surface can be pull out and lift off the desk completely. In the picture below, you can see the shallow drawer as the bottom of the desk.
This desk does not have lots of decorative mouldings, but I do love the curved edges and the little details on the front.
This secretary desk is in amazing shape considering its age – it is almost 100 years old! But like any piece of antique furniture, it has some dings and scratches. Last weekend, I decided to use similar method as restoring the vintage guest bed to bring it back to life:
I started by taking the desk apart as much as I could, and cleaning it with some soapy water with grade 0 steel wool:
After drying, the pieces looked really pale.
I chose danish oil as a wood finish with the vintage guest bed, because I love the color of the bed and danish oil does not change the color of the wood. However, this desk is a bit yellow to my taste. I’d like to make it darker, maybe more mahogany.
I like how the little side table turned out with Restore-A-Finish, which was also too light and too yellow before. So I decided to give Restore-A-Finish another go. The picture above shows the difference between the first coat (left two legs), and before the Restore-A-Finish (the ones on the right). The wood just drank up the finish right away, and resulted in a slightly darker and much richer color. Here is another photo right after I gave the left side of the board its first coat:
I did two coats on every pieces back to back, wiping excess shortly after each coat, and let the whole thing dried overnight. Restore-A-Finish does have a pretty strong odor, so I used it in the garage with a mask, and left the garage door open with a small gap at the bottom overnight. While I was at it, I cleaned and coated an old wooden box we had as well. We used it to store remotes in our living room and it could seriously use a refinish after 4 years of heavy use.
The wood pieces were in no doubt a lot richer color. I had not even put wax on yet at this point.
The next morning, with all the Restore-A-Finish dried and odor disappeared, I used the stain marker to touch up some lighter spots.
As the last step, I finished everything with a generous coat of Feed-N-Wax. This is my favorite furniture wax, not only because it protects the wood and makes it shine, but also because it smells wonderful! It has a sweet citrus smell that is close to honey-marinated, lightly-toasted orange peels.
We put the desk together a few hours after applying the wax. And here is the desk now:
And our storage box:
When we were at the flea market, we also rescued this little guy:
He costed us as much as the secretary desk, but we adore him. He looks innocent from one angle, and a little naughty from another angle:
From below, he looked a bit annoyed:
He is definitely living on my desk now, along with my stationary. The beer mug on the right is my “good-luck” departure gift from my last job, which was engraved by my co-workers.
Another precious gift I got from my previous job is the cactus next to the desk. My old boss broke this piece off a 15-feet tall cactus, which he had been growing for decades in his office.
This cactus is the only plant I moved across country with – wrapped in bubble wraps and protected by packing peanuts. It still went through a hard time. It is nice to see it putting up new growth again.
Here you have it, my new thrifted desk! Right after we got the desk for $20 at the flea market, I came across this Ebay post selling the exact same “Antique Early American Style Mahogany Flip Top Secretary Writing Desk”. And guess how much it is selling for? $625! That is $600 difference if we count the cost of the steel wool, Restore-A-Finish, and Feed-N-Wax!