To do or not to do??

This is a secretary desk that I have loved ever since the first time I saw it! It was always tucked away in a corner behind a door, kind of unloved. See that little picture taped to it….It’s blurry… sorry, but it’s the same secretary only painted white….

Without going into a lot of detail, this piece of furniture needs help and has to be refinished somehow to be able to stay in the house…..

So…. should I paint it? I am going to look at the Annie Sloan display with my Sister in Indiana to get more ideas… but…. I love the white version in the photo…….??????

Input please!! What would you do?


10 responses

  1. Don’t paint it!!! Painted furniture comes in and out of vogue and when it’s out, the piece usually gets thrown away. A piece like this, especially, would be very hard to strip down. Imagine what it would look like if it had been painted early on. Now, it still looks pretty good and is easily restored. Respect its age! Get some Old English Scratch polish, rub it down and it will look like new. Paint is like a tattoo–a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And that’s all I have to say about that.

    1. This is something I need to hear…. Unfortunately, the problem is way bigger than scratches… it’s….. smell…. My MIL had a lot …a lot of animals in the house….. I haven’t successfully saved many pieces… yet.

  2. I see it a couple of ways. I was brought up basically that painting natural wood pretty much guarantees you’ll go to hell. So, if you keep the natural wood, my wood saver of choice, with things like spinning wheels, etc is beeswax. I heat it up, rub it in, let it sit and rub until my arms fall off. Brings the wood back to life without taking away any historical value. Now your picture makes it look like the inside is already painted white..true/false? If it’s already painted, I say go bold and have fun with it. Your wall are white, so I’d use something which goes with the decor. For me, it would be a barn red but the inside could be white or soft gold or a sage green or even a royal blue.

    As for critter smells, use coffee! It can either be dried after use or for non-coffee drinkers like me, the stuff straight from the bag. It can be put in a container and let to sit in the closed area or even sprinkled on the shelves to sit and vacuum off later. If it’s been liquid critterness, make a coffee paste and rub in.

  3. Don’t paint it! Just painting it is not going to fix the aroma problem. Other than the feet, the finish looks to be in good shape. Get a mattress bag from a uhaul store or other moving place (or make one with a plastic drop cloth and packing tape) and snug it around the cabinet from the bottom up. First, wipe the whole thing down with Simple Solutions or some other brand of pet enzyme cleaner. You can then try Cathy’s coffee grounds fix; I’d mix them with baking soda for the shelves. Just sprinkle on a thick layer, sprinkle a boatload into the bottom of the bag, close up the bag and let it sit for a few days.Brush, vacuum, repeat. If that doesn’t work, get some zeolite crystals or powder to remove the smell. Some pet stores sell it in the cat problem aisle, but if you can’t find it there it’s available from . (In fact, if you want to try this route let me know and I will send you a few ounces of it!) It’s pricey, but I’ve yet to finish off the first 30oz bottle I bought 3 years ago, and besides having three cats (and 4 litter boxes) I use it to demustify old books. Sprinkle it liberally on and in the cabinet and tape up the bag.
    Once most of the smell is gone, you can touch up the finish on the legs of the cabinet, then give it a good going over with Tung oil or a good beeswax polish. To cover any lingering smell, make little bags stuffed with cinnamon, rosemary and pine needles and tuck them into the shelves and drawers.

  4. HaHA!! I was going to say PAINT IT!! I NEVER paint furniture, feeling pretty much as Cathy does – it will surely send me to Hell!!! Buuut – those painted ones look SO sharp! And tho I so respect Janice’s design expertise I disagree with her opinion that painted pieces go in and out of trend – I think they always have at least a little place and are always in style to some extent – just more or less so. The enzyme treatments really do work, so does baking soda. Replace the wood shelves with glass – it will really brighten up the inside. Now – pardon me, but – if it’s really a REAL quality piece then it would be a shame to paint. But if it was originally a less-expensive, factory-made piece and you wouldn’t be decimating an heirloom antique – then go for it.
    We were re-doing a daughter’s kitchen with some nice oak cabinets I’d salvaged from a paid job and she wanted to paint them white – appalled I MADE her leave them natural. Later we saw a decorating show where they painted similar cabinets in a similar kitchen white and it looked SO nice – boy, did I have to eat crow!!!!!

  5. Oh wow… Thank you all for the info about… de-stinking a piece. Coffee!! Oh Yeah I LOVE coffee. I’m am going to bag it like Kathy said and leave it wrapped up for two weeks (I’ll be out of town) then when I come home it will be wonderful and….. not ready to paint. Apparently this is an original something something secretary and was DH great great grandmothers wedding gift to his great Grandmother and Grandfather. I better not paint…. I am kind of looking forward to going to heaven.

  6. Forgot to give you my stay out of hell way to clean historical wood. Use rubbing alcohol and fine steel wool to rub it down. Gets rid of those old sticky areas and smooths the transition from stained/not stained. Used this on my great grandfather’s linen cabinet from 1860 (fondly called, “the beast,” takes 4 men to move it empty). Cleaned the wood without destroying the patina and then waxed. Given the history of this item, not painting is a good choice!

    1. What type pf wax… and where do you get it???

      1. Just use a furniture paste wax like Bruce. On a big piece, pure beeswax gets too pricey. I found it at Ace Hardware when I lived in Calabash. I would think a mom and pop hardware store in Conway would have it. I think I’ve seen it at Food Lion in with their furniture polishes.

  7. mom i will give you the wax i have a gallon pail of beeswax. but open the drawers and look at all the dovetailing and the amazing joint-ery work on that piece. DO NOT PAINT ANY MAHOGANY! if you take out the shelf’s to replace with glass please store them on top of the piece so future generations (lots of them) will be able to enjoy the piece in the original configuration.

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