Turning a 100 Year Old Family Heirloom Modern! My January DIY!

secretary desk with a desk chair


There are some things we seem to remember from our childhood that stand out for reasons that are unknown to us. One of these things was a secretary desk that my grandparents had in their bedroom. And when my grandparents passed, my sister, Connie, inherited the desk and had it in her living room for a long time. Recently she remodeled her first floor, and was either going to sell it or ask anyone in the family if they wanted it. 

CLose up of the secretary desk painted blue

I have always loved that piece, but I at this stage in my life, I’m supposed to be simplifying and cleaning out my houses (our primary and our small shore home). So at first, I told Connie, “no”. Then I suddenly changed my mind (we are allowed to do that, right)?

secretary desk sanded

I envisioned the secretary in our shore home by the bay window so I could have a dedicated place to work, store our stationary, desk items, incidentals, etc. Our shore home is small, and storage space is at a premium. With three large drawers for storage, and cubbies inside the flip down area, it would hold a lot. Now the secretary is a maple wood piece with a medium brown stain and had the old fashioned drawer handles you see on those period pieces. The desk has to be about 100 years old, but still is fabulous condition!


I’ve always loved to decorate, and visually can picture what colors, furniture and accessories work together in the rooms we live in. I do have a propensity for a somewhat traditional, coastal – farmhouse-like décor with a hint of modern flare (sounds sophisticated, huh)? lol. Not really!

Updating my grandmothers secretary desk from a maple stained piece to a painted nautical blue piece with brushed nickel pulls transformed this heirloom into the 21st century and brings me joy to see it in our shore home. I decided I was going to leave the interior the original stain for a little contrast when it was opened. 

Secretary desk before painting

My favorite paints are Sherwin Williams paints, and I found the perfect blue for this piece: Salty Dog #9177 in an All Purpose Enamel Satin Finish. A good brush is key, so whether you like a particular brand (I like Purdy), make sure you invest in one. 

I did need to sand the piece, and then prime it. I usually recommend tinting your primer the color you are painting however in my case, I had a can of primer in my supplies so I just left it white. Once primed, I began painting the desk. The paint did go on a little thicker than I anticipated, and I needed two coats, but in the end, I think it turned out pretty well! 

secretary desk primed

I had ordered brushed nickel pulls from Amazon, and measured wrong! How many times to we hear “measure twice, cut once”! So luckily, the hardware store in town had six pulls the right size. 

Secretary desk painted blue before putting back together


I was hell bent on a desk chair that would work with my décor that could also substitute as a side chair when we had company. There’s a famous furniture store in Somers Point, NJ called “Platt’s Beach House Furnishings”, which has unbelievably creative beach pieces and I love to shop there. Of course I saw some chairs, but they were a little over my price range, so in talking with a sales representative, she mentioned they may have a few chairs upstairs that are marked down and weren’t on display. 

Pay Dirt! We went upstairs to a sea of furniture deals! After describing the type of chair I was looking for, it was a match made in heaven! Found the perfect one for $99.00! And the color perfectly complimented the blue of the desk and sea foam greens I had in my shore house. I couldn’t wait to get it home (sneak it in so my husband, John, thinks I had it all along), and place it right by the desk! 

secretary desk painted blue with desk chair

 And at a local art store in Skippack, PA, “Regina Marie Designs Fine Art & Craft Gallery” where local artists sell their work, I found a glass pumpkin in the perfect seafoam green color shades to compliment the desk and pick up the greens in my room. I spent a little more for this because it was a local artist one-of-a-kind piece, and I’m thrilled with it. I also had a few tea candle holders my cousin gifted me, and a plate that I already had displayed in the kitchen area. I when I find the perfect lamp, I’ll call it a day! 

secretary desk painted blue with desk chair

So now as soon as I walk into our home and take a breath of relaxation, I look over at my desk and chair, and smile. The things that make us go “hmmm”! What makes you go “hmmm”?

desk in room with all furniture

Until next time,

Let’s get decoratin’ together!


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