Windsor Chair

With paint brush at the ready, I decided to build on the momentum generated from last weekend’s quick and easy project.


Windsor Chair Before


My attention was focused on a simple Windsor chair, purchased ages ago from Ethan Allen. The seat was very scratched and not in a lovely time-worn way. Happily, the rest of the chair still had a beautiful finish, so I proceeded with a restrained hand to only address the seat portion. My goal was to create an aged look.

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Pop of Color

Happy 4th of July! I’m enjoying my long weekend with a few quick and easy projects. It seems that I’m always stealing this old stool out of my closet to stand on when taking photos. I decided, if I was going to keep it out, then of course it would need a new pop of color.


Angus was begging to be part of the post, so here he is in all his craziness.


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Curio Cabinet

Wavy glass and a skeleton key lock, are revered characteristics for an old hand-me-down curio cabinet. After repainting it, odd features popped out, such as the wonky door. Then there’s the skinny handle that doesn’t quite cover the hole carved out for the lock. I don’t mind that it has a few flaws. It’s like smile lines. I wouldn’t have them, if I were not surrounded by happy things that make me laugh.


Curio Cabinet Converted to Liquor Cabinet

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Mystery of the Secretary

Sometimes I wonder about the past lives of antiques and vintage furniture. Who owned them, what type of home did they reside in and what stories could they tell? Especially this one. I have always felt that something was not right with this curious family piece. It’s like that excentric great-aunt no one could quite explain.  I have a suspicion this piece was reconstructed once upon a time.  So we’ll call this post, “Mystery of the Secretary”.


Full View of Secretary Before


My first clue the secretary was altered, was when I examined the odd trim around the top, which was the same trim that was used inside the cabinet section, for the shelf supports. It was a decorative addition but not refined by any means. And of course, there was the cornice which was too wide for the overall look of the secretary. It had to have belonged to another piece of furniture.  What were they thinking?  Whoever “they” were.


Secretary with cornice


Unfortunately, I knew the mystery of the secretary would never be solved.  Therefore, off came the ostentatious cornice which was barely held in place by three screws, followed by the trim with a gentle tug. Old nail heads and glue were revealed when the trim was removed. No wonder someone covered it up.


Top edge revealed with trim removed


Wanting to give the furniture a “normal” look I decided to add a piece of simple moulding to the top.  I probably measured nineteen times, before cutting the pieces with a saw and miter box…manually!


Oak molding


After the pieces were cut to the correct length, I made tiny pilot holes with a drill to make nailing the trim in place easier.

Once the moulding was in place, I decided it needed one more piece of trim. The additional trim finished the top with just enough height and width to look balanced.  I’m justifying the use of oak and pine, since the secretary was already mismatched with several types of wood. 😉


Mitered corners


Oak and pine trim


Staining was the last step after installing the molding.  I used a small brush to carefully apply the Minwax stain, which to my surprise went on quick and easy. I’m not sure why but I was expecting the staining process to be messy. I gathered up a dozen rags and towels for the job. Yay, no drips on the carpet or my clothes. I must have done something wrong.


New molding on top


Minwax Wood Stain


The inside back panel of the cabinet was updated with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Louis Blue. It was a bit too bright, so I used the dry brushed technique with French Linen over the Louis Blue to soften the color. I’m still not sure if the color is right. It’s growing on me but may need a little more tweaking.


Simple molding around the top



Updating furniture with moulding


Updating furniture with moulding


Two of my favorite features of the old secretary are the dovetail joints on the drawers and the fold down desk. I consider them to be redeeming qualities for a secretary with a questionable past.


Side view of drawer


The fold down desk top has layers upon layers of water marks and ink stains from a fountain pen. At one time it was heavily used as its character shows.

Maybe these were clues, but left by whom and for what purpose? Case reopened.


Ink stains on the desk


Updating furniture with moulding


The mystery of the secretary continues.



Linking with

Friday Furniture Fix  |  Slightly Coastal

Making Broken Beautiful  |  The Curator’s Collection

©2016 Mystery of the Secretary was first published on Thistle Key Lane






Industrial Bookcase

Cocktail carts are all the rage these days by instantly inviting a festive mood into any room. I had hoped to find one to paint or update, but have reminded myself countless times, I have two obstacles. The first is lack of space and the second is Angus (aka the puppy wrecking ball). I decided to continue using my sturdy kitchen bookshelf as the bar keep area, but improve the function and appearance.


Metal Bolts


Paint bars to look like metal


New industrial look for mission style bookcase

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First Commissioned Work

Recently, I received my first request to paint a piece of furniture, naturally I was thrilled.  I have been looking for the opportunity to paint a piece of furniture for a “ real  client”.  While the new client was saying, “let me know how much…”, I was thinking, I just couldn’t charge for my first commissioned work.  What a relief that it was a step stool and not an armoire!

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Keds Review and Inspiration

Design inspiration from Keds?  When they are Kate Spade Keds, it’s no surprise!  I’m really enthusiastic about plaid this year, which explains why I’m noticing it everywhere. I’m not known to be an impulsive buyer but I couldn’t ignore the immediate urge to order on-line, when I spotted the plaid Keds. It was as if Kate Spade herself said, “Hi Michelle, I designed these with you in mind. Enjoy!”  Thank you, Kate!


Kate Spade Keds

Kate Spade Keds

The X Kate Spade New York Triple Decker Keds are very comfortable to wear. Triple decker refers to the depth of the sole. I have several double decker slip-on styles and love the triple decker style as well.  I’m still a Keds kind a girl at heart, and wear them with shorts or jeans all the time.  These may just be my favorite to date. I have cautiously worn them a couple of times, although the first time I get a spot on the toe, I’ll be whimpering in agony.  I should order the red and black plaid too, without hesitation!

When I mentioned design inspiration, I was thinking about painting Kate Spade’s plaid. The first thing I could get my hands on to paint, was my daughter’s old step stool I found in the attic. No worries. She loves Kate Spade as well.

Step stool before

Step stool before


So cute in the guest bath

So cute in the guest bath


The plaid created on the step stool has an impressionism feel of the Kate Spade design.



I used Annie Sloane Chalk Paint to create the look, using Old White, Paris Grey, Graphite and Old Ochre.  In order to get the lighter shade for the diagonal brush strokes, I mixed equal parts of Paris Grey with the Graphite.

One of the brilliant features of the chalk paint is the ability to build up texture and depth. The brush strokes going across the top created groves for the paint to settle into. Then by sanding the paint layer by layer, the character took shape. I never really know how one of my projects will look until I’m finished.  In a couple of spots I re-applied the paint, where I sanded too aggressively. The point to my ramblings is to not worry about perfection, just play, have fun and work on your project until you’re happy with the results.


Step stool with Kate Spade inspired plaid

Step stool with Kate Spade inspired plaid


Thinking of the practical use, I took pictures of the step stool in the guest bath. However,  how cute would it be on a buffet table or counter?! Why not use it to display a center piece, elevate a flowers arrangement or wine and stemware. All kinds of ideas are popping up in my head!


View of top

View of top


I’m still not sure if I’m more excited over the Kate Spade Keds, or the Kate Spade inspired step stool. Love it!


Having fun with paint and design

Classic design and paint