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