I tackled another piece of furniture this past couple weeks. My grandmother’s (aka Nana) desk is one of my heart pieces of furniture. It sat in my Nana’s apartment for years- I recall when she bought it- from Sloane’s furniture in Bethesda, MD.
She placed it on the wall in the living room that contained the kitchen on the other side. When you opened the door into her apartment the desk was one of the first pieces you would see. I often saw her sitting there writing checks to pay the bills. I remember her stuffing the envelopes and licking both the envelope closed and the stamp to place on the envelope. This was before the days where we had self adhesive stamps. I can picture this as if it was just yesterday.
I loved that desk. I marveled over it. A small secretary desk that didn’t take up much space but seemed to hold so much. When my Nana passed away in 1987 I was 23 and living with her at the time. I was dealing with a chronic illness and I was not working. I was profoundly sad at losing her. She was my best friend. I had never lost anyone I loved before to death. It was on the whole a very hard time in my life.
A couple months after she passed I found out her condo was being sold by the relative that had bought it for Nana to live in years before. I asked my dad to buy it and rent it to me after the relative said they only wanted to sell it. My dad didn’t want to buy it – and that may have been the biggest blessing for me- bc to live there was living in memories so thick that I was drowning in sorrow. So I had to move. I needed to live my life.
My dad decided to sell and give away some of her furniture. He offered a bedroom set to me knowing i didn’t have one. I had just rented a room in a house from a friend and had just found a job that would actually lead me in an odd route to my career as a software engineer. I didn’t take him up on the old ornate dresser he offered – in hindsight I wish I had. I told him I wanted my nana’s buffet, her gate leg table and her desk.
Well, he knew I didn’t have room for any of that where I was going. So he took the pieces and placed them in his own home. They would follow him through a couple moves. After the loss of his wife a few years later he moved to an interim apartment while he built a home in Florida. When that move happened I was finally settled in an condo that I owned and the gate leg table and hutch came to me. Dad must have loved that desk too because it mades its way to Florida with him. That was ok, I knew I would have it someday.
Someday came sooner than I thought. My dad became tired of living in a big Floridian house and he decided to downsize into a condo. He asked me if I wanted some furniture and part of that booty was my Nana’s desk. Finally it would become mine.
By this time I was married and living in a a home in Mount Airy, MD. My Nana had been gone almost 15 years. I remember the desk was delivered in a box with its legs detached. It survived a long trip from Florida well.
We unpacked it and placed it upstairs on our open landing. You could see it when you opened the door if you looked up. I could see it from my bed if our door was open as it often was because we had little kids. I would sometimes look at that desk and I would see Nana sitting there on the old chair reading over something- and I would smile.
That desk survived the move to our farm and was placed again right where you could see it when the front door opened. When we moved in the owner of the home had an old grandfather clock in the space where Nana’s desk was going to go. He asked if I would like to keep the clock. I said “No I already have plans for that space.” I had placed that desk there in my mind before we even moved in.
We have been here over five years and that desk has sat majestically in that spot- but it was getting a bit worn. I never thought I would take paint to that desk but the desk wasn’t an antique really – but the wood top had finish that was splitting – and it was saying boring to me – it never had before but now it was. I waited a while on painting this piece – but once I tackled my Nana’s side board I knew it was only a matter of time before I painted the desk.
So a couple weeks ago I walked up to the desk with a paintbrush full of white chalk paint. And I looked at the desk and I swiped it with paint. I felt ok. I removed the jade lamp (also from my Nana) and the other odds and ends that sat on the top- we pulled it from the wall and the painting commenced.
I changed my mind on the color and then wanted to add patina. I added too much..the desk and I fought for a while. I was scaring myself that I had really messed this one up and to a piece that I loved. I panicked a little – but in the end I think the struggles were worth it. I love the end result. And yet again I learned much.
I did not paint the inside yet. I wanted to leave some of the original finish uncovered for now- I didn’t want to cover up all the surfaces that Nana had touched just yet. I might paint the inside gray later and add a chalkboard finish on the desk when its it open.
I plan on this piece following me to my next home and there it will have a prominent spot- maybe even a place where you it can be seen right when you walk in the front door.
All Paints Maison Blanche
- Began with white paint on one side and changed my mind
- Began again with Jolie Blonde – 3 coats.
- Tried a glaze on the back and nope not good.
- Used Organza Creme (leaves a metallic sheen kind of) in Pewter and I used too much and hated the effect.
- So I went back over the piece with some of the yellow paint and kept working with it (painting it on and wiping off if needed) until I got the effect I wanted.
- I painted the drawer hurricane grey and I added a stencil in the Organza Pewter
- I distressed desk and drawer as needed
- Used three coats of light brown wax (2 coats on legs) and when dry I buffed with a #0000 steel wool.
- I “antiqued” the hardware by painting over it and then painting with a glaze in coal tar color.
Here is the gallery- :