A Vintage Secretary Desk DIY

My favorite part of this house is the sitting room, which I’ve yet to share photos of (coming this week!) Our sitting room demanded a desk. The room is part of our master suite and is right off our bedroom so I didn’t want a conventional desk that would end up piled in clutter as most desks do.  I wanted a petite desk that could store all of it’s clutter away and out of sight and I wanted one that had some interest to it.  Then my mom texted me a photo of this:

repaint furniture diy

She told me how perfect it was and how I could paint it up and make it cuter.  She bought it, stored it and then Dad stuffed it into my parents car and they drove over the mountains from BC to Calgary to bring this desk to me.  It arrived and I was smitten as, it was perfect.  The perfect size.  The perfect lines.  The perfect functionality even.  They couldn’t have brought me a better gift!

While I liked the turquoise paint, the sitting room has striking teal walls and so turquoise just wouldn’t do.  I sanded it down and gave it a clean coat of white paint. Then the real fun started.

I wanted to paint this desk to remind me of my blog because much blog writing will be done at this surface.  Not to mention the fact that I adore honeycomb patterns.  They’re the next chevron if you ask me.  Organic yet structured, a honeycomb conveys so much more than just a geometric pattern, not to mention the fact that subdued orange hues suited the room to the proverbial ‘T’.

make a honeycomb stencil

I printed out a standard hexagon shape and then traced it out onto a plastic stencil sheet.  Once I had the pattern traced to my liking I cut out the areas I wanted to paint.  I left some ’empty’ cells because I felt it brought some interest to the pattern.  The hardest part was making sure I cut it properly so I didn’t have any tears as I worked.

honeycomb stencil

I taped off the area I wanted to stencil then started painting.  It went really quickly and I used standard acrylic craft paint and a sponge brush to ‘dab’ paint in place.  Once I finished an area I let it dry slightly before moving the stencil to do more.  I sort of staggered the placement of the pattern a bit for a fluid look.  It’s slightly different on the other side of the desk too which I prefer over a precision look.

Then came the front.  I knew I wanted the bee on the front and it was really easy to make a template for this too.  All I did was print the picture out on the inkjet.  Then I made a simple transfer with pencil and traced it.

diy stencil


Once the image was transferred I carefully painted the outline and black areas of the bee and let dry.  You can tell it’s not exactly the same because I messed up one part.  That’s ok, it still looked great and if I’d needed to, I could have just washed it off and tried again.  That’s the great thing about paint;  It seems intimidating, but really it’s easy to fix mistakes.

painting on furniture

I wanted a band of yellow to fill in the bee and to finish off the front of the desk.  I found a lovely metallic that wasn’t too bright and lent a bit of shimmer.  I used some painters tape to mask off the area I wanted to paint and then went over the whole thing, bee included, to get a nice striated look from my paint brush.  I didn’t want weird brush strokes around the bee.  Once that was done I quickly wiped the paint off the bee in areas I wanted free of yellow with a damp cotton swab.

handpainted furniture

And there you have it!  I am so happy with how it turned out.  It’s the jewel of the sitting room!  I can sit here and work and then close up the lid and hide everything away.  It’s the exact right size and now it has the exact right look too.  I’m so glad it worked out because this was not an easy item to paint by hand.  Spindle legs?  Yeah…………not easy.  But it was so worth it.

hand painted secretary desk


This just goes to show that a coat of paint doesn’t have to be flat and boring – you can get creative and make it something unique and special to you.  I don’t see me ever getting rid of this piece.  Right now, the inside remains plain white.  I might leave it this way because there’s so much happening on the outside.  Plus, unless I’m sitting there, it won’t be left open.  But should the desire strike, I might do something in the interior.  It has a little organizer piece that fits inside that might be gorgeous covered in pretty paper.    Stay tuned for photos of the finished sitting room later this week!



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