project breakdown: secretary desk

i finally dragged my camera all the way upstairs (what was i making all the fuss about anyway?)
and shot some pics of the end result.
so here you have it...

i don't know if anyone has noticed,
but white paint (because it's so cheap and so easy to match) gets used an awful lot in our household.
so with this project i decided to branch out.
i got really brave and sprang for some cream colored paint instead!
ah yes, big changes taking place here in our household! we're really shaking things up!

but the rest of the process was pretty much the same as both this & this project.
which means a whole lot of sanding.
we always use an electric sander and usually try to stay outside for this messy part.
but in this case i do believe there was snow on the ground,
so all construction took place in our dining room.
(oh how i long for a garage. or a barn. or a shed.)
after it's all smooth and thoroughly sanding, apply an extremely thin coat of primer.
and then leave that to dry at least 24 hours.
it's excruciating!! seriously, but you just have to do it.
and then when that is good and dry, apply one thin (like super thin) coat of paint after the other.
we did 3 coats on this guy.
and use a very fine roller on all the flat surfaces, it's so much easier.
but the legs and trickier parts can be done using just a regular tapered paint brush.
and then, because this will be used around water and hairspray etc,
we also applied a very thin coat of polyurethane.
and then allowed all that to dry for another agonizing couple of days.
but just trust me, this curing time makes all the difference.
you want everything to get nice and hard, otherwise it could just stay tacky forever. 
trust me on this, we purchased a dresser from craigslist that had obviously been diy'd,
and that thing is still tacky to this day. booo!

but after all that work she transformed into quite a sweet addition to our room.
and with such a small bathroom upstairs,
i couldn't be happier about now having my very own vanity area at which to get ready.
especially when we have guests and that bathroom is always in use.
(we love having guests-come visit!)

ah, and those charming knobs were a steal at anthropology.
okay, to be honest nothing is a steal at anthropology, but these were some of their cheapest wares.
six bucks each (4 for the little one) and purchased with a gift card.
so not bad at all.
i saw them and just knew they belonged on this little secretary desk.
especially that wee floret on the drop down table.

and i even mod-podged some lovely paper -bought for $.10 a sheet- onto the table top
and the bottoms of each of the drawers to give it some personality.
and i love it! such an inexpensive addition.
and completely waterproof to boot.

and a little peak into my drawers.
i found that wooden box with all those compartments for a mere dollar. (also at d.i.)

a quick coat of white paint on it and presto! instant jewelry organization.
as you can see i like to sort by color.
clothes, books, and now you know, even jewelry!

and this is the very best use i've ever seen for those gorgeous boxes brie comes in.
i've always felt it was such a shame to throw those out.
and now they corral my large jewelry and miscellaneous hair stuff.
brilliant and totally free - if you eat brie that is - which we do.

i wasn't feeling brave enough to completely paint this mirror.
instead i brushed some of that same cream paint just on the outside.
leaving the original yellow coat to show through in all the nooks and crannies.
i may switch it up someday, but for now i'm actually liking that pop of color it gives our room.
especially with all that blue in there. and white. and dark wood.

and some of the sweet details that can get a little more attention,
now that i've tidied the space up a bit.

and a little place to sit. or to set out tomorrows outfit.
what i imagine was once a captains chair is the perfect size & hight.
unlike that dining chair that used to sit in it's place and had to be tucked under that shelf.

so the entire cost break down is:
secretary desk (d.i.) - $10
paint - $5
polyurethane - $0 (already had)
mod podge - $0 (already had)
knobs - $28 (anthropologie gift card)
jewelry tray - $1
total - $44

so it's not my cheapest project, but still a great value.
it was those anthropologie knobs that really added cost.
but since they were purchased with a gift card, i suppose the real total cost is...
total: $16
nice! yes, i like that number much better.

i'd say we are loving it but i'm not sure ryan notices much of a difference.
(after all, he still gets ready in the bathroom.)
he is however loving the fact that i am loving it.
so we're both happy with the change!


  1. cute as always. I'm glad you stuck to your word and posted the reveal today. I've been waiting.

  2. I really love it!
    ALL of it... pictures, and bits and peices of your room included-Great Job Leah!
    You are so talented.

  3. Leah,
    I love love love your blog! You are Martha Stewart, only hotter, and cooler and better!
    I absolutely adore your style of writing, of decorating, of living your life with an eye for beauty.

    Gorgeous in every way :)

  4. ha! in that case chels i'm glad i did too! thanks.

    shucks mom, glad you liked the pics. (i'm trying to practice with the camera you know) and glad to have your happy comments back now that you're home.

    and juliane, such compliments, i don't even know what to say but thank you!! you sure know how to make a girl feel good. if we lived closer we could work on projects together. what fun that would be!

  5. Gorgeous! What a transformation. I love the paper you applied to the desk. And the little compartments for your jewelry is fantastic.

  6. Leah! This looks amazing! Love the transformation and I cannot believe you found that secretary for $10 at D.I. Wow and wow.

  7. thanks girls, that jewelry organizer thingy is a complete godsend. my earings have never been so easy to find!

    and i know, $10? are you kidding me? d.i and i get along quite nicely i think.

  8. Oh my goodness, I love it! Love the legs on the secretary and how you added paper to the inside. I too love white, it is my default for everything...trying to break that one though. I hope you know that when I am wresting with choices like knobs etc.. I might just be bugging you now ;) I had thought about doing paper on the inside of my green armoire, and now I think I will, I never thought of modge podge. Also, your mirror is so pretty, you have just ended an internal debate for me on whether to paint a similar mirror in my bathroom white or yellow...Thank you! what color of yellow did you use? spray paint? sorry for the novel here :)

  9. thanks so much jolanda! white is just too easy to match to anything & everything, and it's so dang cheap, so it's difficult for me to break away from it. not to mention i love its' clean look!

    the paper was so easy to use, and makes it feel so much more custom, you know? so i'd totally go for it! the yellow on the mirror was actually original from when i bought it, so i just added that cream paint.

    i happen to know you are MUCH more experienced than i, but of you need someone to bounce ideas off of, i'm more than happy! i can't get enough of this stuff. :)

  10. Leah...I am a total sucker for DIY projects such as this one. I love your new desk it looks great. I love everything about it right down to the adorable organizational boxes. And eventhough it doesn't have anything to do with this particular post I am in love with the blue chest at the end of your bed!! Adorable!

  11. thanks micah!! i'm a fellow sucker for money saving diy projects. and i'm glad you appreciate that blue chest, it was a steal of a deal at our local d.i. do you have any ideas on what to do with it to make it more useful?!


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