French Louis-Philippe upright desk/secretary

These upright secretaries produced through the 18th to the 20th century very commonly found in houses. They were typically displaying beautiful mahogany or walnut crotch or flamed veneer patterns, while concealing lemon wood or rosewood or other precious wood on their interior drawers and shelves.

Upright Louis-Philippe desk/secretary

Upright Louis-Philippe desk/secretary

Their lower part had either 3 drawers or 2 doors concealing  shelves, while their upper part was an opening leaf to be lowered as a desk surface.

Profile of upright desk/secretary

Profile of upright desk/secretary

Nowadays, with the disappearance of artistic knowledge, these woods are perceived as dull, if not sad. Few people can tell an essence of wood or appreciate the hundreds of hours spent on assembling such a piece of furniture, or the different shades and patterns of its wood essence and the incredible difficulty of varnishing it properly!

It is only the shape of a furniture that matters now and its surface has to bear a catchy décor or color.

Proceeding to modernize this piece, I had to sufficiently sand it to give tooth to the primer, while being careful not to sand down the thin veneer layer and avoid creating porous zones difficult to cover with paint.

I then applied two coats of primer covered by 3 top coats. I used a newly available oil/latex paint from Benjamin Moore.

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Instead of applying a uniform color all over the entire piece, I decided to use a lighter grey /purple for the upper part and a darker one for the bottom, these 2 color zones joining at the bottom of the leaf.

I added a 2-inch gold stripe at this junction, making the desk appear less heavy, more elegant, and unique.

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Another option would have been to use a single color all over the secretary and paint on its leaf a huge stylized pattern such as a flower, a coat of arms etc. painted in a contrasting vivid color or in silver or gilded.

See same transformation on half moon or “demi-lune” table or on side-board.

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