Modern Secretary: a labor of love


My Lovely Modern Secretary

Ever since I was a little girl, furniture with lots of little hidden drawers and compartments has appealed to me. I attribute that to spending a large portion of my childhood at my grandma’s house. She had many vintage pieces handed down from family members, as well as, pieces my grandfather built from scratch into the house itself.

Growing up I was fascinated by the large blue secretary in her house that served as dresser, desk and book case. I used to love opening the hinged desk to see all the compartments inside for letters and papers…the little drawers filled with stamps and paperclips. I liked watching it close and wondered if anything happened in there when we weren’t looking.

As an adult, secretary desks still appeal to me. I like their functionality and that everything has a place. I am forever battling clutter and am often misplacing things like my stamps or that birthday card I meant to send to a friend. Nick has wandered around enough antique stores with me to know how much I like them, so when he stumbled upon this strange piece in an alley here in Milwaukee, it sparked an idea.

Apologies for the blurry picture.

Apologies for the blurry picture.

We’re not sure what this thing was in it’s past life, but our best guess is a prayer kneeler*. The metal tabs along the inner side of the legs hold the legs in place and look like something was once attached to them. When you pull those tabs up, you can fold the legs in. The metal was exposed at the top as though something had been attached there, as well, and it came with a small light fixture.

Regardless of what it had been, Nick showed it to me and asked if I’d like him to turn it into a secretary for me for my birthday. I was skeptical and said, “sure?”** So using scrap wood he found in our garage, tools he bought and/or borrowed from friends and YouTube videos as his guide, and a few moths later it looked like this!!:


After much deliberation and hunting for the perfect drawer pulls; which we found at Farm Girl Antiques, I decided what colors I wanted to stain it and we ended up with the gorgeous desk you see in the first image!


Now all of my writing materials are organized and I have a lovely place to sit and write/draw. Thanks for the lovely birthday gift, Nick!

I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to stain such a piece for those who are curious soon!

*Other theories sourced from posting a picture to the internet included: cage around ticket kiosk at a theatre, or bank tellers’ cage.

**Who knew? Best to start skeptical and be pleasantly surprised by results.