Antique Desks

Is there any furniture item more appealing than an antique desk? To me, not really. Especially an antique secretary desk, with little nooks and shelves hidden inside the top…and maybe even a skeleton key to open the drawers! I get so, so excited when I see pieces like that, with scrolly bits and unique woodworking. I think when you paint a nice, new coat of white over all of those antique-y, traditional touches, it creates a perfect blend of traditional meets modern. I was on Ebay the other day and got sucked into a black hole of antique desks:
I LOVE this! Seriously, this is what I’m talking about. Picture this painted in glossy white. Look at all of that cool carving on the front and scrolliness underneath (I wish I knew the proper terms for that stuff, pretty sure it’s not “scrolliness). When do you ever see desks like this? It’s so unique. I don’t hate the wood but I just think with a coat of white paint it would feel like such a perfect juxtaposition of modern and antique. And look closely because THERE ARE KEYS for the drawers. That just kills me. 
I. LOVE. THIS. I love that it’s sort of a secretary, love the shelf on top which would be fun to style, love the little cabinets with their mesh fronts, love the little space in the middle, love the curved legs and the curved drawers. (The only thing I hate is the leather top, that would have to go). Seriously, those curved legs are too pretty. Again, coat of white paint and you’re good to go. This is such a unique piece, and it’s only $150.

I would have some serious fun with this. Paint it white (I’m so predictable), style the hell out of those shelves with books, flowers, and accessories, and then find some better draw pulls and a killer modern chair…perfection! I actually had a piece like this growing up, and I’m definitely a fan. 
I happen to love this one too. It’s so stately looking! Tons of little drawers and cubbyholes in that thing. Also lots of storage underneath and on the bookshelf up top, too. That cabinet in the middle has a key too, which obviously is clutch. It reminds me of this, which I’ve always loved:
Elizabeth Mayhew’s desk from her book Flip for Decorating (a really enjoyable design book)
And remember this home tour in Lonny that I write about once before? Well she took a traditional, wooden piece like these (except it was a china hutch, rather than a desk), gave it a coat of shiny white paint, filled it with books, and voila:

Elizabeth Bauer’s home tour in Lonny’s June/July 2010 issue

PERFECTION! See how well that works?

I think that it’s so important for rooms to be a mix of old and new, traditional and modern…and in this age of seeing the same things over and over (ghost chairs, Parsons desks, Expedits…which I’m totally guilty of too!) isn’t it nice to have at least one item that no one else will have? Old pieces just have such a charm and often are more well-made than new pieces. So don’t be afraid to check Ebay, Craigslist, and antique stores or flea markets for furniture pieces before just buying everything new! With a coat of paint and some new hardware these pieces can be modernized and really lend a unique look to your space. 

Leave a Comment

  1. I am such a big fan of antique desks! They're so elegant and timeless, and I love how they have a story (same goes for all antiques…but I especially love the desks). Too bad we live in teeny apartments right now. Something to look forward to, I guess?!

    Published 8.13.14 · Reply
    • So true, I love how you can imagine each desk having a great story behind it. Definitely looking forward to the day I have the space for one (or several ๐Ÿ™‚

      Published 8.14.14 · Reply
  2. Love a good antique desk!!

    Published 8.13.14 · Reply
  3. Erin Kerr wrote:

    I love these desks, but I cannot imagine them painting white! They're in such good condition. The keys though on the first one wow, it's just so adorable!

    Published 8.13.14 · Reply
    • They look great in wood too, definitely! Just depends on what look you're going for.

      Published 8.14.14 · Reply
  4. i'm looking for something similar (but smaller) for a vanity in my bedroom. my mom found an AWESOME ornate, gawdy gold-framed mirror that I want to set on top of a nice painted antique desk. it's going to look so awesome. I just have to find the right desk at the right thrift store/flea market/dumpster dive ๐Ÿ˜›

    Published 8.13.14 · Reply
    • Haha, always gotta check those Dumpsters ๐Ÿ™‚ lol never know what you'll find! That mirror sounds gorgeous!

      Published 8.14.14 · Reply
  5. Moira Cain wrote:

    I love antique desks! My sister and I actually each have one that we picked up when my family lived in the UK when we were younger! We both have Dickens style desks (they're the ones with the slanty bit in the middle to write on, which is way cooler to look at than it is practical). I love it! And there is so much storage, especially with the room under the slanted part.
    I really like the idea of painting though! That definitely makes it more modern!

    Published 8.13.14 · Reply
    • That sounds amazing! Just the fact that they're from the UK is super cool, I can only imagine how gorgeous they must be!

      Published 8.14.14 · Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    great post, very inspirational and good for the budget conscious, and thats most of us!

    Published 8.14.14 · Reply