Entry and Hallway

Entry Progress: A Bright Red Secretary

The entry on our parlor level is pretty small. There’s a coat closet across from the powder bath and a teeny tiny little bump out next to the front door and that’s about it. Here’s what the space looked like on move in day. Not pretty, I know. We’ve since had all the walls painted…

The entry on our parlor level is pretty small. There’s a coat closet across from the powder bath and a teeny tiny little bump out next to the front door and that’s about it. Here’s what the space looked like on move in day.

Not pretty, I know. We’ve since had all the walls painted Farrow and Ball’s Cabbage White, which is bright and fresh, and the doors were painted Pitch Black. We still need to do all the trim work in here, but we had the small floor boards painted BM Decorators White.

When I was trying to figure out how to best use this space, I sort of fell in love with the idea of a secretary (a really narrow one), so there would be a place to throw mail down, but we’d also have lots of hidden storage. The issue was finding a secretary that was less than 23″ wide so that the door could open all the way. Not easy!

For a while we kept the vintage vanity desk from this post in this spot because it fit and it was a place to put things down (you can see it peeking out in this post), but I definitely was left wanting something taller with storage after a couple months of that. Then one day at an antiques store in the burbs, a vintage Thomasville beauty presented itself. It wasn’t in perfect shape and the dated-looking fruitwood needed to be painted out, but the size was exactly perfect and the price was right at $175. (Especially compared to the inspiration pieces I was eying on 1st dibs! yikes!)
I knew I wanted to paint the secretary a fun color (aren’t you surprised!?) because the entry is pretty bland and it needed some cheer. I went to Home Depot to get a color mixed and I stumbled across and ENTIRE GALLON of my beloved Safety Red, formally known to me as only-available-in-spray-can-form-Safety-Red. It’s been a four year love affair, so I couldn’t not try it, right? 
I expected it to smell as horrible as the other Rustoleum oil-based paints (like this one), but this paint smelled more like linseed oil and less like fumes. Sort of like the Ben Moore Advanced line. It had an interesting, very thick consistency too. The finish was great though (smooth as glass), so I can’t complain.

You’re probably wondering what happened to the glass here. I have plans to get mirror cut, but I decided to paint out the glass from the inside so no one could see the things I have stored inside. (it’s a whole bunch of vases and it looks really sloppy). I’m not completely minding the white actually, but I think the mirror will help to brighten up the space. (I was going for this and this look.)

I’m really loving it and am just aching to get that moulding up now!

I did put down a small rug and that helped too (seen here formerly),

And I hung the peacock mirror on the wall next to the kitchen. I need to put art on the wall to the left of the kitchen though and I think that will help even more. 

But, it’s progress! And just in time for holiday dinner parties (thank you so much for your votes, by the way! If you haven’t had a chance to pop over, the $500 contest will go through the 23rd. xx)

PS A little tip about painting mirrors or cabinets with glass panes without using painter’s tape.
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52 thoughts on “Entry Progress: A Bright Red Secretary

  1. This is truely great transformation. The door looks super modern and classy painted black and that secretary is an excellent choice!! Also, love the red!! Perfect for an entrance with lots of character!!

  2. The red color really pops over the cabbage white. As an alternative to mirror insets, the insets could be covered with a (small scale?chinoiserie?) fabric.

    Happy holidays!

  3. ho ho ho..I love it! It might be fun to use wallpaper or wrapping paper where the white is….or even sheets of aluminum or heck even chicken wire.

  4. I love it! I love how it pops against the blue-ish white of the wall!

    Did you personalized the inside too? If you have left overs of your office wallpaper, I would use it to wallpaper the inside of the secretary.

  5. Jenny it looks great! Would you do a post about where you shop in the burbs? Im so curious where you get your great finds!!

  6. Oh my goodness, this is perfect timing. I have plans to have mirror cut for old french doors, but have been nervous to start the project and unsure of where to have the glass cut. (I live in south brooklyn too.)
    Will you use silicone caulking to install it into the frames or just glue it to the glass? I know that reading your step-by-step and seeing your results will give me the confidence I need to tackle my own project!

  7. I want to paint a dresser high gloss gray… I am curious- did you prime the secretary first, and then use the Rustoleum? It looks fantastic but I never would have thought to use that product as furniture paint and I'm a bit nervous since I am less experienced at this than you! Thank you!

  8. I have a secretary that is really showing its wear. I've been thinking of painting it, but it's the inside that scares me to death. Did you paint all the cubbies? If so, how? Or leave them wood?

  9. The secretary looks really cool, and I think the mirrors will really look great. One (unsolicited) question: did you try positioning it so it faced forward as you walk in the door? The pictures may be deceiving, but I think it could be a better fit facing that way….

  10. Oh me likey!! That paint is awesome. It actually looks like lacquer, which is definitely a score. You have inspired me to go out and paint that old wood furniture that I feel like I am ruining my paint.

  11. Oh, now this is just phenomenal!! That red is gorgeous. Who knew a secretary could look so modern. And the peacock mirror… drool city. Wow!

  12. I'm so completely jealous that you were able to find a secretary for that price – I've been looking for one myself, and so far I haven't had any luck :(
    Congrat on your amazing score, and I LOVE the red – it's amazing!

  13. Anon- I totally agree with you about how there are more important things than DIY projects going on right now – 100%. I hope that it doesn't come across as insensitive to post today. I wrote a little bit about my feelings here:

    I thought a lot about it, and I think, for me, I'm ready to move forward and feel less fear and anxiety and helplessness, so I'm trying to make my life feel normal again by working. And it's helping me a lot, and truly, I only posted this project today in hopes that it might help others to think of happier things.


  14. marie b: I painted the inside too, though I'm working on some additions, so stay tuned!

    Anon- the wall that I have the art hanging on is stair rail height, though we have plans to add a second rail. No falls here so far. Thanks for your concern.

    Bridget – I got this one at an antique store in Larchmont I think? I can't remember the name exactly, but I think it was something like Chatwick Auctions?

    Alex – if you search for Joanna's armoire in my search bar, there's a post where I already did this. I took off the doors and had the glass shop install the mirror for me. I used Bernie's Glass shop in BK and they were by far the cheapest I've found.

    Cecily, I didn't prime first, though you totally could if you felt moved to. Oil based enamel is a whole different thing than latex paint. It is super hard-wearing and takes a major beating. The down side is it is often very fumey, it takes several days to dry and the clean up is a nightmare. I usually just throw away the brush I used. Be sure to wear gloves too!

    Alli – stay tuned for the inside post! I'm going to do something fun I think.

    Anon- the secretary is super shallow in depth. It's almost twice as wide as it is deep, so it wouldn't fit going the other way. It's a small nook. And actually it fits better than what I have shown in the photos here. I was able to move it over about another two inches and it looks better now.


  15. Love love love how it turned out! What a pretty transformation! I don't know how you do all these projects!! I have a secretary too that was actually one of the first pieces I bought when I moved out of my parents home, recently instead of pitching it I painted it white and took out the glass and installed mirrors like you are thinking about doing! My husband actually likes the piece now! Here's the link if you'd like to see! http://housetoyourhome.com/2012/02/29/keeping-it-real/

  16. anon – if there are more important things going on right now – then why aren't you out there doing them? why are you here reading lgn? maybe trying to escape the bad news? just like jenny?

    jenny love this and thank you for brightening my day.

  17. I hate grammar and spelling police….but when you used formally in this post did you mean formerly (as in previously?) or formally, the way it was written, like the opposite of casual? Not to be nitpicky, just because it would make a difference in what the sentence meant. Love the color!

  18. Quick question. Now that you've done this with both spray paint and the oil based paint. which is better? I'm looking to do something similar and don't know what to choose?

  19. Angela! Ugh! *cringe!!* I meant formerly! Thanks for the catch. I try to proof my posts, but I know lots of errors slip past my tired eyes :) Fixed it in the post.

    Susan, I think there are benefits to both. If the weather's nice out and if I was doing something easy like a desk or a dresser with no glass panes, I would probably opt for the spray. I'm about 50/50 though all things considered. Can't go wrong with either. :)

  20. When I first saw the secretary I really liked the original wood and thought, "Oh no! Not another piece of painted furniture. Why does everyone feel the need to paint furniture?" But after I saw it, I really, really love it!!! It looks especially good against the whitish walls and near the black door. The original wood wouldn't have looked good at all.

  21. Is the hardware the same? I like it so much better on the red! Did you paint it too of just give it a good cleaning?

    Thanks so much for posting this today. Nothing like a great before & after with an amazing color to brighten my day :) It really is about finding joy in the little things, especially when things are so sad right now.

  22. I love this project. Great job. I look at your sight everyday. I do have a question about your honeycomb mirror. I know that you've bought it awhile (and unfortunately I wasn't reading your blog then) but do you have suggestions on where I could source a similar mirror now? I too have been obsessing over the Domino spread that featured this. Thanks.

  23. Love the red, what a brave choice! And if you're looking for art, please check out my website, I paint using oils and metal leaf on panels: http://www.taraandris.com would love for one of my pieces to find its way into your beautiful home!!

  24. This secretary is fabulous! What a transformation – it's amazing how cheery that little nook is now :)

    Quick Question – I'm planning on painting my kitchen cabinets soon (probably a classic white or gray) – would you recommend using this rustoleum enamel for that type of project? Or would it be best to do the traditional primer + high quality paint for the job (similar to your own kitchen cabinets)? I'm looking for the most durable option, and since you're a DIY paint expert, I was hoping you could offer your suggestion :)

    Thanks so much, Kristen

  25. Kristen: The Rustoleum enamel is super glossy – probably not the look you are going for with kitchen cabs. I would use the Benjamin Moore Advance line and then you get to choose an exact shade. Good luck!

  26. This looks fabulous, and reassures me I am not mad to want to paint a 1950s cabinet I picked up recently that is in pretty bad shape. I was beginning to have second thoughts, now I am going to go for it!

  27. Love it! Any ideas on what to do with glass panes in a cabinet for a two year old's room? He started climbing out of his crib, so we're switching to a big boy bed. Love the cabinet, but I don't feel safe with him loose in a room with glass.

  28. Wow, I've been following your blog for a while, it is one of few times I glanced onto the comment page. I got to say, admire your effort to reply as much comments as possible, and you got to be the most gracious blogger I've seen! Keep up with the amazing work! Merry merry Xmas!

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