Friday, April 19, 2013


The key to making Craigslist work for you is... PATIENCE.

I think that I searched Craigslist for at least two years before I finally found the secretary I had in my head for our central hall.  I wanted something with a drop front, an open base (vs a cabinet base), and no hutch.  It had to be simple too--no turned or Queen Anne legs or anything.

I always get tempted to buy "compromise" pieces.  You know, ones that aren't quite like what you have in your head, but are good enough.  Pieces that you buy not because you love them, but because you're getting anxious.  Don't give in to this feeling.  If you can afford the time--WAIT.  If my own experience is any indication, it is remarkable how close you can come to exactly what you want if you can just force yourself to be patient and wait it out.

THIS is what was in my head (and OF COURSE I don't have before before pictures of this, because this was pre-blog.  I had already done some fill work here). 

This was $40.  I had to drive way out of town to get this, and the seller had me meet her (or what turned out to be a very big, burly friend of hers) in the parking lot of a police station.  I guess I can't blame people for being extra paranoid when it comes to Craigslist, but it still cracks me up the lengths folks will go to sometimes.  Burly man was also driving a HUMMER.  No comment.

The ad said it was an Ethan Allen secretary, which was true, but it was in far worse shape than the pictures had shown.  Burly man said he was unauthorized to negotiate on price, so I had to pay the full $40 for it.  No joke--it had the word "SOLD" scratched into the front, among other things.  Who does that?  The inside was in perfect condition, though, and it was structurally fine, so I never hesitated.  Certainly worth $40.

There was no salvaging the finish on this because of all the surface damage.  I could have stripped, sanded, and refinished (in something less orange, of course), but I already have a lot of wood going on in the adjacent room and with the flooring, so I decided to paint this guy out--and I went with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) again!  Considering how much I profess to hate this stuff, I sure do use it a lot.

I wanted to go white, but with a heavily brushstroked, dirty finish.  I don't like to call this "distressed."  I generally hate pieces that people label as distressed.  Or worse--chippy.  UGH.  I like patina but it has to look incredibly authentic.  Hopefully I've achieved that.  Apologies for the graininess of this photo.  I shoot with a 5-year old dented Canon ELPH and my center hall gets almost no natural light.  C'est la vie.

Yes, I am aware that the baseboard molding in my house is actually window casing.  It keeps me up at night.  No, not really, but just about.  It grates on me every time I look at it--which is daily, of course.  I am not responsible for this atrocity and someday it WILL be remedied.  I also considered Photoshopping that lamp cord out of the photo, but opted to keep it real instead.  Or possibly I'm just lazy.  You decide.

My camera did much better with the close shots.  Here is a better look at the details.  Because this is done in ASCP, it's waxed (clear) and then also strategically dark waxed to produce the patina.  I use ASCP brand clear wax, but dark wax from the Big Orange because I am cheap and Annie Sloan is crazy expensive.  I apply all of my waxes with a regular 3" paint brush meant for oil paints and then buff off with white cotton rags.

Note to anyone wanting to use white ASCP over knotty wood with no primer--the knots WILL bleed through.  I didn't mind here at all, but you might, so consider options for sealing or priming your wood before trying this at home.

I tried my darndest to learn how to make monkey fist knots to use for the pulls, but it turns out I really suck at making monkey fist knots.  Instead, I took the original knobs (which were just wood spheres) and hot glued jute twine around them, trying to somewhat approximate the look of a monkey fist.  Despite the fact that my kids pull and pick at these daily, they have held up fantastically.

The art is a hand printed poster by Jay Ryan, whose work I adore, and not just because it reminds me of my younger, carefree, Lounge Ax-goin' days... though that certainly adds to the appeal.  That frame is actually navy blue, though it looks black in the photo.  The blue knockoff Tolix stool that slides underneath the desk is from Grandin Road, but I just checked their website and I don't see them for sale anymore.  Lamp is the Julian apothecary lamp from Ballard Designs (15% off until Tuesday!).

I do wish that thrifting and Craigslist could provide more immediate gratification, but good things definitely do come to those who wait.  I'm glad I managed to hold out for this one.

1 comment:

  1. OH I love this!! You did such a great job. Funny story too ;) Thanks for linking up at Give Me The Goods Monday! Can't wait to see what you link up next party ;)
    Jamie @