before & after: jo’s secretary desk + amy’s dresser

okay, i know that painting wood is a very touchy subject. forget coke vs. pepsi; wood vs. paint is the biggest showdown in consumer goods these days. (note: did i just choose an incredibly outdated pop culture controversy? i think i did. what’s a more contemporary pop culture rivalry? i need to be brought up to speed). BUT, ignoring which camp you find yourself in on the paint/wood issue, can we all take a minute to think about how great jo’s painted desk looks in that room?  i love the patterned interior, i love the bursts of color, and i think if you love filling your rooms with color than this is pure perfection. it may not be everyone’s style to paint over natural wood, but sometimes it’s just awesome. and i prefer coke. there, i’ve said my piece:) nice work, jo! –kate

[have a before & after you’d like to share? just shoot me an email with your images right here! (low res, under 500k per image, please)]

i love stripes! stripes, stripes, stripes. they make me extremely happy. amy’s dresser was looking kind of sad until she did this amazing paint job, which includes hand painting all the different bands of color. this dresser was another piece of furniture destined for the dumpster, but amy had a vision. after dragging the piece the hundred feet to her apartment, she mixed leftover house paint with varying amounts of white to create the different hues (i love the combination of colors). amy’s hard work and a few rolls of masking tape really made a difference. awesome work, amy!

  1. teresa says:

    Kindle vs. iPad… :-)

  2. emcguire says:

    Mac Vs PC?

    Also I LOVE that top desk :)

  3. Kristan says:

    LOL to Teresa. Good one. iPhone vs. Droid?

    You know, I like both the Before and the After of the desk. I think if someone wanted to spruce up the before just a *little* bit, without the paint, they’d be wise to follow Jo’s lead and line the back with paper. It’s a great touch!

    Also love the After dresser. :)

  4. Rashona says:

    Good one teresa! Both of these are inspired creations.

  5. Ava says:

    Wow, your ability to change things that are so mundane into something so fun and vibrant is amazing. Great job!

  6. Maggie says:

    The new blue paint on the first one is cute, but I think it would actually ‘pop’ better against that blue if it was more contrasting in color. A color, say, like.. natural wood grain.

  7. Maggie says:

    *I meant pop against the blue wall

  8. Shones says:

    Droid vs. iPhone… and I love painted wood, especially on wood that doesn’t have a lovely texture in it already. That 2nd piece is unique, with the graduated color. Would look great in a beach house.

  9. f says:

    What tidy and clean painting! The second dresser would look even better with new (or vintage) pulls. Those squares against the boxy dresser and the long horizontal stripes is too structural. Some cobalt blue or coral (or even white or yellow or another green) pulls would look wonderful.

  10. Laurel says:

    That dresser is too cool!

  11. Sarah W. says:

    My brother and I still have the Coke vs. Pepsi debate….

    If I were to paint the desk, (I agree with leaving it as is and just putting some decorative paper on the back) I would of painted the whole thing that blue. With the yellow knobs. I don’t like red/white/blue on anything other than a flag. It’s too much for me.

    And I like that they painted the dresser to match their iPod.

  12. bridget says:

    I’m with Kristan…

  13. Tatiana says:

    Such great ideas. I love the bench below on your last post. I have a coffee table that needs some love and that is my next project!

  14. Mai says:

    I’m a wood person but these two pieces are wicked beautiful!!!

    What colors/brand of paint were used for the secretary?

  15. J Is a Bird says:

    Great job on the desk. I also love the alphabet banner. Now I feel kinda lame as a Mom. I made a banner for my daughter, but with b/w pics of Paris. Not very educational huh .

  16. Karen says:

    I love the desk!

  17. I totally adore the dresser! Those stripes + the fresh colors are perfection!

  18. Ashley says:

    Sorry, but all of these before and after pics today are hideous. I gasped at every single one.

  19. Jan says:

    I come to d*s for pretty! Where’s the pretty? Creative, retro, labor-intensive, functional, yes. But I needs my pretty fix.

  20. Barb says:

    awesome work…. on both pieces!


  21. Oooo, I really love that bottom dresser.

  22. ryan says:

    Why paint on wood? Find some mdf or synthetic material if you’re going to cover it with acrylic paint. I think the desk is a pitty, but the dresser is an improvement.

  23. Susan says:

    Wow – love them both! Especially the thought given to *how* to paint them so uniquely, not just to paint. The selective use of a little red and white with the blue on the desk just highlights the clean lines, and the stripes on the dresser make those once all too uniform drawers just dance. Also love that you used paint you had on hand instead of buying more. Fine work, Picasos!

  24. BakerCo says:

    LOVE the secretary desk. How perfectly unique, and it obviously fits well with the owner/creators taste (which is how I judge good design!)

    Lots of great before and afters today, some wonderful ideas!

  25. Julie says:

    I think that there’s a big difference between painting wood with real character and painting the kind of “wood” that’s in the desk- Of course, I can’t really see the fine details, but that looks like “picture board” to me – mdf with a “picture” of wood veneered to the surface. Anything you do to disguise that is good, imo!

  26. Amy says:

    I to have the painting wood delema, I think the desk looks great both ways! I love the use of different colors on the legs. I love the before and after photos on this site!!

  27. Alison says:

    a timeless debate. though you might have to throw Dr. Pepper in the mix.

    Haha and my heart did sink when I realized that beautiful piece was to be painted, but in it’s setting it is wonderful! i’m glad they followed their painting heart.

  28. RINNA says:

    The secretary looked like a nice mid century piece before the paint job. I am not against painting on wood but I like the before of this one better.

  29. stephanie says:

    eeeeeh, I would have left the first one as is. too pretty

  30. hani says:

    I gasped in horror as I scrolled down to the After for the desk. Yeah, it looks fun, but the before made my mid-century loving heart skip a beat.
    Love the dresser, though. The paint job saved that piece.

  31. Martina says:

    I love the secretary desk. Where does one find a retro secretary desk like that??

  32. inSF says:

    I do appreciate the hard work and the quality of the painting you’ve done, truly. And I don’t think this is a forum to say only “I like and don’t like”, but to have meaningful conversations about esthetics, art, etc.

    I think that part of the work of renovating any vintage piece includes looking up its history, style, to see what kind of update/refreshing will “improve” it. It’s a vintage piece because its design survived years of trends and human usage. I think that helps to have in mind what kind of “refreshing” one can do that will make this piece still be considered vintage twenty years from now. I’m not a die-heart midcentury fan that thinks that all pieces should not be touched ;), but I think that with every desire to bring something new comes great responsibility.

    The desk would look wonderful with your wallpaper background, but the blue and red just are not meant to be used in that piece, I’d have just refinished the wood (I do love painted furniture). How about a white or black border, instead of red?

    The dresser would have looked lovely with just a coat of a matte vanilla or even just refresh that aged distressed white. The handles don’t go with the stripes, which indeed would look lovely in a more modern dresser in a beach house. The stripes took completely away the design/shape of the dresser.

    I do love so many of your pieces, but so many times it feels that you make a canvas out of every piece of furniture. Looking forward to continue seeing new pieces made by you.

  33. Dianna says:

    I know the struggle. I love natural wood, but painting to add color and interest to a space is sometimes the way to go.

  34. Julia says:

    Love the first one, but mostly because the clolor blue is my favourite color.

  35. I’ve found that on many vintage pieces the wood isn’t necessarily of great quality. (Okay better than the currrent Ikea MDF pieces but still…)

    I really don’t see the problem with painting wood and I think colours are something very personal. For me, I think it was very bold to use this colour scheme instead of a safe white.

    I find it a very cute colour palette and think it works well.

  36. sue says:

    My ex forbade painting of wood. We had a dining set that I hated that belonged to my MIL. In retrospect, I would have loved it if it had been painted and I regret all the years I didn’t enjoy the piece. However, he probably would have hated it…so the debate goes on. I sometimes see pieces that I cringe that are painted, but if you own it, it’s yours to do with as you will.
    I think if you hate the piece, then paint it…if you’re not sure, maybe other updates should be tried.

  37. Hilary says:

    I actually really like the desk in its original state–almost Danish modern. The paint definitely changes the entire feel of the piece and makes it entirely kid-friendly. I go back and forth with paint vs. wood. In this case, if the desk was going anywhere but a kid’s room, I would definitely keep it unpainted.

  38. Ruth says:

    Good Lord Almighty! Is that a ripple crochet blanket used as a rug, in Jo’s desk picture? That’s a lot of crocheting! I love the spunky spirit of this room.

  39. lans says:

    Question on the “BEFORE” & “AFTER” typefaces: Is that dotted line lettering a font, or did you create that? If it’s a font, may I ask what it’s called?

  40. ali says:

    Love the nautical stripes for a kid’s room!
    The nautical theme is always a classic, but is becoming more and more popular with our customers.

  41. Ashley says:

    I have a piece I’m currently sanding down and not sure the paint or restain debate as well. Having a hard time finding out it’s true nature. Is there a happy medium like colored stains? Then the wood pattern can show through but have a tint too?

  42. Susan says:

    Ashley – MinWax does make some colored stains that look wonderful, especially if there is some grain to show through. They are a little hard to find but Ace Hardware usually carries them. I’ve used the white on several pieces and it gives them a white-washed, beachy look, but they come in others, mostly pastels. The big box stores also have some but I think you have to buy a gallon as they are intended for siding or decks.

  43. sandy says:

    @lans –
    I believe the font used is “ZNuscript Dotted” but I could be wrong. Just a guess.

  44. Ashley says:

    Oh good I’d like to preserve some of the neat -tiger striped oak- pattern but spruce it up with a little color maybe?

    Grace, I wish there was a way to go back and click on your name and see things you’ve posted/ commented on if you’re logging in with your email. It’d be nice to go back and follow up on advice a little more easily. Will there be a way to do something like that when the site is redesigned/ updated?


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