Madame Secretary, a cup of tea please

secretary 3

I first saw this piece of furniture in my Paternal Grandparents bedroom one Christmas, as a young girl, when I pretended the downstairs bathroom was occupied. This was a formal Grandparental relationship and I didn’t have leave to roam around the house as I would have liked. I wasn’t sure what it was used for but I liked the way it looked. Later, I learned it was called a Secretary, the top handle would lower down a flat surface that would magically become a little desk for writing pre- internet correspondence. Folks back then must have had little legs and thighs.

ethan allen

The “secretary” was just one of 5 matching pieces I inherited. It was part of “The Ethan Allen Treasury Of Early American Furniture” collection. This set of Grandparents must have furnished almost the entire house from this collection. Dining Room table, hutch and bookcase. Living room coffee, end tables and rocking chair. Three bedroom sets. The Kitchen table, chairs and some wall shelves. It was used but in good condition.

This furniture was classic, traditional and solid. My Maternal Grandparents on the other hand (my Gramma really, Pa didn’t have a say in much) were inexpensive, trendy and modern (1960/70’s Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward household decos). This Gramma would paint the walls to match a bath mat or throw pillow and then repaint and change it with in a year to match a nail polish or valence. She had one piece of real furniture that her daughter had purchased in Europe and had to store in her Dining room. Gramma quickly “antiqued” it with a avocado green lacquer.


I may or may not take after one of the afore-mentioned Grandmothers?


I didn’t have any particularly fond memories involving the secretary and didn’t feel bad about painting it and changing the look. I’m using it to hold a tea-cup collection that belonged to my Paternal Grandmother’s Grandmother. I let the girls have a tea party once and they broke one. I felt torn, do I simply display them again for another 40 years or allow little girls pretend and enjoy them? Generations before me managed to keep them in pristine condition for a hundred years and we have to get the krazy glue out within a few months of having them in my possession. I digress. Back to the make over.

IMG_6429My neighbors are probably sick of smelling spray paint fumes in the air and seeing me army crawl across the lawn in different angles and directions to ensure I got every nook and cranny covered.

I used a spray with the paint and the primer together. I intended it to be white. After I got it inside I was going to modge podge scrapbook paper onto the shelves and back of the cupboard. But then I realized I don’t know how to hodge podge and it was a huge pintrocity. The white was too stark for the tea cups.

So back out side she went. The pretty criss cross of the wood holding in the glass was chipped and about to crumble so I pulled it off and broke out the glass. I then painted 3 coats of cream over the white.

Then I used more spray paint for the inside. A brushed nickel.IMG_6666

I got new drawer pulls to match.

I had new glass made and installed for around $20. It’s the new home of the tea cups for now and some other misc. pewter and silver bowls and a tray. I still may sell the tea cups to fund school tuition or I may let the girls play with them every once in a while.


Honestly, Amy

6 thoughts on “Madame Secretary, a cup of tea please

  1. You did a beautiful job! i’d hold onto those tea cups, but then, I’m a pack-rat.
    My husband’s late wife decorated with Ethan Allen, Laura Ashley, oriental rugs…When we married, he told me to change the house to suit my tastes. We now have old oak and pine furniture, braided rugs and nothing matches. Nothin’ fancy for me, thank you!

  2. It looks great! Would you believe I used to Modge Podge? I actually did a wedding invitation of ours in the 70’s! Not sure if I can remember exactley how but it couldn’t have been difficult or I wouldn’t have done it!

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