Rodney’s desk makeover

Before I knew my British partner I didn’t really know the UK.

Yes, of course I had visited London a few times, just for business and holiday weekends. My partner is born and raised in Kent. He comes from a town about 45 minutes by train to London. During our first two years together I have spent a lot of time in the UK and I really had a chance to get to know the way of life there much better. First of all, the supermarkets. Anything you can think of is available all year round. So very different than France. Here in the Provence you really eat what’s available each season. You cannot go and think: ‘let’s have Broccoli tonight’. If its not in season, you don’t eat it. In the UK I bought loads of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, available all the time, the best breakfast ever for me

Since we bought the village house, it’s my partner traveling to us for the weekends. This last year, besides still not mastering the French language, I saw him starting to appreciate the French life style. My partner’s parents are adorable and my children consider them as their grandparents. always very happy to see them. Last year they made the difficult decision to sell the house they lived in for 43 years and moved to Brighton to be closer to their daughter and her family.

Brighton is amazing. It’s eclectic, artistic and very bohemian. I can spend hours in ‘The Lanes’ filled with vintage stores and restaurants. My absolute favourite store in The Lanes, is Snooper’s paradise. An in-door flea market you’ll never leave empty handed, but you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and lose a few hours to this treasure hunt. But this blog is not about the UK, although I must admit that some ‘beautiful finds’ from Brighton have found its way to our house already.

Moving house, meant a lot of reorganisation for my partner’s parents and knowing how much I love vintage furniture, quite a few pieces have already made its way to France. And so did Rodney’s desk. I was thrilled by the thought of having this desk with lots of drawers for all my stuff. My other desk, already confiscated by my daughter, only had two drawers. Rodney had bought this desk in the beginning of the seventies. Is was already second hand back then and bought for 20 pounds. Before they had their children, my partner’s parents lived in a small cottage and the desk was placed in the white attic room, with a Turkish rug underneath. Rodney, being a solicitor did spend a lot of time behind this desk, overlooking the colourful English garden. I have never seen any pictures of this cottage in a tiny countryside hamlet, but the description makes me think of Kate Winslet’s cottage in the movie ‘The Holiday’, so romantic. The desk was moved to its new home, a former coach house in a larger town, where it was placed in the bay window of the drawing room, always with fresh flowers from the garden on it. I never heard of a ‘drawing room’ before I met my partner. A drawing room is a second living room. The word comes from ‘withdrawing’ so basically a place where people and their guests could ‘withdraw’ after dinner. It all sounds very ‘Downton Abbey’ to me. When the family expanded the desk got moved to a small office in the back of the house and was all the time piled with documents and books.

When the desk arrived in France, it looked like this:

Well not completely, I did pull off the piece of cloth on the top myself. The desk is a nice piece of wood, covered with a mahogany type of veneer. The drawers are made with dovetails. I think this desk was made early fifties and shows some real craftsmanship. It has little wooden wheels under each set of drawers. Unfortunately, the veneer was really damaged. I hoped to be able to keep the top part in wood, I already found a place to order a new leather top. But while sanding the desk, I realised that it was impossible to keep any of the wood. The desk needed a lot of wood filler and paint. That, plus the price of the leather made me reconsider my plan. I bought an old typewriter on the flea market a few weeks ago. I imagined myself sitting at this desk with the typewriter on it, writing stories like a new Agatha Christie. Truth is that the desk will have my sewing machine on it most of the time, covered in pieces of fabric and needles and pins. The French way would be to throw a piece of plastic table cloth on it, every supermarket sells it by the meter. But no, not my style. I wanted something nice for the reveal picture and BEFORE the desk will be covered with more useful things.

I bought a copy of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express on Ebay for a few euros. Sorry, wrong again, I received a copy of ‘Le crime de l’Orient Express’. After a first layer of Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in Graphite (for me the only type of paint that sticks on veneer), I ripped pages out of the book that looked interesting to me and started ‘mod podging’  them on the desk. Mod Podge is one of the most well known craft supplies in existence. But if you aren’t familiar with Mod Podge, it’s a decoupage medium — an all-in-one glue, sealer and finish used to attach paper and fabric to various surfaces, I took me an hour or two but…tadaaaaa!!!

I love the result. I then used a satin varnish that was left from our kitchen counters, thinking it would give me a harder finish. I painted the rest of the desk in chalk paint and then applied Annie Sloan’s Dark wax. Graphite is not black, more like a deep grey. But with the black wax you get a deeper colour. After 24 hours I buffed it and applied a layer of clear wax, to prevent any staining. I polished the hardware with a toothbrush and a product for brass. Two of the drawer pulls were broken so I exchanged them with the two from the middle drawer and put a different set of pulls on the drawer that I still had lying around. I am completely in love again with the desk. Cannot wait for Rodney’s reaction when he sees this on his next visit. I now only hope the desk will transfer some of Rodney’s wisdom to me…

A la prochaine…..Jacqueline

* Disclosure: I did not receive any products or compensation for the products mentioned in this article. All words and opinions expressed in this post are my own.


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