A Story Indeed!

So, here is what this plucky little secretary taught me, but first I have to go back in time a bit.

I had the opportunity to work with a “Seasoned Vet” of the antique hunting profession. Together we came across a small home hosting a few large antiques that were up for dibs. I was extremely excited and felt fortunate to have stumbled across such good luck! She shook her head and said “Pass”. Being shocked and confused by her rejection, she explained, “These pieces have been trapped in a house for years filled with cigarette smoke, that is more than just patina on those pieces. You could never resell them.” I sadly and slowly followed her lead and we walked away.

Now fast forward…I come across this Vintage Heritage Henredon Secretary. She is a lovely piece, sturdy with great classic lines and charming wire front doors. The price is great and I happily load it up thinking all it needs is a good dusting… until I get home. By the time I get home my vehicle smells like the inside of an ashtray and I know I have my hands full now!

I am an eternal optimist. Surely all it is going to take is a good cleaning. There isn’t anything soap and hot water can’t fix, right? WRONG!


The light color is the writing desk that had been safely pushed in over the years. The dark portion is the damage that years of layers and layers AND LAYERS of nicotine can do.


I tried Windex…. It barely made a dent in the layers!


Very hot water and soap, LOTS of Soap! What did I get, a slightly softer sludge type consistency that now releases the smell of cigarette smoke like a demented diffuser!


So lucky they haven’t created Smell-o-vision yet. Trust me!

Now fully understanding why my “Seasoned” friend passed on the earlier opportunity of great antiques at a “Too good to be true rate,” I seriously contemplated just walking away from this project.

That just isn’t who I am though. Oh no, I refuse to give up on something. Go big or GO HOME! Bring me my orbital sander! I am taking this piece down to the bare wood!


Are you kidding me? Look at the sanding disc! They just kept getting gummed up and I had to keep throwing them away…went through 15 Discs but I can see the light at the end of this very long tunnel.


At this point I have stopped counting the number of hours I have into this and look at it simply as a well learned lesson for the future…sniff all future purchases no matter how crazy you look doing it!

Smell is all but gone now. Just to make sure it doesn’t come back, a thick coat of KILZ primer followed by 2 coats of homemade Dove Grey chalk paint. This old girl has been through the wringer. She deserves a treat so I add charcoal grey accents and a hand painted scroll pattern on the pull out writing table.


I refurbished a matching chair and recovered the seat with a fluffy charcoal fabric to finish the look.





Project complete and I feel very accomplished! I learned a lot, will never regret the countless hours invested and have new-found wisdom.

Good News! This piece sold right away to a lovely older lady who said she had been looking for a piece “Just like this one for a long time”.

She was just waiting for me to find it, rescue it and bring it back to life!

Happy Hunting!





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