Bought a vintage Mahogany Secretary Desk

I had been looking for a piece of furniture for my foyer for a long while. But the right one hadn’t come along over all these years. I appreciate solid wood furniture but don’t like furniture made of pressed wood or particleboard with a veneer surface or even worse laminate. I finally saw a right-sized antique mahogany secretary desk listed on local Craigslist. The owner of it was moving and couldn’t take it with her. She was really motivated. From the pictures, I could see that this piece of furniture wasn’t in a very good shape. There were many scrapes and nicks here and there, and there were big marks inside the desk when the pulldown door was opened. I couldn’t tell much about the bookshelf/display area because she used it to showcase her china. My overall impression wasn’t very appealing. Nonetheless, I still made arrangements to see it because the price was right and the location wasn’t far from me.

I took Adventurer Jr. II with me for safety reasons. We found it in a corner of her dining room with a thick layer of dust on it. The drawers were working. The bookshelf/display doors could still be locked and opened with the original key. The lock wasn’t working for the pulldown door anymore. There was a piece of wood that chipped off inside the left upper corner of the pulldown door. The original spindle on the top fell off but still present. It could be easily glued back into place with super glue. There were many huge scratches by the left claw and ball foot. Adventurer Jr. II and I were able to lift it without too much effort to see the other side that was blocked by a wall. The secretary was made of real solid mahogany.

The piece definitely needed work. I envisioned it to be a project once I hauled it home. Yet, I wasn’t disgusted by it because I thought it had a potential to be a real beauty. She was packing and ready to unload it. She gave me her best price of $75. I could’ve gone even lower but offered $70 because I didn’t want to take too much advantage of her situation. And my offer was gladly accepted.

The secretary was handed down from her grandmother to her mom then to her. It was passed down as a female line inheritance in her family. I was a little sad for her that she had to part with it. I told her that I would take good care of it.

Mr. Adventurer rented a truck from HomeDepot. The three of us were able to get it up on the truck, wrapped it up and secured. It arrived home safely. The truck cost $30, that made the antique secretary desk cost $100 in total. It was a good deal.

I left it in the garage after unloading because first I’d need to do a major cleaning. I was delighted to smell a sweet wood aroma emitted from it. I couldn’t believe it at first. I googled and found that fresh cut mahogany smelled like leather. No way, this was definitely not leather smell. I couldn’t find any info on what aged mahogany smelled like. I love this pleasant smell. It reminded me of a type of potpourri I had once a long time ago. Maybe she had scented the secretary with potpourri or perfume.

I saw “3844 MAHG” stenciled on the back panel. After researching, it’s likely made in 1940’s. Technically, it can’t be called antique yet because it’s not at least 100 years old. But I wasn’t bothered by it.

My first cleaning round was with soap and water. It took me 40 minutes just to have it all cleaned once. And when I was finished, the water was brown, literally.

Then it was moved inside to its intended space so that I can do a more thorough cleaning. Adventurer Jr. III was so excited and gave me helping hands. I cleaned it with soap and water again and the water in the basin turned brown. I then did another round. Finally, I was satisfied. Mr. Adventurer suggested that we should leave it in its original color. I thought it was a good idea for two reasons. First, I don’t really have the time and experience to paint it even though I had decided what color to paint it with. And here’s my plan B choice. Second, I’d like to admire it in its original form for a while even though the color didn’t really go with my decor at the moment. Since I had decided to leave it alone for now, I used Old English for light wood to give it a final rub down inside and out. I wasn’t sure whether the sweet wood smell would go away afterward, but it came back once the Old English smell was gone. And the wood looked happy with a slight sheen. Now every time I passed it, I had to stop to take a few deeper breaths to smell it. Adventurer Jr. III loved this piece too. He played with the key to open and lock the display doors. He also asked to have one like this in his room. I saw someone on Pinterest refinished one and used it in her bedroom and it was so cool.

The secretary was open for business as Adventurer Jr. III put it

The secretary was open for business as Adventurer Jr. III put it

I relocated a “flowers over the sea” print by Cebo that was set in a blue frame to above the secretary to make it blend in. I used the display shelves to show kids pictures and some small art pieces. Adventurer Jr. III used the desk area to store his lego works that he had designed and built. There were four drawers in the lower section of the secretary. And I haven’t decided what to use them for yet. This was such a versatile useful piece of furniture.


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