Makes // The one with the revamped bureau

Slightly morbid start to this one… My grandmother died 18 years ago this month. Her name was Dorothy, but Nanny to me and Aunt Doll or Dolly to many others.  She was my dad’s mother and apart from my parents and sister, she was my closest living relative in the UK.  Here she is a few years before she died:


When she died, one of the things we kept was her writing bureau. I was keen to keep it at the time because it was hers and I had it in my lounge until 6 years ago when I moved out of my flat into a house at which point I left it in my flat because my dad moved in there (when he came back from Turkey) and I wanted to leave him some furniture. After a while, his own furniture finally arrived and the poor bureau got relegated to the shed. It lay there forgotten about for a while until I decided this year to finally get it back out of storage and tart it up a bit. As you can see from the below pics it was a very dark wood which is not my taste at all – I’m all about the white and grey, and the shinier the better so I decided to completed revamp it by sanding it down and giving it a lick of paint. So I thought I’d share with you all how I did it! Now this is my first mini tutorial type post so please be gentle and let me know if you’d like to see more things like this.


First things first…here’s the bureau in her “before” shot:


Next up, what did I use to get the job done?

  • 2 x paintbrushes (which I already had from when I painted my bedroom)
  • Palm sander (I already had this so I haven’t included it in the costings but it came from Wickes and cost £19.99)
  • Sanding paper for sander – £3.49 from Wickes
  • Loose sandpaper sheets (assorted grades) for the harder to reach bits – £1.50 from Wilko
  • Chalk furniture paint in Steel Grey – £4.99 from Aldi
  • Non fluffy tea towel (or lint free cloth)
  • Old knife or wooden skewer
  • A drill – you may or may not need this depending on if you change the handles (I used the husband’s)
  • Handles – mine were from John Lewis and I was lucky to find them in the sale so cost £15 for 6 but I recommend checking out places like TK Maxx or eBay for some good deals

The total cost came in at 2p short of the £25 on my above infographic. On the subject of the infographic, big thanks to my artist/designer husband for creating this, drawing the little images and teaching me how to edit them for future posts!

My top purchase really was the chalk paint from Aldi. Not somewhere traditionally known for their paint but for those of you that have the pleasure of an Aldi in their town you’ll be familiar with their special buys and the aisle that I like to call “Aladdin’s Cave”. I love that you can buy anything from a Vax carpet cleaner, to wellies, to a slate cheese board, to chalk paint at Aldi, all whilst doing the weekly shop! And it always has a bargain price tag which makes it even better in my book. I do love a good bargain, a shared trait in my family which we believe we inherited from Nanny – if my sister was ever asked which nan she was talking about she always used to say “reduced nanny” thanks to her love of hunting out end of day yellow stickered food in the supermarket!! Anyway, back to the paint, obviously your choice of paint will affect the cost here. Aldi had a limited selection of colours but luckily I wanted grey, and grey is what I got. If you decide to go for one of the more mainstream furniture paint brands like Annie Sloane, you should expect to pay around £20. Something like Farrow & Ball is at least double that. In case you’re interested in the Aldi stuff, here’s what it looks like:


And in the interest of full disclosure I did *most* of the work myself but the husband did help a bit as in his own words, he can’t just stand around and watch.

Now for the actual instructions:

1. Sand it down! Remove all the drawers and take off the handles before you start sanding it down as this will make it a lot easier. If your chosen furniture has any peeling veneer just pull (or chisel) it off as by the time you’ve sanded it, you won’t see it. Use the sander for the bigger areas like the sides and the drawer fronts, then use the loose sanding paper for the trickier bits like any bulbous shapes or edges. The bits of wood between the drawers were a little fragile so I used the loose paper on those as i didn’t want to damage it.

Don’t underestimate the amount of dust sanding will create.  Under no circumstances should you consider doing this in the house. I was covered in it so much so that my usual lily white skin actually looked like it was tanned thanks to the layer of dark dust that had settled all over me. You might also want to wear a mask and goggles. My trusty sunnies did the job of the goggles nicely though. The aim of the game with the sanding is to get rid of any shiny bits so that the paint sticks to the wood and also to even out the colour beneath so the paint colour is even.

2. The dust, oh the dust, is everywhere now so you’ll need to wipe it down to get rid of it all. I used a damp non-fluffy tea towel but in hindsight it would have been better to use a lint free cloth which are available in most DIY shops (or hardware stores if you’re in America). Don’t use kitchen roll, not even Juan Sheet! It goes soggy and bitty and you’ll regret it *says the voice of experience*.

3. Now you can paint! Chalk paint can ‘split’ a bit in the tin so it’s a good idea to give it a good stir with an old knife or wooden skewer. The size of brush you use is dependent on the size of the furniture but I’d recommend erring on the side of smaller rather than huge as you don’t want to be slapping paint all over the place, and having 2 in slightly different sizes is also good so you have a smaller one to get to any tricky corners.

A word of warning with chalk paint, it goes far so you don’t need to load up your brush too much and it can also go quite ‘tacky’ between coats so dont be tempted to touch something up if you see a patchy bit after you’ve slapped the first coat on. Trust me on that one. You also don’t need to be too precious with your first coat, chalk paint is quite forgiving and any patchy bits will be easily covered with subsequent coats.

Wait for it to be touch dry and then pop your second coat on. Here it is after the second coat.


You might notice that I haven’t painted all of the inside bits – there’s no point in painting where you aren’t going to see and you don’t want the drawers to stick to the paint so you don’t need to paint all the way in the drawer cavities and likewise there’s no need to paint all the way down the sides of the drawers themselves. You may also want to lay your furniture on it’s back if you are struggling with the feet. The length of wood between the feet on my bureau was very close to the ground and it was hard to paint without getting the brush dirty on the floor so I laid it down which made it a lot easier.

After the second coat I decided to let it dry for at least 24 hours and then give it a third and final coat. It had to wait a bit longer than 24 hours though due to me only being able to do it on the weekend.

So when the weekend rolled round again, I took it out of the shed and gave it the third coat. Unfortunately the good old English weather got me and it started raining. I was desperate to finish it though so the husband got the table brolly out and helped me paint the last few bits. Here I am braving the elements:


4. Once the paint was dry it was time to put the handles on. The original handles had an unusual plug style hole to secure them so they had to be drilled so the new modern handles would fit in. And yes, the husband did the drilling as I was terrified of drilling myself by accident – I’m very accident prone (more on that in future posts I’m sure!).


5. Once the handles were on it was ready to be put back together! We carried it inside without the drawers so it was easier to manoeuvre and then popped the drawers all back in once it was in its new place in our lounge. And here it is!


I am so chuffed with how it turned out. I absolutely love the colour and I think the handles set it off perfectly.

It’s not entirely finished yet though. I still need to get something to clean up the brass work on the inside hinges so if anyone has any tips for that please let me know. I also want to line the drawers so I’m on the look out for some complementary wallpaper or lining paper so once I find that I’ll update this post with a ‘how to’ on that.

So that’s it! I hope I might have inspired you to consider revamping a tired piece of furniture and that this helps you along the way. If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it so feel free to pop it in the comments below or message me on Instagram.

I’ll leave you with one last photo, a before and after of my nanny’s bureau.

6 thoughts on “Makes // The one with the revamped bureau

  1. What a fantastic post, Nicole! I love how it turned out, you did a stellar job. 😀 As for the brass bits – do you guys have ‘Brasso’ over there? They carry it at grocery stores and big box stores here (i.e Wal-Mart which I think is your Asda). That shines up brass like a charm! I’ve also used nail polish remover, before buffing with the Brasso, if there’s any previous stain or paint left over. 🙂 For paper liner, see if you can find Rifle Paper for them. 😍
    Best of luck! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments ☺️ Yes we have Brasso I’m sure I have seen it in a few supermarkets but I wasn’t sure what it did! And I wondered if nail polish would work so I will certainly give that a try and I will google rifle paper now! Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love dark wood and thought it was a lovely piece of furniture. I was skeptic about the gray paint. I can’t even believe how grand it looks. I absolutely love it. The handles are so perfect. Wonderful job! I love your blog.
    I’m accident prone too. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

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