A Hand-Crafted Empire Secretary Dresser/Desk

Hey friends,

It’s early at the Tate home as I type. I’m sitting with an open laptop, a eucalyptus spearmint candle lit, the cool fall air blowing in from the north, and a box of Puffs VICKS-infused tissues by my side (these are heavenly by the way). Between the bipolar weather and absolutely overdoing it; my body has officially shut down for the weekend. Closed-for-business. Sneezing, coughing, and lots of ickiness in the nose region are my sidekicks for this cloudy day.

I must confess that building a business has me feeling both exhilarated and exhausted. Mentally and physically energized and drained. I’m constantly burning the candle at both ends, and today I just ran out of gas.

And you know what? No one is mad about it. No one is making me work. That work-horse that never lets me stop is actually just my pride -so I’m giving myself a break. Sometimes we have to let go in order to slow down and just enjoy life.

This cold has thrown a wrench into my weekend retreat plans with some incredible friends, and my marathon training. Who wants to run 14 miles with a sore throat? But in a way, it feels like a blessing in disguise. I haven’t spent a weekend at home with no plans or taking care of someone since the beginning of August (in the midst of moving, working, and a trip to TX -so possibly even before then). So if anyone is looking for me, you can find me snuggled on the couch, just being present in my home. I may possibly go buy some mums for my front porch, binge watch a show on Netflix, and actually finish a project or two around here for my sanity.

And on that note, I finally have time to share one of the many projects which had my attention this summer/early fall. This hand-made Empire Secretary Dresser. Absolutely a work of art with stunning hand-detailed craftsmanship and beautiful solid wood. Take a look.


Dean, my husband, found this dresser at a consignment store here in Annapolis. We are frequenters of the place, and he had an eye on this piece for a couple of months. It never sold, so the price slowly dropped by $300, and we had to save it from its dim-looking fate.


The piece was solid, nothing was broken or shaky, all it needed was some cosmetic updates and attention to a couple spots of veneer. My design plan was to highlight the wood grain on these incredible hand-dovetailed drawers. I sealed them in their raw state, and painted the base Queenstown Gray by General Finishes (a milk paint).


This piece is HEAVY and by no means was it a simple piece to paint or sand. Everything had to be done with attention to detail, just like it was built. The drawers were stripped by sanding, and the curves and lines of the dresser were lightly distressed to highlight the shape and tie in with the wood grain on the drawers.


It’s my intention as a creative designer to take what is out of style and bring it up to speed -while still maintaining a timeless look. I want to honor the original design of the piece, but still make it desirable to my peers today. I think this not only saves pieces from the landfill by recycling them, but it also allows a younger generation to embrace quality pieces with history and great character.


The picture below is a perfect example of hand-carved dovetail joints. I would age this piece over 100 years old; what’s so incredible is that these tiny joints have lasted so long, and there wasn’t a broken drawer in the bunch.

This piece had most definitely been refurnished before. Probably in the not-so-distant past. Even still, the top had some light scuffing and the peg holes had disintegrated.

I opted to paint the top with more of that buttery-smooth milk paint to give the piece more color.

Over all, I couldn’t be happier with the design and end product. I think using paint on the frame allowed the wood grain to pop on the drawer fronts. The light distressing also alludes to the age of the piece (even though it was put there by my-little-old-self, in 2017).

It’s been nice to spend the morning in a seated position. I hope this post also finds you in a state of rest this weekend. I’m slowly learning the importance of taking time for myself as I get older. I can only imagine how important that will be when I one day have little humans to look after. So moral of this blog: life is too short and precious to work ALL the time. Do something for you this weekend -before your body shuts down and makes you! Eat lots of good things and keep your immune system up, because whatever grabbed hold of me truly does suck the energy out of you and making sleeping a bit of a nightmare.

Love and peace to you all. As always, you know where to contact me if you have questions about restoration, paint, or are in need of some custom design for the furniture in your home.