Writing bureau restoration


I was given this writing bureau to restore, as it had a few scratches and was looking a bit sorry for itself. At first I simply cleaned and polished it to remove the scratches and lined the drawers. It was a perfect addition to the lounge, giving me a writing desk and storage for my wool.

So, having lived with it for a while now I wondered what it would look like painted. I had been reading an Annie Sloane book on painting furniture and also reading about decoupage on furniture, and I thought I would try to mix the two.

Rather than purchase chalk paint I used one of the home made chalk paint recipes that I’ve used previously on my catalogue drawers to paint the outside. I then used wallpaper to cover the drawers (luckily the height of the three drawers was exactly the width of a roll of wallpaper!). I cut the wallpaper into three pieces and glued them into position. To seal the drawers and to protect them from general wear and tear I coated them with two layers of Mod Podge.


I replaced the drawer handles with these antique-looking ones. I was still able to use the existing holes from the original handles.


I painted the inside with an off-white egg shell paint, recovered the leather using a black leatherette and added the wallpaper to the back of the desk.

3 Replies to “Writing bureau restoration”

  1. Hi Jo,
    Thanks very much for responding to my enquiry and including the link, very helpful indeed.

  2. Hi, I’ve been very interested in the art of furniture upcycling for many years, long before it became so popular and became known as ‘upcycling’. Due to work commitments I hadn’t even considered taking it up until very recently.
    I have well over a dozen pieces of furniture I already have situated in my apartment that I feel will be good projects for me to undertake. However, my first one, which I started cleaning, repairing and prepping a couple of weeks ago is a four-drawer early-mid 20th century bureau.
    I am a member of an online upcycling group. I have read in one thread that someone has taken out the pigeonhole section inside the back of the lid of the bureau in order to add a particular wallpaper, but no one seems to be forthcoming with a reply to my question, “How do you take out the pigeonhole section without damaging it or it’s enclosure?”
    I would be most grateful if you could offer some guidance, please? Or perhaps point me in the direction of a video or article?
    Many thanks in advance, Nigel.

    1. Hi Nigel. I have only upcycled a few pieces of furniture, so I’m no expert, but I have really enjoyed doing them. I don’t know how old my bureau is but the pigeon hole section just came out! I added the wallpaper to a piece of backing card and fixed this behind. You may find that the decorative trim is only attached by panel pins and that you can remove this easily.

      I did find this blog post, which may help with your rennovation. https://dengarden.com/interior-design/Renovating-a-Writing-Desk-Bureau-to-Retain-Patina#gid=ci026b6e02a0052686&pid=renovating-a-writing-desk-bureau-to-retain-patina

      Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.