Bureau desks emerged in France in the late 17th century. The term “bureau” is actually French for office and its origins are Latin i.e. burrus, meaning red. It was traditional to drape a piece of red cloth across a desk. Bureau desks are the practical combination of two forms: desks and chests of drawers. These desks are valued for their space-saving aspects, the privacy they afford and the wonderful cubby-holes and secret places found in the desk area. There are many fine examples of chalk painted bureau desks on Pinterest and the internet, so I was happy to find this small one for sale. What attracted me was the interesting detail. It has a back-piece and carving on the front that is somewhat folky or primitive-looking but it also has carved paw feet. I decided to refinish the interior desk part and the fronts of the drawers. They are stained with a mixture that has some English Chestnut in it-hence the reddish colour. I don’t think that paint of any sort is all that practical on a surface that will be written on and the wood in this desk was good quality. The desk is either solid walnut or mahogany, even the insides of the drawers. The rest was painted in a tinted-white chalk paint and sealed with wax.
The desk had shiny newer brass knobs but I replaced them with some other brass ones that I had on hand. I really didn’t like the colour of the brass so I added copper gilding paste to them. I have done this a few times before and I find that the copper really blends well with the reddish wood.