Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | August 14, 2012

Weekend Desk Score

This is the Mandel Brothers desk I’ll be painting at the August 25th, open house for Farmhouse Chic in Glen, Michigan, one of my furniture outlets.

Mandel Brothers ladies desk wholesaled out of Chicago.

I found this piece when I attended a rural barn sale this past weekend. It was tucked way back in the corner of a pole barn hidden under a sleeping bag. I uncovered it, made an offer of $5.00 – accepted! I asked about its history and found out the former owner had been a renter and after moving out in the night (a bit like dine and dash!) this piece was one of the items left behind. Their loss was my gain!

When I opened the drawer I found a near pristine, gold and navy label that reads, “Mandel Brothers, Chicago.”  My Internet research reveals that this company, known as “The Heart of Chicago,” imported furniture from Europe and Paris and was at one time Chicago’s leading department store. They sold, what was coined at the time, “dry goods.”

I found photographs on-line to show it was a huge building and was located at State and Madison Streets. Founded in 1855, by the twentieth century the firm employed 3000 workers. WOW! By the 1970’s they succumbed to the downturn in business and revitalization to that area and closed their doors.

I wrote the Furniture Detectives and sent them jpegs of the desk with a request for any additional information they might have about the style, age or value of the desk. I’ll keep you posted if they reply.

I adore the letter cubbies and original vintage glass pulls. The cubbies will need to be reattached after painting and the hinges need a few screws but both are only minor repairs.

Love those cubbies!

I like it’s faded reddish paint with thin black streaks (a 1970’s era “antiquing” painting technique that even I used back then.) However, I will repaint this piece in Annie Sloan Chalk paint Coco and Graphite and finish with dark wax on both. (My current favorite combo.)

I have a clean lined chair already painted that will go with this desk. This chair is painted mainly in Graphite with Coco accents.

How should I paint this desk? Graphite outside and Coco Inside? Or visa versa? What do you vote?

This score helps to make up for the times I have overpaid for something I really wanted!

Thanks for reading and keep on smiling!

You can find my hand-painted vintage furniture transformations at the following two MI shops:

1)      Farmhouse Chic, 6998 114th Ave., Glen, MI in the old Glen Fire Station half way along the Blue Star Highway between South Haven, MI and Saugatuck, MI  Shop hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.  The shop cell phone is 616-403-4576 and shop e-mail is

2)      Baker Allegan Studios, Located 30 minutes from Kalamazoo, MI and 40 minutes from Grand Rapids, the Baker Allegan Studios is located at  148 Mill District Road, Allegan, MI 269-903-6883. Shop hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 to 6 and Sunday noon to 5 .Their website is

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. Graphite outside and Coco Inside 🙂

    • We seem to be on the same page! That is exaactly what I plan to do TOMMORROW at the painting demo. Thanks so much for reading Small House Under a Big Sky! Donna

  2. […] I found this Mandel Brothers secretary desk last summer sitting in the corner of the barn hiding under a sleeping bag. I uncovered it and for $5.00 it was mine. It has the original glass drawer pulls and drawer label. Read all about that experience here. […]

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