This secretary desk was for a customer. She just wanted it to look better than it did, she wasn’t picky. Well, that makes one of us, haha. I’m so picky I needed to make sure as I do on all my pieces, that it was perfect. Perfection takes you down a long road. 😏 Almost perfect is good enough for anyone. 

Savannah, my customer, wanted to incorporate the color Chinese Red, in honor and memory of her grandmother. So I made my suggestions and here she is, in all her stunning glory! 

Secretary Desk

I’m not a red person, but I have to say I really like this Chinese Red paired with Brown Mahogany gel stain. Stunning together, and with the hardware my customer chose, it all just works perfectly together. 

Secretary Desk Makeover

Before Secretary

Here it is before, to match the piece from the bed frame standing in front of it. Definitely more of a reddish finish. Of course the lighting doesn’t show the true colors. It is called Cinnabar and I matched it perfectly with the Brown Mahogany gel stain. 

I scuff sanded the drawers because they were going to be painted, and sanded the other areas down for the gel stain application. Always be sure to clean your furniture really well to remove the years of grime and polishes, before you sand. You don’t want to sand that dirt and grime into your wood before painting. Rinse and repeat as needed, then start your priming and painting. 

Stained & Painted Makeover

drawers painted

This photo has the drawers of course and the desk front. I removed it to stain one side and paint the other side red. 

The piece next to it is a small hanging curio I did for my customer as well.

I used General Finishes Brown Mahogany to match the Cinnabar color of her other furniture. It was a perfect match. 

The sanding on this piece was so easy. I sanded the top and sides to their natural wood, and used a gel stain by General Finishes that can be applied with a sponge, brush or cloth. I opted for the sponge brush and wiped off the extra with a rag.

Molding A Missing Piece

Missing Claw
Mould maker

One of the talons was missing from the front leg, so I fixed that by creating a new one. Easy peasy! 

This mold putty is easy to use. The product is so cool, you can make all kinds of molds. I mixed the two parts together (yellow/white), and once that is done, I formed it around one of the other claws. You can see that below. 


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Making mold

Reinforcing A Mold For A Secure Grip


I also reinforced the missing claw area with nails. This will give the Bondo product something to hold onto, giving it more substance. 

This stuff will work with nearly everything. They also have a tube of it for small scratches or dents. It’s a glazing putty, easy to use as well. 

The photo on the below right is the molded piece. I stained part of here and decided it needed a bit more detail and sanding to match perfectly. 


Talon molded

This is where I reattached the letter/storage insert, that is a job in itself. Wow. Those small letter areas where I could just put my hands through. It was a challenge to attach with screws using a small hand phillips head screwdriver, but it worked.

Doesn’t the inside painted Chinese Red give it a refreshing look? I think so.

Painting Chinese Red 

Inside Chinese red

After the simple part of sanding, I used a gel stain by General Finishes that can be applied with a sponge, brush or cloth. I opted for the sponge brush and wiped off the extra with a rag. I typically wrap the rag around a paint stick, or tongue depressor and that helps me to evenly wipe off the excess. This avoids leaving any heavy lines, in my experience.

Before and after. I just love looking at the finished beauty of hard work. 


I apply the top coat, in this case the gel top coat by General Finishes, the same as I apply the stain. Only I go both directions, with the direction of the grain last. This ensures great coverage for long lasting protection. 

I think that about does it. That is how I painted a Secretary desk Chinese Red and stained it a beautiful brown mahogany! 

Please let me know what you think of this gorgeous piece! It sure is a beauty.

Thanks for visiting! 

Do it with purpose!


“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares!” – Saul Bass