Executive Desk with Damaged Leather Top Gets a Makeover
I purchased this executive desk at an auction. The bidding competition was sparse to say the least, and I believe that was because of the damaged leather top. But I thought it would be a good project to work on, so I was happy to be the lucky winner.
BeforeThe desk has solid construction with a wood veneer and a leather top. The veneer was secure but was scratched and worn. The leather top was in very poor condition.
I immediately started having buyer's remorse when I started thinking about how heavy it was going to be to move the desk! But luckily the top of the desk is removable! The top rests on the two pedestal drawer bases. Consequently it was fairly easy for me to move the pieces by myself.
Removing a Damaged Leather TopThe first order of business was to address the damaged leather top. On previous projects I've made minor repairs and then painted right over the leather, such as with this coffee table project. But this leather was beyond repair, so I watched a number of YouTube videos to learn about replacing a top. Eventually I decided an actual replacement would not only be too time consuming but potentially expensive given my untested skill level. So instead I decided to remove the leather top and paint it.
First I used a metal paint scraper to lift up a corner of the leather.
Once there was enough to grab onto, I started peeling back the leather.
I continued peeling the leather until the entire top was removed. I used the scraper to gently release any stubborn areas.
There was still be some residue of the adhesive left that needed removal. I checked a number of websites that recommended wetting the surface and scraping it off. I did try that and it worked OK, but it was a very slow process. In all fairness, I only gave it a try for about 30 seconds before moving on to Plan B.
I put the dog inside (he refused to wear a sanding mask) and got out my orbital sander.
In just a few minutes the residue was gone and the desk top was looking good.
I was initially planning to stain the wood, but the border area of the leather top was carved out. So instead I filled it with wood filler and then sanded that smooth.
Apply the Paint!I painted the desk top separately and then painted the base in French Linen (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint). I later painted the trim Old White.
For the top of the desk, I taped off the areas with wood filler using painter's tape to create a border of French Linen.
I needed to keep the project going and wasn't able to take a break despite the oppressive heat and humidity. It was 90 degrees in the shade! TJ was smart and found a shady spot on the deck to rest while I worked.
After the paint dried, and while the dog was resting, I gently peeled off the tape around the border.
Storm clouds were starting to roll in after I finished painting and sanding, so I had to move the project inside to finish waxing. TJ was with me every step of the way.
AfterI think the combination of French Linen and Old White gives the piece an elegant look. It's a classic color combination that works well as a neutral without being too boring.
The desk has trim panels on the sides as well as the back.
I applied light distressing to the drawers and hardware.
Once again, I just love that the top of the desk is removable! It definitely is so much easier to move.
The finished back allows for versatile furniture placement and can be placed either against a wall or facing outwards to greet visitors.
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