Executive Desk with Damaged Leather Top Gets a Makeover

Executive desk painted French Linen Old White

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.


The 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.

Executive desk with damaged leather top

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.

Top of desk removable

Removing a Damaged Leather Top

The 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.

Peel back corner of damaged leather

Once there was enough to grab onto, I started peeling back the leather.

Peel back the leather surface

I continued peeling the leather until the entire top was removed. I used the scraper to gently release any stubborn areas.

Damaged leather removed

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.

Paint scraper and water removes adhesive

So I took the top outside. I was dog sitting for the week when I worked on this project, and TJ was very curious about what I was going to do next.

Dog curious about project

I put the dog inside (he refused to wear a sanding mask) and got out my orbital sander.

Orbital sander removes residue

In just a few minutes the residue was gone and the desk top was looking good.

Damaged leather top removed

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.

French Linen ASCP on desk

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.

Painters tape used for border

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.

Dog resting in shade

After the paint dried, and while the dog was resting, I gently peeled off the tape around the border.

Peel back painters tape

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.

Dog afraid of storms


I 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.

Desk French Linen Old White

The desk has trim panels on the sides as well as the back.

Side view of desk

I applied a worn finish to the outer white border. The white center of the desk is not distressed. I applied a small amount of white wax to the French Linen border.

Worn finish to outside border

The top three drawers lock.

Vintage key

I applied light distressing to the drawers and hardware.

Desk drawers painted Old White ASCP

Once again, I just love that the top of the desk is removable! It definitely is so much easier to move.

Desk top removed from bases

The finished back allows for versatile furniture placement and can be placed either against a wall or facing outwards to greet visitors.

Back view of desk

I hope you enjoyed today's project. If you'd like to be notified of new projects, then enter your email address in the "follow" section at the top right of the screen. Thanks so much for stopping by!


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