This bow front leather inlay desk refresh has been on my radar for years.

Although I absolutely love the shape of this desk, the dated reddish orange stain was not my favorite.

I also love the inlaid leather panels, but they intimidated me.

The Before Shot of the Leather Inlay Bow Front Desk - J Dub By Design™
The Before

I had googled and searched Pinterest for ideas.

The only suggestions I found were to paint over the leather and paint the entire piece.

I did not want to lose that leather inlay aspect of this unusual bow front desk.

Then right after Christmas, I had an epiphany.

Why not just paint around the leather?

Maybe I could pick a paint that has fantastic contrast so that the leather pops.

And, that is exactly what I did.

This DIY took me 1 1/2 days to complete.

I could have completely it more quickly, but I was also putting up Christmas decor.

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Keys to my Success

The key to my success with this desk involved two elements.

The first is the paint I chose.

General Finishes Milk Paint is a phenomenal product. I have used this milk paint of three different projects.

The first project I tackled with this paint was our outdoor rocking chairs.

two rocking chairs in front of arched window painted with General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint - J Dub By Design™

The second project was also outdoors – our worn out, falling apart adirondack chairs.

two adirindack chairs painted in China Blue General Finishes Milk Paint - J Dub By Design™

And, the third project is my daughter’s four poster bed. Here, I applied a high gloss topcoat over the milk paint to give the bed a high sheen.

a four poster bed painted in General Finishes Lamp Black and finishes with a high sheen top coat - J Dub By Design™

I could not be more happy with the high quality, durable, brush streak free finish on all of these projects.

The second key to my success with the leather top is the tiny detail brush I used to complete the entire project. This short angled brush allowed me to paint around the leather with extreme accuracy.

In fact, I had so much control with this brush, I was able to paint next to the leather without taping off and without getting any accidental paint on the leather.

Supplies Needed

General Finishes Milk Paint, color Lamp Black

Denatured Alcohol

Spray bottle

Drop Cloths


180 grit sanding block

flat black spray paint

Antique gold Rub and Buff

Small Angled Paint Brush

Lint free rags


  1. First I mixed up a solution of 50/50 denatured alcohol and water in a spray bottle.
  2. Then I removed the hardware from the desk drawers and cabinets.
  3. I spray the mixture on a lint free cloth and wiped the entire desk down liberally, while avoiding the leather top.
  4. Then, using a 180 grit sanding block, I lightly scuff sanded the entire piece to give the paint something to adhere to.
  5. I then repeat the process again with the 50/50 denatured alcohol mixture.
  6. After allowing the desk to dry, I painted on the first coat using the Wooster Brush.
  7. I allowed the first coat to dry for two hours before applying a second coat.
  8. While the second coat was drying, I took the hardware outside and spray painted it flat black.
  9. After, the hardware dried, I liberally applied Antique Gold Rub and Buff using an old makeup brush.
  10. I allowed it to dry about an hour before buffing the hardware with a lint free cloth.
  11. Then, I applied a third coat of milk paint to the desk as the legs are very detailed and I realized I had missed a few places.
  12. I decided not to use a topcoat as it is not necessary and this desk is not used regularly.
  13. After the paint dried, I put the hardware back on the cabinets and drawers.

I love the leather top desk refresh. The outdated orange is gone and the leather looks fantastic against the flat black milk paint.


  1. You can put a topcoat over milk paint if you want a sheen or more durability. I suggest going to General Finishes website and researching all of the available options.
  2. If I had painted this desk I light or white color, I would have applied a General Finishes Stain Blocker first, so that the red/orange stain would not bleed through.

Photos of the Process

the original bow front desk before being painted - J Dub By Design™
The desk before the refresh
the original hardware on the bow front desk - J Dub By Design™
I removed the hardware from the cabinets and drawer.
original hardware of the desk spray painted flat black - J Dub By Design™
I spray painted the hardware flat bla ck.
an old makeup brush used to apply the rub and buff - J Dub By Design™
Using an old makeup brush, I applied the antique gold rub n buff.
applying Antique Gold Rub n Buff to the hardware of the bow front desk - J Dub By Design™
I allowed the hardware to dry, then buffed to shine.
applying the first coat of milk paint around the leather in-lay of bow front desk - J Dub By Design™
I used a small angled paint brush to paint the desk and started on the top around the leather in-lay.
using a Wooster shortcut brush to paint around a leather in-lay on a bow front desk - J Dub By Design™
This brush allowed me to do all the detail work without taping off the leather pieces.
the first coat of Lamp Black applied around the leather in-lay - J Dub By Design™
The leather in-lay after the first coat.
painting a bow front desk with milk paint - J Dub By Design™
I ended up applying three coats of General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint to this desk.

the refreshed hardware on the bow front desk - J Dub By Design™
Here is the hardware after it was buffed and re-installed.

Before Vs After

Thomasville leather inlay bow front desk in the corner of guest bedroom - J Dub By Design™
The Original Thomasville desk
Freshly painted Thomasville leather inlay bow front desk in guest bedroom - J Dub By Design™
After the General Finishes Lamp Black Refresh
arched opening with bow front desk painted in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk paint - J Dub By Design™
The Original
arched opening with bow front desk painted in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk paint - J Dub By Design™

Pin For Later!

So tell me below, what do you think of my bow front leather inlay desk refresh? Do you like the new look?

Leather inlay bow front desk in guest bedroom - J Dub By Design™
Don’t Forget to Pin for Later!

Shop The Look Above

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