So much of an antique desk depends on the different accessories that give it its unique characteristics. Many desks have leather inserts on the writing surface. Leather inserts were very popular in the 19th century. They were especially very popular in Great Britain in the second half of the 1800s, as ideas of antiquity became more popular. There are some things you should keep in mind before you buy a desk with a leather insert, though.
Leather Isn’t as Resilient as Wood
Wood that has been finished and waxed can last for hundreds of years without much attention paid to it. As long as it is kept dry and out of too much sunlight, there’s no reason it can’t last for a very long time. Leather, on the other hand, tends to decay much more easily. It will mold, mildew, and rot in moist conditions that wouldn’t damage wood in the same way. A bigger concern, though, is often leather that gets too dry.
When leather gets too dry, it tends to draw up and turn brittle. That brittle leather shrinks and cracks. This is known as dry rot. There’s no real way to fix a dry rotten leather insert in a desk. All you can do is replace it. It is possible to keep leather supple and healthy for centuries, it just takes some care. If you’re buying a desk with a leather insert, you should be extra careful or just know it might have a ruined insert.
You can replace the insert fairly easily; replacements are sold by many different manufacturers. If your heart is set on a period-correct leather insert replacement, then you might have a harder time finding one. You can also replace them with a wooden insert, which takes a little bit more work to install but is easier to maintain.