Learning to Love Leather


Considering using leather as part of your home design? Love the subtleness and warm natural hues? If you’re answering yes, then it is important to consider and understand the many aspects of this wonderful material. What is it that lures us to leather?

Origin – Who Wore It Best?

Leather is, by definition, a durable material created from the hides of animals. Primarily cattle is used for most of the leather goods we are most familiar with; however, many types of animal hides are being used for practical and luxury items. Some of the more popular hides used are deer, lamb, ostrich, buffalo, snake, ostrich, ox, kangaroo, and yak.

leather_pouch620Each hide lends itself better for specific uses than others. For example, lambskin is used for softer, higher end wearables. Deer and elk would be used for indoor shoes and work gloves.  Pigskins provide the leathers we use in automobile interiors. The list of items that can and are created from leathers is extensive.

Think cowboy states. If you’ve every been to one, you know that almost anything and everything with a hide can be turned into a gorgeous leather boot.

Leather 101

Cows are very large animals, and therefore, have large thick hides. The hide itself is composed of two integrated layers – the grain and the corium. The grain being the tighter and tougher outermost layer of the hide while the corium rests beneath the grain and is comprised of different amounts of collagen making it softer.

Full grain leather is the best leather quality because it has not been separated from the top grain or split layers, and is therefore the strongest and most durable type of leather. The grain remains intact, and the pores and patterns of the hide can be seen.

Top grain leather is made from hides that are considered to be too flawed to become full grain leather. It has had the split layer of the hide removed from it, leaving it softer and more pliable than full grain leather. The leather is then sanded or buffed to remove flaws. It may have a finish coat added to the surface, making it less breathable than full grain leather. The name “top grain” often confuses consumers as it makes this type of leather seem to be the “top quality.” In fact, it is not the highest leather quality- full grain leather is.

Then there is genuine leather. Genuine leather normally refers to the layering of lesser quality leathers pressed together. Another leather word you may have heard is bonded which means it is leather pieces bonded together.

Leather and Design

Fine leathers like anything else are created by artisans who use their own techniques and years of experience to create the most magnificent natural material we can use in design. Learning about each of them is fascinating. Because of its flexibility of style, color and texture, leather lends itself to complimenting almost any interior design project.

As with all materials, quality materials like leathers are paramount to successful design.  If leather is your love, select products that are top quality. As leather ages, it becomes more subtle and the patina deepens. For instance there’s nothing more beautiful than a top grain leather chair that has been sat in for many years adjacent to a fireplace. Because of its flexibility, leather also makes for wonderful creative accent pieces. Ideally, hone in on one or two fabulous pieces that provide that wow factor.

Leathers are also being used as counter and door wraps, floor and wall tiles. Non-traditional uses are interesting and give a fine high-end finish in non-traditional ways

Genuine or bonded items will eventually crack and peel leaving you less than pleased with your purchase decision. Love the look of leather but potentially not the idea of using a natural hide? There are many recycled and man-made materials that duplicate that feel,but here again, be sure to select the products that meet your budget and ideaology but will endure and delight you in the long haul.