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The Real Reason Why Leather is Sexy, and How to Take Advantage.

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LEATHER is supple and luxurious. There's no denying that. Even the word, leather, is sexy.

That may explain why, leather, a material long relegated to the den sofa, has now evolved to fill a multitude of uses in the home.

We thought that we would dig a bit further into the world of leather.

To assist us in exploring the many diverse and different manifestations of leather and how it is used today, we invited the renowned leather showroom Edelman Leather to tell us more. With technological advancements, they explained, leather can be applied to almost any surface in the home, including the bathroom. As Mark Skerik, the President of Edelman says:

"It is an exciting time for the use of leather in residential design. We are experiencing designers and their clients coming to us with new and unexpected uses for this age-old material. Leather accents and upholstery bring a tactility that draws on innate human emotion."

So, let's take a look at some of the new ways leather enhances our living environment.

1) Leather Drapery: Leather fabrics are a staple of contemporary fashion, used in sleek slacks and miniskirts, but did you know you can also adorn a room with supple and flowing leather curtains? Whether used as either wrapping for a header/cornice or as hanging side panels, the effect is striking. Diana Ferretti, showroom manager of Edelman, says:


"When using drapery at windows, mixing materials together like sheers, linens or wools with a leather header and trim creates a sophisticated layer for any room."

Recently, the showroom added a slightly shimmering leather that "when mixed in with the right environment, creates magic," she adds. In addition, she notes that suede, with its flowing quality, is ideal for full drapery. New to the marketplace is laser etched leather. The process creates patterns incised into the leather through precision cutting, creating openings within the material and allowing light to shine through.

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(Courtesy of Edelman)

2) Leather Tiles for the Floors and Walls: While not for everyone (those with small children and dogs might want to take a pass), leather floor tiles provide a soft-touch to the foot and feel great to walk upon. As Diana says, "it is quite dreamy." In its ability to retain heat, leather provides a warm surface in the winter while in the summertime, it provides a cool feeling underfoot. Leather also absorbs sound, making it a perfect flooring material for a media room or the space underneath a piano, where sounds strongly reverberate. In addition, due to leather's natural variations each tile presents its own unique look, which adds a rich appeal to your room. Edelman says that they've sold leather flooring for use in libraries, dens, dressing rooms and even kitchens!

What happens with a stain or two? First of all, leather, like marble, creates a wonderful patina over time, making any marks an attractive part of its look. While it will inevitably scratch and show signs of wear, it becomes worn in, but not worn out. Tiles for the walls are a very attractive alternative to ceramic surfaces that may look and feel hard to the touch. Clad a powder room with leather tiles and you have created a truly chic bathroom! You may rightly wonder about the effects of water on leather tiles...Well, Edelman has developed a process whereby their leathers are water-resistant. In effect, you may use them in bathrooms and even on boats! Having personally installed a leather lavatory in a Master Bath, I found that it wore very well. Even after several years, it still looks great!

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(Photo by Phillip Ennis)

3) Leather Wall Upholstery: Leather wrapped upholstered wall panels create a linear texture, which Diana calls "a wall of art." A padded wall of leather paneling is a luxurious feel and a perfect fit to either one wall or several in a room. It adds a feeling of coziness and warmth, with an enveloping sensation. A smart and chic look all around, leather upholstered walls are great sound insulators. So, turn up the sound system and listen with fear of harm to your neighbors.

In addition to draping the walls, leather can be used for upholstery on headboards, adding a warm inviting look to the bedroom. Concerned about stains? Edelman has developed a process called "Edelman Edge," which provides reliable protection against stains and marks, without changing the true beauty of the fabric's face or feel.

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(Courtesy of York Street Studio)

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(Photo by David Estreich)

4) Leather Hardware: A wonderful inexpensive accessory to any drawer is a piece of leather hardware. Used on kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, dressing room drawers and any type of built-in, leather gives a soft grasp to the hand. It is at once elegant and classy, utilitarian and easy to use, even with wet hands. The talented Linda Zalenko who works with leather like a sculptor at York Street Studio, says of her company's creations:

"We integrate all the amazing elements of leather; we involve all the senses with the experience: the look, the smell, the feel, smooth or tactile, sexy and luxurious. It is a great material to work with and the outcome whether it's a room, a wall, furniture or decorative piece of hardware has an everlasting effect, it ages beautifully over time and takes on a deeper richer character."

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(Courtesy of York Street Studio)

5) Upholstered Furniture: Unlike the den sofa and the pieces that we ordinarily associated leather with, coffee tables, side tables, lamps, ottomans and benches are all now being wrapped in the versatile textile. Below is a drum shaped side table wrapped in different leather colors. In the accompanying photo is a fully clothed leather desk. As Jennifer Cohler Mason of J. Cohler Mason Design notes:

"There is something grounding about placing a leather wrapped Parsons style table behind a sofa. It is the perfect piece to hold lamps and decorative objects and looks particularly great when the sofa is floating in a room." And, in the bench below, York Street Studio clothed the top in luxe white leather, the same color leather they covered the walls with.

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(Courtesy of York Street Studio)

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(Photo by David Estreich)

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(Photo by David Estreich)

6) Leather Cabinetry and Built-ins: A very creative and unusual look is that of leather wrapped cabinets or built-ins. Like the upholstered walls, the leather-covered cabinet, whether combined with other materials like nail heads or wood, gives a very soft and unique look. Another great use of leather, with regards to cabinetry, is the insertion of a span of hide into the top of a built-in, like a tray, providing a soft surface in look and feel. In the wall-hung cabinet below are leather inserts surrounded by satin nickel nail heads. The contrast of materials gives the cabinet an interesting and unique look. Below that is a den that has various leather elements: a built-in leather top to the cabinet top, a leather coffee table, leather hardware on the drawers, and leather cornices above the wood blinds.

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(Photo by David Estreich)

7) Leather as Art: A highly unique utilization of leather is as a canvas. Artist Mark Evans draws and sculpts on it, creating beautiful and powerful images. "Working in leather has huge aesthetic appeal. Leather is ancient, yet ultra cool, leather has heritage yet it's very rock and roll," he says. Evans further notes:

"Leather is now used to cover the seats in top supercars and yet been used on Royal thrones throughout history... It's very masculine, from Spartans and gladiators to Wild West gunslingers, however, leather can also be feminine and sensual."

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(Courtesy of Mark Evans)

Like good coffee or grass-cuttings, authentic leather has it's own unique aroma that truly evokes a feeling in people.

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(Courtesy of Mark Evans)

Departing Words

Far from its role of swathing a couch or chair, leather has become a diverse material from which almost anything can be created. From walls to floors, on furniture and cabinetry, as hardware and as drapery, and even as artistic canvas, this versatile fabric is truly luxe. As Evans puts it:

"Leather gets better with age and in our digital world, leather has an integrity. Animal hides were once a living, breathing creature and we subconsciously respect that."

How will YOU use leather?