Leather is one of the most versatile materials in the world of interior design. Not only can it be used in a multitude of ways, it’s hard wearing, ages fantastically, and cleans easily too. In fact, it’s difficult for other materials to compete when you consider sheer practical matters alone. Not to mention the fact that it’s quintessentially luxurious and laid back all at once – the kind of material that can be used in an infinite number of ways, in pretty much any setting.
That’s why it’s used so consistently by designers and never really goes out of style (depending on how you use it, to some extent).
But that’s not to say it’s all plain sailing and that it can’t go wrong sometimes. Or even that it can’t be a bit tricky to incorporate into the home, particularly for those who’re just more comfortable with their textured cotton fabrics and polyester blends.
If that sounds like you, or if you’ve simply fallen out of love with the material in recent years and want to reintroduce it to your interiors, read on for the lowdown on leather, and how to incorporate more of it in your home.
Before you start: learn your leathers
First, the basics. Real leather is generally available in four distinct grains and three specific categories. The highest quality (and most expensive) is full grain leather, taken from the top layer of the animal hide. Its toughness makes it perfect for anything that gets regular wear and tear.
The second-highest quality leather is top grain leather, used to make suede and nubuck. That high-end handbag, jacket or belt you were eyeing the other day? It was most likely made from top grain leather.
Going further down the quality scale, the next two grains are corrected (or split) leather and bonded leather. Both are produced from the lower layers of the animal hide and are painted and embossed with a leather-like pattern to emulate the leathers we all know and love.
Within these grains are three general categories: aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented. Aniline leathers are processed using soluble dyes to maintain their natural markings and texture, and are the most natural-looking of leathers. Unfortunately, the processing makes them prone to scratching, fading and staining. On the other end of the scale are pigmented (or protected) leathers, which are the most durable but less natural looking, being coated in a protective polymer. And, if you haven’t guessed it already, semi-aniline lies in the middle of the two, with a light, protective, surface coating.
For leather sofas that are bound to take a beating (especially if you’ve got kids or pets), going for pigmented or semi-aniline, and either full grain or top grain, is probably the safest bet. Which leads us onto…
First stop: seating
Incorporating leather sofas into your home is a great way to give your living room timeless appeal. When choosing colour and finish (do you want textured and ‘worn’ or smooth and sleek?), think about the overall look of the room – or the look you want to go for if you’re fully redecorating the space.
For those who love to keep up with the trends, consider a sofa in worn tan – which is very ‘in’ for 2018. Pair it with thick knit blankets (preferably with Scandi-inspired patterns woven through them), monochrome cushions and glossy, pendant lighting for a look that’s right on trend.
For those who fancy something subtle, a sofa in a soft but sleek black leather will never go out of style and works against most backdrops.
And if you’re not ready to go all-out leather when it comes to your seating, there’s nothing to say you can’t choose a sofa that mixes leather and fabric or offset your upholstered sofas with a couple of leather armchairs, or even something cool and funky like a leather bucket chair. We love this World of Leather Sanza Leather Swivel Chair, which adds an uplifting modern twist to contemporary interiors.
Second stop: accessories and a few simple rules
Many people make the mistake of thinking that leather can only be worked through the home in the form of seating. But there are plenty of other ways to inject it into your interiors too – as long as you stick to a few simple rules.
When it comes to leather accessories always try to go for things that would be made from leather anyway – as opposed to things that don’t lend themselves naturally to the material. That means a resounding ‘no’ against the case for leather curtains, and an even bigger one for rugs. We’d even go as far as to veto things like leather placemats and coasters although we know that may offend some (sorry!).
Instead, when accessorising your home with leather try to go for authentic items that really show the leather off. For example, something like a vintage leather trunk could act as a great statement piece in hallway or living room – you could even double it up as a coffee table if it’s sturdy and square enough. Likewise, there’s something charming about leather desk sets and stationary boxes for home offices that add a splash of luxury to your work space.
Finally – a wild card. If you’re feeling adventurous why not get experimental with leather throw cushions? As long as the leather is authentic and soft enough, they do genuinely work as an accessory, and what’s more they look super chic and tasteful. Just be sure to break the look up with cushions made from other fabrics too.
So, there you have it. Leather needn’t be hard to work with so long as you go for quality over quantity, and choose classic styles over anything ‘faddy’ or too outrageous. And yes, that means a resounding ‘no!’ to that pink leather toilet seat cover...