Making your Mark with Leather

Some days I’m just astonished at what our industry has become compared to where it was when I started out 30+ years ago!! When you really think about it, we have so many amazing options for cabinetry and counters alone – we truly have the ability to achieve a look that is perfectly tailored to each homeowner. But beyond cabinetry and counters, there’s this amazing world of “other materials” that can take your design from beautiful to stunning! And one of my favorite materials for that signature touch is leather.

You might be thinking, “Leather? In the kitchen?” But picture it—leather is warm, natural, luxurious, and very versatile and much more durable than you might think. Take a look!

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The back of the island in this glam contemporary design features large crocodile patterned leather in a deep, silky black. How gorgeous is that?! (Photo courtesy of EcoDomo.)
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In this nautical scene, leather in deep brown was the perfect feel for the flooring.
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You probably wouldn’t think of leather plank flooring for a traditional design, but this photo shows just how amazing that can look. Not to mention how soft it would feel on the bare feet, plus it would be oh so quiet!
ED bath
If you’re looking at this saying to yourself, “Where’s the leather?” then look a little closer…it’s the countertop! What a great idea and way to show something both unexpected and luxurious!

So where did this concept come from? Similar to many trends in cabinetry, this idea stemmed from the furniture industry:tables

As I’ve said before, the furniture industry is often a resource for inspiring cabinetry, since the two are so closely tied together in a home. But the first time I saw cabinetry crafted with leather was when I was browsing a Smallbone bedroom catalog.  The cover shows a nightstand with shagreen inserts for the drawer fronts and I remember thinking, now that’s really over the top!

SMALLBONE CATALOG(Yes, I still have the catalog…I have a thing for beautiful design and photography!)

Fun fact: In 2007, Medallion was exploring adding leather panels to our cabinetry. We recognized the desire for the look, but it turns out that finishing reconstituted leather was a hide of a different color. 🙂 Challenges with material consistency and finishes intended for wood brought us to a hold on the subject.

But thankfully, a member of our industry decided to make that process their specialty. Fast forward to today—enter EcoDomo. They’ve zeroed in on leather for both commercial and residential design, with large leather sheets that can be used just like laminate, and so much more. Most of their products start as leather scraps and shavings, which are pressed into sheets and patterns, so there’s also a green/recycled element to their materials as well. They also have true leather (furniture grade) hide material that is, of course, natural to its source – and they will even work with material that meets their standards that their clients provide.

At EuroCucina I’ve seen this look in high-end kitchens on doors and drawer fronts, shelving and counter surfaces.

FendiCasa_Shagreen EuroCucinaFendiCasa_Croc EuroCucina

3M DI-NOC ARCHITECTURAL LEATHER MATERIAL_FIREPLACEIn commercial applications, like hotels, social areas of large buildings and of course chic restaurants, the use of unique architectural surfaces is very trend-forward. I actually seek these areas out when I travel as I find them so inspiring! As an example, 3M architectural surfaces even supports a leather look with their own collection of textured hues.

So here we are today, with a good sense of what this material can do, and even better resources than ever before to obtain almost anything we can dream up.

There are so many possibilities for using leather as a material in your design, but thinking about integrating it can still be a little daunting. So where do you even start?

Integrating leather accents into your design

There are a couple different ways to approach this based on the kind of project you’re working on. If you’re looking to add an accent to a design that is relatively straightforward and simple, go with dECOLeather. Call up your Formica Rep and set up a meeting to review their patterns and colors and be sure to ask for the dECOLeather binder! The process for ordering and installing dECOLeather is very similar to the way you specify laminate counters. You choose a color and pattern and then source a fabricator who you would consider savvy enough to work with wood veneers. In other words, the same underlying principles apply to laying up leather veneers.deco backsplash

deco panels
Croc in a warm gray enhances the recessed surface between the casework making for a luxurious wainscot design.

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But what about those really unique projects? Do you ever find that you’re trying to do something really special and custom for a client? For this you’ll want to contact EcoDomo directly—their options and capabilities are much broader. They’ll create a specialized bid for you based on your project.

And they can do pretty much anything…from cabinet doors and drawer fronts to inserts and accents to walls, floors, backsplashes, countertops…even toilet seats (what?!). There’s a client for everything!

Tips to remember whether you go the dECOLeather or EcoDomo route:

  • The material is REAL LEATHER, which means…
  • It’s not vinyl or plastic so it will have unique grain, character and the beautiful warmth of leather
  • It looks like leather, feels like leather, and smells like leather (Seriously, smells so good!)
  • Leather is extremely versatile and timeless—it can be masculine or feminine, rustic or sleek, traditional or ultra contemporary. It’s all about how it’s used.
  • EcoDomo also offers a pretty unbelievable range of colors…if you want it, they’ve probably got it!

I highly recommend you visit their website and look through their portfolio for other ideas. You may recall that one way we used it was as an accent shelf material configured on site into a custom media nook for our 2017 KBIS display:

1 KBISKBIS 2

Leather could also be used as the center panel of a cabinet doorin place of glass or mirror. I think this would work great for an entertainment center or den: doorsAs a wrap around an entire door or drawer:

Ecodomo Closet 1

Around a shelf:

Behind open or bookcase shelves:

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Yes, those are leather belts reconfigured into a customized back panel. Now I know where all those unique belts on clearance go! 

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DESIGN TIP:

Contrasting materials are a rising trend! Try a unique color or pattern like these upcycled belt leather strips.


As a countertop for a wet or dry bar:

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Around a curve–it’s pliable enough to form around unusual shapes!

curved wall

And maybe even as a drawer liner…just work with me here on this one…if my client had a beautiful antique cutlery set or a set of fine china, I think I’d use one of the colors from the Cordova Collection as an insert! It’s soft and supple and speaks to the luxury of leather!

cordova collection


These are just a few ideas to get you started. One of the best parts about being a designer is the opportunity to make your unique mark on every design…you get to put your “signature” on each kitchen or bath as one of your works of art. Leather has the potential to be a fantastic little signature in your designs—think about it in your next design presentation as an opportunity to make your client’s space special!

 

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