For many, the word leather is associated with a certain level of luxury, be it designer bags, clothing or the ubiquitous leather couch. But modern uses for leather are almost limitless. While it remains a high-end product, it’s a material that’s being specified more for an eclectic range of uses – for everything from curtains to floor tiles.

And when it is specified, it’s often not the sort of traditional leather than we commonly associate with. Buffed nubuck leather is particularly popular at the moment for its incredibly soft finish emulating velvet or suede. “It’s matter and flatter than what most people think leather can be,” Lapco‘s Merrin Gemmell says. “It’s a velvet-look leather that feels and looks super luxurious. At the moment, we’re seeing it coming through in a lot of muted pink and dark grey shades.”

Heavily distressed leathers are also coming into fashion. “These sorts of leathers are heavily distressed to create a vintage aesthetic,” Merrin says. “They’re super luxurious to feel; they have a very soft, nude tactility about them showing all the life of the animal they came from. You want to see the beauty of the skin, and appreciate the material for what it is, a natural product.”

Metalized leathers are the other key trend at the moment, with metallic, patterned and textured finishes popular for various applications. “Heavily stamped and embossed leathers with contemporary patterns are coming through more and more. We have a range of more than 60 different printed leathers that are beautiful particularly on hard surfaces or purely as a highlight piece. We often see this type of leather used to wrap balustrades or columns.”

Basket weave, diamond quilting and needle cord patterns are some of the most commonly specified in this range.

While leather is an incredibly durable material, it is also a complex one, and one of the most common misconceptions about it relate to the types of uses different types of leathers are best suited to, Merrin says.

Aniline leather is beautiful because it retains all the natural imperfections of the hide. Aniline leather is drum dyed then finished with waxes and oils to retain the hide’s natural surface and highlight the hides beauty. “Aniline leathers are high end products. They represent some of the best leathers available and they are beautiful because they are so natural,” Merrin says.

“But they don’t like light and they are susceptible to change. So if you are going to put an aniline leather against glass or in an environment with lots of direct sunlight it will change colour. These leathers are designed to mark, to scar and to absorb spills. It’s a distinct aesthetic and one that many people love, but also one that is commonly misunderstood. It’s luxurious but it is designed to absorb spills and marks. They develop that rich patina and well-worn aesthetic.”

In contrast, a pigmented leather is painted or coated with the purpose of protecting the material. “This is more of a workhorse leather but it can also be glamorous and gorgeous. Pigmented leathers are available in a staggering range of colours; we have more than 4,000 available colours and finishes,” Merrin says.

“We often compare these two types of leather with using water colour versus acrylic paints. One is more stable than the other. Pigmented leather is designed for heavy use situations and is easy to fix if it is stained or scratched similar to the way if you scratch a painted nail, it’s easy to repair.”
Aniline leathers are lot more difficult to repair because they are designed to absorb oils from hands, spills and marks as part of their rich patina as they age.”

Lapco has been operating in its current form for almost a decade. Based in Auckland, Lapco works directly with architects and designers as well as directly with clients. Their speciality is bespoke leather projects from hospitality and super yachts to the living room.

Get in touch with Lapco on ArchiPro here for some inspiration in leather and its potential for your next project.