How Leather became Furniture’s Favorite Fabric

If you’ve ever sunk into a leather chair and felt ensconced in comfort and luxury, you’ve felt the allure of leather. You can feel why leather is the most popular and sought-after upholstery material. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when leather became furniture’s favorite fabric. Although leather has been used for various purposes since the time of Neanderthals, it wasn’t until it was realized that treating leather would strengthen it and prolong its usefulness that its popularity increased.

Although the exact moment when the process of tanning leather began has not been determined, it is thought that leather was first used as early as 5th century AD to cover dining chairs. Easy maintenance was one of the determining factors for its popularity then, and remains a part of its appeal today.

By the 14th century, tanning and detailing leather had become a respected and profitable trade, and numerous craftsmen were employed to produce luxury leather goods for the upper classes. Circa 1388, the Hotel de Bohème had 24 furniture pieces of vermillion leather. The walls of Pope Leo X’s palace, circa 1513, is said to have been adorned with Genovese velvet stamped with gilt leather. These examples show that the craftsmanship of leather was becoming quite skilled as early as the Middle Ages.

Leather Upholstery becomes a Part of Royal Style

Also around this period, high-backed chairs from Portugal and Spain were gaining popularity. These chairs were upholstered in dark brown leather and often had numerous decorative elements stamped on them. The Spanish were known for their leather craftsmanship, a skill they mastered during the Renaissance.

By the 18th century, leather tanning was a respected trade. Hides of all types were being processed and used, from ox-hide and calfskin on late Louis XIV chairs, to goat leather on Chippendale and other later chairs. Cowhide has since become the most commonly used leather.

Leather, Then and Now

Tufted wingbacks and bulky traditional chesterfields are what most people bring to mind when they think of leather furniture. In the last 10 years, leather furniture has emerged in designer colors, enchanting a new generation of leather lovers. The feel of modern leather is soft, pliable, and comfortable. All furniture styles can now be upholstered in leather.

It’s easy to see why leather is a perennial favorite for furniture upholstery. It is long-lasting, easy-to-clean, and, because it is a natural material, it has unique and individual features. But mostly it is popular because of the “Ahhh…” that almost invariably escapes the lips of everyone who sinks into a leather couch or chair for a moment of relaxation at the end of the day.

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Baer’s Furniture is Florida’s premier furniture store carrying the biggest variety of brands and 100% genuine leather.

Baer’s Furniture is Florida’s premier furniture store carrying the biggest variety of brands and 100% genuine leather.