Leather was once used as wallpaper

Leather wallpapers were once a source of luxury

Once upon a time, people put tapestries on their walls as a means of decoration and insulation. Among the wealthy, leather wallpapers replaced this. These were often molded into particular patterns and gilded, painted, or decorated. That’s why it was called “gold leather” in the Lowlands, though it’s commonly known as Cordovan (meaning it hailed from Cordoba). From about the 19th century onwards, “Cordovan” (specifically Shell Cordovan) was used for naming horse-hide leather, used to make fine dress shoes. The gilded surfaces of leather wallpaper would create a spectacular effect and reflect light to increase the opulence of rooms.

Leather can retain warmth, yet remains a breathable material. These wallpapers were not only used for insulation qualities, they were also an investment and would often be part of the inheritance. In some places, you can still see antique rooms clad with this remarkable type of wallpaper, but towards the 19th-century interest in the material diminished as better insulation and more affordable options became available. In the form of panels, embossed leather has remained part of interiors in America for an extended period of time in the form of screens and panels.

This quality of leather to hold warmth and offer design freedom has revamped interest in this functionality. Leather wallpapers or design is still available, and researchers look into ways of turning leather waste material into insulation materials.