Product Design

The Life of a Leather Chair

April 15, 2016

Leather chairs come in all shapes and personalities: Massive and crinkly from years of curling up in them for movie night. Elegant benches and bar stools, the leather stretched taut. And modern iterations, like sling-style loungers and safari chairs. They all feel so inherently cozy while still being polished.

But what actually goes into sourcing leather and designing with it? Here are 3 surprising things I learned about that process from Eric Trine, a California-based furniture designer who uses the material to (hand-)make this chair.

Eric's Rod & Weave Chair, in progress. Photo by David Tosti (via WorkOf)

Sourcing happens in person.

Material is at the heart of tactile design, and finding a quality supplier has to happen at the very outset of the process. As Eric puts it, "You can't transmit the feel of leather through an online shop." After exploring lots of different options for suppliers in person, he settled on two of the oldest tanneries in the U.S., Herman Oak Leather and Wickett & Craig. What that means is not only is all the leather he uses American-made, but, being "essentially a by-product of the meat industry," it's also not wasteful to procure.

Efficiency often leads design.

Of course, it's up to the designer to decide what a piece looks like, but cost and material constraints can actually help as creativity-fueling roadblocks. "I've found that the woven leather treatment that I employ is one of the most economical ways to use the leather," Eric explains. "I cut the entire side of leather into strips and then cut those strips to the proper length for my chair straps. Out of a 25 square foot hide, I only have about one square foot of waste. In contrast, if I was making a giant leather sling, I could only use the biggest part of a side [of leather], leaving a large amount of waste." The resulting basketweave is graphic but still plenty inviting.

You can spray paint leather.

The ombre effect happening on the seat of the chair isn't just natural wear—it's leather dye. "I put the dye in a spray bottle and just spray it on," he explains. The effect is dramatic, playing off the way the material colors naturally where you use it, over time.

Shop the Story

Shop this leather chair and more of Eric's designs at WorkOf, and share stories of your favorite leather chairs in the comments.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.