Leather Upholstery- A History

The history of leather upholstery is long and rich, spanning centuries of human civilization. Leather has been used for various purposes throughout history, and its application in furniture upholstery is no exception. Here’s a brief overview of its evolution:

Ancient Civilizations:

The use of leather for furniture can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These cultures utilized leather for various purposes, including clothing, armour, and furniture upholstery. In ancient Rome, for instance, leather was often used to cover chairs and couches in wealthy households.

Medieval Europe:

During the Middle Ages, leather upholstery became more common in Europe. However, it was primarily reserved for the nobility and clergy due to its high cost and labour-intensive production process. Furniture such as chairs, benches, and thrones were adorned with leather upholstery, often embellished with intricate designs and patterns.


The Renaissance period saw a flourishing of the arts and craftsmanship, including furniture making. Leather upholstery remained popular among the aristocracy and affluent merchants during this time. Italian craftsmen were particularly renowned for their skill in leatherworking, producing luxurious pieces of furniture with finely stitched leather upholstery.

Industrial Revolution:

The Industrial Revolution brought significant changes to the production of furniture, including leather upholstered pieces. Advances in manufacturing techniques made leather upholstery more accessible to a broader range of people, not just the upper classes. Mass production methods also led to more affordable leather furniture options.

20th Century:

The 20th century witnessed further innovations in leather upholstery techniques and design such as Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern styles, in particular, embraced the use of leather in furniture design, often featuring sleek lines and minimalist forms. Iconic pieces such as the Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe exemplify the enduring appeal of leather upholstered furniture in modern design.  Designers such as Le Corbusier and Charles and Ray Eames also incorporated leather into their iconic furniture designs, further cementing its status as a symbol of sophistication and style.

Contemporary Trends:

Today, leather remains a popular choice for upholstered furniture, valued for its durability, elegance, and timeless appeal.

Throughout history, leather upholstered furniture has transcended cultural and stylistic boundaries, reflecting the craftsmanship, technology, and societal values of different eras. From ancient civilizations to modern interiors, leather furniture continues to be cherished for its beauty, comfort, and enduring quality.


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