When I was very young, I used to visit my maternal grandmother and marvel at the hand-embroidered and crocheted doilies that adorned the arms and backs of her sofa and chairs. They were also found on their dressers and side tables, as well as on the dining table as coasters and placemats to avoid scratching the furniture. Like snowflakes, the doilies’ designs were both intricate and individual.
I am convinced that people in the early 20th century had better posture because I never saw the residue of man’s hair tonic, macassar oil or pomade on Nana’s doilies, although they were there to prevent the furniture from soaking up these hair products . Certainly, people back then were not the couch potatoes we are today. Being able to Netflix and chill was a long journey.
I was amazed at how much work went into such a small piece of fabric, so later I tried to learn to crochet. Unfortunately all I was able to accomplish was string by string as I was never taught how to put those strings together to resemble a doily. At least when knitting, I was able to form squares big enough to be blankets for my barbie.
In my mid-century childhood, doilies were put away and kept for grandchildren who years later would neither have them nor appreciate their historical value. In the 1950’s, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) transitioned from a commercial fabric, commonly used in post-WWII construction, to a residential fabric that we affectionately refer to as ‘leatherette’ today. I can still remember the sound of my thighs coming off the vinyl bench in the diner when I got up to leave a booth.
Going without a leather couch was out of date in the ’60s, and while styles have changed, such a couch remains a timeless piece. If you’re looking for a little more leather in your life and home these days, you can look beyond the couch and chair, where the options range from subdued to highly decorative.
While vinyl is still the cheapest leather-look fabric, we now have “bonded” leather, which is made from scraps bound together with polyurethane or latex. As you can see from the prices of such furniture, the actual leather used can vary from 10 to 90 percent.
Of course, top grain leather is the most expensive, and we have suede, stamped, embossed, lacquered, and a variety of other techniques used to alter the look of a hide. In addition, there is now vegan leather.
If you’re looking for something unique for your kitchen or bar, check out Kosel Saddlery’s tooled leather countertop (koselsaddles.wixsite.com/marty) in Montana. They also make saddles and chaps.
Instead of the glossy granite surfaces we’re all familiar with, MSI Surfaces (msisurfaces.com) manufactures honed and leathered granite surfaces for a more subtle appearance and has dealers throughout the DMV.
For a do-it-yourself application, Amazon sells the Aspect brand’s eight-pack of leather-glass, peel-and-stick subway tiles for backsplashes in five neutral colors for less than $20 each.
EcoDomo (ecodomo.com) in Gaithersburg offers a variety of custom leather treatments including countertops, door and cabinet trim, floorboards and tiles, and wall systems. Your color choices aren’t limited to black or brown either. You can make pieces in blue, red, green, and even custom colors to match other items in your decor.
Many online stores, such as Wayfair and Overstock, stock headboards, footstools, poufs, and banquettes made of real and faux leather at affordable prices.
There’s always something leather at Pottery Barn, even for the conservative budget: composite leather cushions, tufted stools, wicker collections and even a leather-bound coffee table book for cigar lovers.
If you’re looking for little accent pieces, try a leather coaster, placemat, napkin ring or my personal favourite, a cutlery pouch for your tableware collection from Lucrin Geneva (lucrin.com). They also offer office supplies like crocodile desk sets, paper baskets, and storage boxes.
And for the connoisseurs of leather, vinyl, rubber, or even neoprene items with a more personal touch, head to Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency this Friday through Sunday for Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend. With lots of specialty items, eye-catching fashion, toys and games for all ages and yes, even bespoke furniture in the vendors’ displays, you’re sure to find something to capture your imagination.
Just remember that you (and your pup) must be both vaccinated and masked to participate. We take COVID (and rabies) very seriously here in DC
Valerie M Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in DC, Maryland and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her at DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at The Realst8ofAffairs.