Element7 is best known for its exceptional wooden floors, and while wide-plank and parquet are still its main line, it is also seeing increasing interest in another material. “Leather floors are becoming more and more sought after as a way of creating wow factor in bedrooms, libraries and studies,” says Jago Anderson, creative director of Element7. “A dressing room with an under-heated leather floor is a big selling point for developers these days too.”
Every Element7 leather floor (£695 per sq m) is made to order using the finest, full-grain leather (known as Number 1s) sourced from male cattle reared on steroid-free English farms. (There is a practical reason behind these strict standards; leather floors need to be strong and England is internationally recognised as having the world’s best quality full-grain hides, the strongest of which come from male cattle that have not been given steroids.) Once selected, the hides are vegetable tanned – a traditional process that takes eight weeks – before being aniline dyed and bonded to stable, engineered-wood backing boards.
The process might be the same each time, but the results are always different. Most hides measure just over 1sq m, so even a modestly sized dressing room will require between six and 10 different sections, each subtly different in tone and texture. This is, of course, part of the appeal: leather is a natural product and those unique markings speak of its provenance.
Most clients go to Element7’s London showroom with a colour in mind (the company can produce pretty much anything), but often have little idea of what can be achieved in terms of pattern. “We can use whole hides or cut and lay them like tiles or bricks,” says Anderson. “We have even created a herringbone leather floor that gradually blends into a wooden one of the same pattern.”
Leather’s versatility also surprises people, says Anderson, who has laid the material in bathrooms and high traffic areas such as the Maison AD gym (although he wouldn’t recommend using it in a kitchen because of the patina that would occur). “Leather is extremely durable,” he says, “and our floors are like saddle leather. The more you use them, the better they look. The marks become part of the story of the floor.”