You Sexy ThingLeather moves from boardrooms and swanky bars into our homes

When we think of leather, most of us think of cowhide. But “leather” is, simply put, a tanned and dressed hide of some sort. Ecologically correct or not, leathers can be alligator, crocodile, calf, sheep, snake, shark, deer and kangaroo in addition to the traditional cow. Leather is a funny material: it’s one of the sexiest to use for most products it’s appropriate for. Car interiors and e-reader covers? Sure. Pyjamas? Not so much. However, there’s an agonisingly fine line between elegantly swank Mad Men-esque decor and a skeevy Playboy mansion wannabe vibe, and cutting edge fashion and an outfit that will land you in the lockup for solicitation.

In honour of everyone’s favourite purveyor of retro-cool style ideas returning to the airwaves in March (finally!), take a look at leather manufacturer Esbeco’s Alphenberg. Based in The Netherlands, the brand specialises in water buffalo tiles for floors, ceilings and walls. Leather has long been used for tiling in retail, hotels, and very often offices to lend a vintage look to a space — both classic and classy. Now available at Kitchens + Interiors, Alphenberg tiles can be ordered for residential consumer interiors too.

Alphenberg tiles have a lot going for them, technically, besides looking cool. The tanning is done naturally to reduce the environmental impact and keep the final product is toxin-free; there are none of those hazardous off-gases here. The tiles will adhere to any smooth surface, they don’t require special cleaning care (a damp cloth will do the trick) and floor tiles need only be waxed yearly. They’re durable and hold up well in hot and humid conditions, and perhaps best of all leather’s natural insulation properties can help moderate indoor temperatures in both winter and summer as well as act as a sound damper.

And if you’re having visions of a Dutchman roaming the hills of Mui Wo looking for water buffalo to shoot rest easy. Alphenberg uses by-product skins and does not slaughter animals specifically for their hides, which is in line with its aforementioned eco-friendly tanning process. “The origin of the skins we use is from animals that lived in the country and are processed with environment friendly tanning stuffs. The tannage, dyeing and finishing is done with biologically degradable materials to achieve a minimal burden on the environment,” according to Alphenberg. The final product is also biodegradable and completely recyclable.

Aesthetically speaking Alphenberg’s tiles come in two finishes — matte (Tundra) and glossy (Pampas) — and in four colours in each section ranging from neutral clay to pitch black. The intensely tactile paraffin-infused Tundra finish boasts a suede-like surface that inspires a light/dark contrast effect. On the other side of the coin is the Pampas, with a paraffin and oil combination that creates a firmer, shiny stainresistant surface. Tiles come in a range of small (15 x 15 centimetres) to large (50 x 50) squares to fit any and all surfaces, providing another option for creating a specific vibe. The warm Tundra tiles could be used in dining rooms, offices and libraries to evoke a focused, relaxed atmosphere; the Pampas in perhaps more welcoming and raucous rooms — home lounges (Hugh Hefner would be proud) or entertainment rooms. How you choose to use them in bedrooms is up to you. No judging.