Leather has always had its place as one of the most prestigious and elegant alternatives in clothing and furniture design, but Dutch Alphenberg decided to take this concept further and – quite literally – expand it to our interiors.
As peculiar as they might sound, leather floor and wall coverings are here to challenge the way we look at high-end design at home with their easy-to-maintain solutions and uncompromised visual quality. We welcomed Alphenberg at this year’s S/ALON BUDAPEST and managed to talk to them about the history of their business, as well as some of their most outstanding achievements in the field of leather production.
When was Alphenberg founded?
Alphenberg was founded in 2009 in Waalwijk, a small city in the south of the Netherlands that has been known for leather tanning and shoe manufacturing ever since the 19th century. Therefore, leather is all around us here! We wanted to push the boundaries and apply leather to floors. This was the start of the Alphenberg story.
Where exactly do Alphenberg leathers come from?
Alphenberg procures leathers from all over the world, including India, Pakistan and Europe. Our latest ZERO collection is fully of Dutch origin. We are greatly involved in the process from start to finish. The ZERO collection is an amazing example of a chrome-free leather with an easy-to-trace origin.
With this collection, you can find out the exact location of the farm in the Netherlands where the animals who provided it lived.
Is leather a very demanding material that needs special care after installation, or is it easier to look after than most people would think?
As a natural material, leather is very durable and relatively easy to maintain. Maintenance products are created and offered specifically for certain collections as different finishes require different care. We strive to be very much involved in projects, so that we can advise every client properly. A leather floor or wall application can last over decades, you would only maintain your leather floor or wall by applying to it, never removing it.
Alphenberg leathers have many different application possibilities, from walls to stairs, doors, fireplaces and even floors. What makes leather so flexible and multifunctional?
Over the years, we have expanded our application options. In 2009 we had quite a small portfolio that only featured flooring applications, but we went on to expand our collections significantly over the years. Architects and designers have played a big part in this development.
Today, we continue to think of new application possibilities, colours, textures, and so on.
When we think of flooring solutions, we tend to look for very sturdy, undemanding materials. How do leather floors compare? It’s a stunning visual effect, but do leather floors deliver the same level of reliability as ordinary flooring solutions?
For flooring applications, we only use full grain, sturdy saddle-leather. Originally, this material is 3.4 mm thick, but for our applications we only use the 1.8 mm topside of the leather. This way, we can install the material with ease without any loss in quality. For flooring solutions, we tend to apply coating to make it easier to clean and more resistant to stains.
The Braid collection was created as a sustainable option for luxury leather walls. You mention that it is made entirely of residual material - at first, it indicates that it might be an “inferior” material, but this is surely not the case. What does residual mean here exactly, and what makes it a sustainable alternative?
The saddle-leather we use for our Tundra and Pampas collections is originally 3.2-3.4 mm thick. As we only use 1.8 mm of the topside of the hide, there is 1.4-1.6 mm of material left – the bottom side of the hide. We name this the Boxer, another collection available in the five most popular colours of our Tundra collection.
Even though it is the split side of the leather, you still see some colour nuances in the hide and some natural characteristics. The basis of the Boxer collection used to be waste material, but with a few ’tweaks’ we turned it into something beautiful – available for a lower price. Braid is a stunning product where our leather and Dutch designer Marcel Wolterinck’s vision came together. Braid consists of braided, 320*320 mm tiles with elegant stitching along the sides. Divided into middle, corner, and side pieces, it is a product that is rather easy to install. You simply slide the tiles together to create a seamless effect!
You also offer tailor-made solutions for clients. What were some of the more exciting projects you were asked to provide your expertise for?
Every project is to be proud of. We engaged in several exciting and unique projects in both residential and commercial environments. For example, as part of a residential project we covered a hallway with 200 m2 of custom-made Suède panelling. For commercial projects, we are often challenged with a request for something we may have never done before.
We are very proud to have been able to do the Province House in Antwerp, Belgium, where we installed acoustic padded panelling. Each panel was unique, so we had to measure and design each of them individually.
Another project we are proud of is the new Courthouse in Amsterdam, where we supplied and installed 3000 m2 of our acoustic panels called BROOM. The scale of the project was obviously impressive, and we loved the challenge to create an acoustic product out of leather and create something that is both aesthetically pleasing and technically perfect.
If we look at all the collections and application options of Alphenberg leather, continuous experimentation and innovation becomes obvious. Are there new leather solutions you are currently looking into?
We are always looking for new horizons. Sustainability is a big theme of our latest research and development projects. Our new ZERO collection that has just launched is a perfect example of that. Furthermore, we are working to expand our acoustic collections with new patterns and systems. Stay tuned!
Alphenberg brought its unrivalled leather collections, including their Suède panelling system, leather flooring solutions and the Kaiman embossed leather to S/ALON BUDAPEST 2021 – but the possibilities for leather don’t end here. Explore Alphenberg’s world of elegant luxury and let’s meet again at Hungary’s biggest interior design fair next year!