September 22, 2006 “We change our clothing, handbags and shoes with the season, why not our tile?” posits Nancy Epstein, CEO of Artistic Tile, and head of new product development. “Rather than old-fashioned summer slipcovers, why not change the look of the entire room by switching the floor or wall from the warmth of naturally fur-covered cowhide tile to a smooth Natura leather tile for the warmer months. Or you can simply add a new look by applying a border of saddle stitched tile, or changing the configuration of the accent tile from a border to an inset. It’s not so different from changing your outfit, and takes very little time to achieve,” she adds. Unfortunately, the mix and match Pampa Leather tile collection is offered in six styles including the black and white cowhide shown but there’s no facility for some of the other collections on offer just yet. But it’s a great idea. Designed by Epstein, the tile adheres by means of a clever system of magnets, requires no mortar, adhesives or grout and is an easy care alternative to carpet. A layer of galvanized sheet metal between the substrate and the tile means tiles may be changed whenever the mood strikes.
Epstein found the innovative new tile concept in Argentina, and worked with the expert tanners and craftspeople there to create a distinctive line of 18” x 18” tiles. Limitless custom options will be available by special order in various sizes, finishes and colors of natural leather. All will be crafted with the ingenious magnetized backing, treated for stain resistance, and engineered for high durability. In fact, the tiles are so durable that Epstein recommends them even for commercial installations such as hotel suites.
“This tile is perfect for that type of application. It is a soft, warm surface without many of the issues of carpets such as allergens. And, knowing that if you have a problem with a given tile, within thirty seconds you can pick it up and replace it rather than replacing an entire carpet, imparts a great deal of confidence.” she says. Besides, she quips, “Shoes are made of leather and people walk on them every day.”
The quality and rich provenance of the leather itself was another reason Epstein chose it for her line. Pampa leather tile has a rich history that began in Solofra, Italy, birthplace of Italian master tanners, at the end of the 19th century. At that time, wealthier Solofran families covered the chestnut wood walls and floors of their homes with leathers, cut into various shapes and precisely tanned to match the wood using tannins from the same chestnut trees.
One of these master tanners was Vincenzo Esposito, who, with his wife Guiseppina, a tanner’s daughter, set out from Italy to Argentina and there began his own tannery. Creating the same types of leather floor coverings he had perfected in Italy proved easier in Argentina, where leather was more plentiful. His children carried on the tradition, but over the ensuing century the old-world ways were lost.
Recently, a descendant of Esposito decided to revive the family tradition, adding new technologies to old-world craftsmanship, and utilizing the fine cowhides available in the region. Together with a team of engineers, technicians, designers and craftspeople, he created a beautiful product, easily installed, customizable to designer and homeowner requirements and above all with homage to the noble tradition of the Italian tanners.