Belida Fourie of Tassels and Tigers Interiors and Decor In A Box online decor services in Johannesburg

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Fall In Love With Nguni Skins - No Matter What Your Decor Style

Fall In Love With Nguni Skins - No Matter What Your Decor Style

Leather, fur, skin.  Hide!

Social matters and personal taste aside, animal skin designs, faux furs and actual leather products have seen a huge comeback in the fashion and décor industry in the past few years. Gone are the days when you have to pair them with solid, bulky wood furniture, tribal designs and thatched roofs.  

You can now see cow skin cushions snugly tucked between pale pink and black scatters in a retro or art deco design, or a cow hide rug providing firm footing for an ultramodern glass and metal coffee table. They’re simple and comfortable, yet majestic and luxurious, and there seems to be no end to the décor styles where these precious Nguni skins, indigenous to southern Africa, are making a home.

Various types of cow skins used in different home decor styles

Various types of cow skins used in different home decor styles

The cost a Nguni ottoman

I use the word precious ambivalently here, because you’ll find cow hides for sale at prices ranging from R2500 to R5000, depending on the grading.  In comparison to something like a zebra skin, this is cheap.  When you consider that a life was lost to provide that skins however, it does become precious, as all life is.

It’s this ambivalence that allows consumers to honour the animals who proudly wore these Nguni skins.  According to Carrie from Zulu Hides, their Nguni hides are sourced from abattoirs and farms, where the cattle are used for milk and meat.  As such, their skins are a by-product and would have gone to waste if not used for fashion and furniture.  The fact that the original Nguni herders made garments and tools from the skins of some of their most precious possessions, should serve as a clue here.

Quitting their jobs and moving to Cape Town (those are the best kind of stories), Ryan and Carrie became interested in selling Nguni skins after reading Marguerite Poland’s book, The Abundant Herds.  A year and a half later, Zulu Hides is a thriving small business, creating jobs and making use of sustainable products they’re extremely passionate about. Other than cow skins, their products include cowhide cushions and Nguni skin boots!

Why I want one

These gorgeously soft Nguni skins, expertly coloured by nature, are made even more covetable by the fact that each cow’s hide is unique.  These different markings are responsible for the richly expressive names inspired by the environment of their Zulu people.  Some personal favourites include flies in buttermilk, like old people and women running through the forest. 

They are usually bi-coloured, but there are also tri-coloured patterns, which of course increase the price of the cow hide, and the skins with a butterfly pattern (symmetrical markings) fetch the highest prices. 

Their rich natural colours go far beyond white, black and brown. Many boast creamy off-whites, brindles, chocolatey and earthy browns, golden tans and, ideal for current Scandinavian décor trends, various shades and patterns of grey.

Grey Scandinavian Nguni Rug

So rich and opulent in fact are these colours, textures and names that I, having never been a fan of Nguni skins, have decided I absolutely must have at least one. 

Soft, textured Nguni Skin

My love for these gentle beasts makes the appreciation for their precious skins so much more.

If you’re interested in buying a Nguni skin ottoman like this one we had made for a client in Johannesburg, or just some Nguni skins, get in touch here.  

Also have a look at this Pool Lounge Design Board we created for a client around another one of these ottomans we custom made for them.


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