When leather wunderkind Linda Zelenko gets adventurous, that usually means she’s discovered yet another unexpected use for hide. Her leather drawer pulls and knobs first started drawing lots of attention, then along came the water-resistant leather tiles, that were so boss the Ann Sacks company had to add them to their collection, and now Zelenko is fully applying her knowledge of leather—and following the latest fashion trends—by designing shockingly unusual leather furniture. Not many people have magenta leather chairs with lace-up backs or leather wastebaskets (see below).
“Bringing in the fashion details make these chairs rock,” says the 44-year-old Zelenko, who hand-dyes the leather herself, “just like Rolls-Royce does,” she notes.
Woven leather drawer pull
Polished nickel drawer pull
Brass drawer pull in polished nickel finish with oxblood leather loop
Design and crafting are in Linda Zelenko’s blood. Her grandmother once sewed dresses for Shirley Temple and Carole Lombard. Her parents traveled in creative circles as graphic designers and illustrators. Zelenko herself began as a shoe designer in New York.
When she and her husband, Stephen Piscuskas, furniture designer for art world greats such as Ross Bleckner, moved to Connecticut, they began devising unique elements for their new home, including leather drawer pulls and bathroom fixtures. Friends asked where to get them and before they knew it, the Piscuskases were designing and producing handles, pulls, knobs and bathroom fixtures in leather and in metal, offering an array of finishes including sterling silver, satin nickel, polished brass and copper. A line of bathroom leather tiles impervious to water followed, thanks to Zelenko’s knowledge of the way to treat hides such as pigskin, ponyskin, suede and ultrasuede.
Detail of lace-up chair
Her husband’s influence and his art-world connections are apparent in Zelenko’s work. A recently designed leather rug (below) is “Rothko-style,” and his innovative furniture forms are the basis for the leather casegoods that she has begun producing. A leather cabinet with lots of small drawers was an experiment that was so successful that Zelenko can’t make enough of them. “They walk out the door, and they’re not inexpensive, at $12,000 to $16,000 each,” she says. “Every time I send one to the shop Duane in Manhattan, it’s sold the same day. I’ve made seven since the spring.”
She recently made a desk commissioned by interior designer Paul Siskin and designed a pair of side tables (one, top right), vanities and a bed—all made of one kind of hide or another. “I work with interior designers as well as the direct end user,” says Zelenko. “One customer even asked me to put together a room for her.”
Rothko-esque leather rug
Luggage-style leather drawer pull with polished nickel brass fittings