According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the roughness of shagreen’s texture led to the French meaning of anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or annoyance.

       sha-green. n.

.            1. an untanned leather covered with small round granulations and usually dyed green.

.           2. the rough skin of various sharks and rays when covered with small, close-set tubercles.

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Shagreen is an element of surprise that I have used in several projects.  It is such a unique and versatile material that lends itself to multiple uses.  Like many other exotic materials, it once had more utilitarian uses than its current aesthetic ones – such as in the hilts and scabbards of swords and daggers, providing strong grip.

Due to its extreme durability, shagreen is often used on furniture.  In this powder room, below, I introduced a striking onyx colored shagreen as the floor covering.  It turned out to be magical!  Everyone that saw it commented on how they just wanted to “pet” the floor!

Donna Livingston Design Powder Bath

Powder Room, left, and detail of shagreen floor. Interiors by Donna Livingston Design.

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Below is another project in which I used shagreen.  In this vanity, the pearl stingray shagreen offered a subtle touch of elegance while still keeping the overall feeling very masculine.  The most fun I had with this cabinet was taking a trip to the factory to handpick the exact pieces of stingray skin and the layout that I wanted to implement into this custom design.  The completed vanity was more striking than I had ever imagined!

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shagreen stingray skins

Handpicking of the Pearl Stingray Skin.

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Vanity Detail

Custom Vanity and Interiors by Donna Livingston Design.

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Shagreen lends a sense of luxury and interest unlike any other material.  Below are a few items to give you an idea of how you can incorporate this exoticism into your life…

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Natural White Shagreen Chair. Aesthesis.

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20th Century Blue/Green Shagreen Box with Bronze Handle, starting at $530. JRM International.

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Tree of Life Cuff Bracelet, Shagreen and 18k gold with multicolor diamonds, $9,600. Karen Bizer Fine Jewelry.

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Custom Anthrocite Shagreen Cocktail Table and detail, $10,000. Venfield NYC.