Considering leather for a piece of furniture? There are some things that you might want to know. There are many different types of leather to choose from and each has distinct properties and price points. To select a leather best suited to your taste and unique situation, simply refer to the information below.
The most preferable leather for upholstery is cowhide. The texture, or hand, is soft, subtle and smooth. Cowhide conforms beautifully to the shape of furniture and it is very comfortable to sit on. Other types of animal hide tend to be stiff and coarse in grain. This makes them unsuitable for upholstery purposes.
Leather occurs in layers. The lowest grade is found at the bottom of the hide while the best and strongest grade of leather occurs at the top, next to the hair of the animal. Don’t be confused, just think bottoms up.
Leather hides can be split into layers. The lowest grade of leather is called Split Leather and it is found at the bottom of the hide closest to the flesh of the animal. These leathers are weak and will not stand up well over time, especially in active households and commercial application.
TOP GRAIN LEATHER
The middle grade of leather is actually called Top Grain Leather. It is the top layer that remains after a hide as been split. Top Grain Leather is part of the hide. Because it is the top, or the strongest part of the hide, it has an increased resistance to staining, wear and tear.
FULL GRAIN LEATHER
The highest grade of leather is called Full Grain Leather. In this case, the hide has not been split. Because the fibers of the hide remain intact, Full Grain Leather retains its natural breathability. It is both strong and subtle. Full grain leather will not wear out. Instead, it develops a natural patina over time with some cracking and splitting. The finest pieces of furniture are made of Full Grain Leather.
COLOR and CORRECTION
The best of the best. Aniline is a penetrating dye that entirely permeates the leather. It provides overall color to the hide without covering up its natural markings. Pure aniline dyed leather has a clear, protective coating and no applied pigments or paints. Only the best quality hides (5% of the world supply) are colored this way. That explains the high prices. These leathers develop a rich patina as they age.
These leathers are also aniline dyed but they are processed a little more. Spray pigments of color are applied to the tops of the hides to even out the finish and camouflage natural occurring imperfections. These leathers are light and scratch resistant. Roughly 10% to 15% of hides are semi aniline dyed.
Corrected-grain leather is any type of leather that has an artificially applied grain. The imperfections are corrected and an artificial grain used. These hides are inferior in quality. Leather suppliers are very creative. They have many ways to produce something that looks good from something that wasn’t so great in the first place.
So look before you leap into buying leather furniture. Ask questions and remember—there’s a lot to learn!