Types of Leather Furniture: Everything You Wanted to Know

Types of Leather Furniture: Everything You Wanted to Know

July 04, 2017

Leather furniture has increased in popularity in recent years. Several reasons contribute to its reputation: durability, comfort, easy to maintain, luxury look and feel, kid friendly and hypoallergenic. We will cover the basics about leather and its qualities.  Maybe you will consider leather for your next piece of furniture.

Characteristics of Leather

There are several qualities of leather that are advantageous to the homeowner buying leather furniture. First off, leather is hypoallergenic which means it is resistant to molds, mildews and fungi which could be pervasive in certain climates. It will not collect dust and dirt as regular upholstery does. Leather has the look of luxury. Historically leather has been known to be at the top of the price list of furnishings, but the process of producing leather has changed. There are several types of leather to choose from at a variety of price points. Leather is very comfortable. It is soft, yet supporting. One disadvantage of top-grain leather is it will stain if water or other substances spill on it. It needs to be cleaned immediately to keep the stain from setting in. There are spray protectors for suede that will help it to repel liquids and other spills.

Types of Leather

Most folks probably think there are two types of leather: real and fake. We are here to give you a little education on leather and dispel the myths that surround leather. Did you know leather comes from a variety of hides? Most leather today comes from cows because they are of larger size. But leather can also come from pigs, sheep, horses, deer and even kangaroos. If you want exotic leather, then look for alligator, elephants, ostrich, frogs, stingrays, and snakes. Leather is found in a variety of products ranging from purses and wallets to clothing and boots to furniture and other accessories. 

Many factors contribute to the quality of leather. The diet of the animal, the care, the age, the climate, any presence of disease, the chemicals used in the tanning process, and dyes used for coloring are all contributors.

1) Full-grain Leather

Just below the hair lies the strongest, most durable part of the hide. The pattern or grain of the leather is more defined and very tight. The top layer of the hide used for full-grain leather. This type of leather is the most durable. It will last for years. Also, it is moisture resistant. In fact, the more this leather gets handled, the better it will look. Furniture and footwear are typically made with full-grain leather. Maintenance of full-grain leather requires it be kept from high heat sources, placed out of direct sunlight and protected from water. These three things will keep the full-grain leather looking and performing well for years to come. Over time it will develop that natural patina for which top-grain leather is known.

2) Top-grain Leather

Top-grain leather is similar to full-grain leather except for the top few millimeters of the hide have been sanded off due to imperfections. By removing that top layer, it also diminishes the durability and longevity of the leather. A finish layer is added to this type of leather to bring back some of the durability. The finish coat makes it feel more "plastic," and it will not develop a patina such as the full-grain leather. It is more stain resistant, working well for furniture. Other advantages include a more even look and texture over the whole piece, and it is less expensive.

3) Corrected-grain Leather

This leather is similar to top-grain leather in that you start with full-grain leather that has been buffed or sanded to remove imperfections. A pigment is then added to give it a uniform color. Finally, it is embossed with a full-grain leather pattern. Distinguishing between corrected and full-grain leather is difficult. The corrected leather is easier to clean due to the pigment coat and is more durable than the full-grain leather. The downsides are it is not as soft, and it has that "plastic" feel.

4) Split Leather

Split leather is made by separating the top grain from the bottom layer. The top-grain leather is for high-quality products, and the split portion is for suede or other products. The hide can be split several times depending on the thickness. Split leather has an artificial layer that is added and then embossed with the top-grain leather look. Suede will have that rough texture that looks like the underside of leather. It has a more rustic feel. Urban Cali has living room furnishings with suede and Eco leather (bonded) coverings. See our discussion on bonded leather next.

5) Bonded (or Eco) Leather

There are many leather scraps and leather products that are recycled rather than going into landfills. Enter the bonded leather industry. It recycles the leather scraps and bonds them to fabric and polyurethane combination material. The result is a reliable, durable product (leather) with a soft, comfortable feel. It has a high ecological base and is environmentally friendly since it is a renewable resource, a by-product of other processes and is recycling leather. Bonded leather is attractive because it is both durable and inexpensive compared to full-grain or top-grain leathers.

6) Faux Leather

Faux leather goes by a variety of names including leatherette, pleather, or Naugahyde. The material has no resemblance to leather other than the stamped grain look on the surface. It is made of polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. Both fabrics are more versatile than leather, but they are not as strong or durable. The price point is lower for faux leather as well.

Leather: Which one is For You?

Each of us has our preferences in style, quality and price. Of course, we want the best quality for the lowest price. Having options for leather furniture is an advantage. You can choose the type of leather you want and the price range in which it falls. There are environmentally friendly options as well. If you have young kids, you might choose corrected-grain leather over suede because it cleans up easily. Look at bonded or faux leather for a lower price point. No matter what your situation, there is leather furniture available to you. Shop Urban Cali today to see what types of furniture they offer.