Okay, let’s talk about leather. Full-grain leather, top-grain leather, nubuck leather, leather splits, bonded leather, bycast leather, renew leather, leather match, leather touch, Durablend leather, faux leather, and probably more, but that’s all we can think of at the moment.
Whew! When you’re thinking of buying a leather sofa, loveseat, chair, sectional, or even an ottoman, you’d probably like to know exactly what you’re getting. So let’s take them one by one. Note we’re only talking about leather that comes from cattle, because that’s the kind used in 99% of leather furniture.
Full-grain leather is generally regarded as the best kind and “cut” of leather. It’s the outside surface, the one hair grows on, and the one that is exposed to the elements, so it always has imperfections – from insects, barbed wire, or just the ravages of nature. It’s largely untreated, and highly susceptible to marks, stains, and scratches, so you don’t see much of it used on furniture.
Top-grain leather is full-grain leather that has been split (see below), sanded, and to which a finish coat of some sort has been applied. This finish coat dramatically increases its resistance to marks, stains, and scratches. Nubuck leather is very similar, but the sanding process is done to leave a short nap, giving it a velvety feel.
In its original form, leather is too thick and stiff to use in furniture, or in most other products. So it is sliced into two parts: the top part is top-grain leather, the bottom part is called a “split.” Splits are commonly used in all kinds of furniture manufacture, and it is what suede leather is made from.
Splits can be coated with polyurethane and embossed with a grain, resulting in what is called bycast leather.
Bonded leather (also called Renew or recycled leather) is made from a mixture of ground-up leather scraps (that would otherwise be thrown away), vinyl, and polyurethane. It’s then coated and embossed to give it the appearance of top-grain leather. It does have several advantages, being much more eco-friendly, with no defects, excellent durability, and a surface that wipes clean.
Leather Match, Leather Touch, and Durablend furniture all have one thing in common: they are leather in the parts you touch or that touch you – meaning mostly the back, seat, and arms – and carefully matched vinyl or polyurethane everywhere else. The result looks like it’s all leather, but is considerably less expensive.
Faux leather is simply vinyl/polyurethane that’s been treated to look and feel like leather.
With today’s technology, you could examine chairs or sofas with any of these coverings and have a hard time telling which is “real” leather and which is not. To be sure, ask your sales associate. Which is right for you? That depends on the use it’s going to get. Whether you have kids. Whether you have pets. The room it’s going into. How long you plan on keeping it. How much you can afford to spend. Ultimately, if it looks good and feels right to you, what it’s made of might not be all that important. Your sales associate can help, as can our professional design team. The service is free; all you need to do is ask.