How to choose your leather
Leather furniture is still largely welcome in our tropical climate as it is a statement of luxury lifestyle. But choosing the right leather for yourself, not just any leather is the essence of truly achieving a high quality, luxury furniture piece. Here is how you should choose the right leather.
Full Grain Leather
Full grain is the highest grade of leather you can buy. It’s the most natural and comes from thick hides that have not been sanded or buffed, thereby retaining all the original marks and imperfections of the animal it came from. Full grain leather has optimum fibre strength and durability and, rather than wearing out, it develops a lovely, natural patina that only adds to its character. Full grain leather is typically available in two finishes: full or pure aniline and semi-aniline.
The Difference – Full Grain Leather vs. Top Grain Leather
Full grain leather is a type of top-grain leather. Top grain leather is any leather made using the top of the hide (as opposed to the lower layers, which is used to make split leather – see below). However, if a leather is described as “top-grain” but not “full grain”, it generally means the outermost layer with all the animal’s natural markings has been removed.
Pure aniline is where the leather is treated with transparent, soluble dyes, retaining the hide’s natural surface so that all the animal’s pores, scars and marks remain visible. Full grain pure aniline leather is the most authentic and luxurious leather you can buy, which also means it’s the most expensive. Soft and supple to the touch, it has a rustic, textured look that grows richer over time.
However, pure aniline leather is susceptible to stains, scratches and marks and requires specialist maintenance. If you want a sofa that’s easy to clean, you’d be best off choosing one of the leathers described below.
Full grain semi-aniline leather is produced the same way as pure aniline leather, but has a thin top coat added to it. This protects the leather and offers colour uniformity, while still allowing its natural characteristics to show through.
Semi-aniline leather is less cold in winter, less sticky in summer and more resistant to stains and scratches. This makes it more user-friendly than pure aniline and perfect for households with pets and children. It’s lower maintenance than pure aniline, but it does still require maintenance.
When leather is described as “top grain” leather instead of “full grain”, it normally means it’s corrected-grain leather. Pigmented leather is another type of top grain leather and the second highest quality leather you can buy. It’s still made from the top of the hide, but the outermost “full grain” layer has been removed. This is done to get rid of marks, insect bites, barbed wire scratches and other blemishes on more unsightly hides.
The hide is then sanded and an artificial grain is embossed onto the surface, resulting in an even pattern and uniform colour throughout. Protective coatings are then applied. As a top grain leather, corrected leather is still very high-quality, but it lacks the natural look and authenticity of full grain and will not develop a patina. At the same time, it is less expensive than full grain and boasts great resistance to spills and scratches. It’s also very low-maintenance compared to full grain leather.
Split leather comes from the lower layers of the hide after the top-grain layer has been removed. Split leathers can be embossed and finished to look like top grain leathers, but they are brittle, don’t absorb well and have a much lower life-expectancy than top grain leathers. This, of course, makes them much less expensive. Split leather is used to make suede (split leather with a soft, napped finish) and bi-cast or PU leather (a material with a split leather backing and polyurethane top layer).
Because it is much less durable than top grain leather, we wouldn’t recommend split leather for sofa seats and back cushions. However, split leathers are good for low traffic areas of your sofa, such as the side and back panels, which makes them an excellent cost-saving measure.
It depends on which piece of furniture you are buying to have leather upholstery. It is also to do with your own lifestyle between the most luxury material with routine careful maintenance, or you may go with less perfect leather which was processed and coated to have less maintenance. Or you simply to in between.