Have you ever wondered why certain types of leather furniture cost more than the others? This is because the price of the leather varies depending on its grain quality and treatment process. Although two different pieces of leather furniture may look alike, their prices could be vastly different due to this very reason.
Most homeowners prefer buying leather sofas and chairs not only because these items fit the theme of their home or add aesthetic appeal to their décor, but also because they are durable and comfortable. Purchasing high-quality material is akin to an investment, as it can last in your home for years (maybe even decades) if treated with care.
As you may already know, real leather is made by tanning animal rawhide. This natural material goes through unique manufacturing and dyeing processes to be finally used in homes for furniture and other items.
Good-quality leather does not emit toxic fumes, rip off the seam lines or fade. It is also resistant to fire, cracking and peeling. It can retain its shape even after years of use and is relatively easy to maintain. Moreover, each piece of leather is unique, much like a fingerprint. Each wrinkle, grain and scare on the natural material varies from another, giving it individuality and character.
Though there are several different types of leather qualities available in the market, choosing the right one for your home can be a little confusing. Therefore, we have brought you a leather buying guide that will make shopping for new furniture much easier.
Leather Furniture Styles
Before you start decorating your home, there are two most main styles of leather furniture you must know about:
Traditional Leather Furniture
Do you want a conventional décor that’s both alluring and functional? If so, you should consider buying a traditional leather sofa. These pieces of furniture are both elegant and lavish. They are also timeless, so you won’t have to worry about your décor looking outdated in a few years.
Traditional leather furniture is known for its tufted detail, high backs, rolled arms, carved wood, and single-tone colours. Although they tend to be a little pricier, they can instantly make your home look extravagant.
Contemporary Leather Furniture
The contemporary style of furniture refers to the latest or trendiest pieces available in the market. One big misconception people have about this style of furniture is that it is dated, which is not true. A successor to the modern style of furniture, contemporary pieces are known for their versatility, functionality and aesthetics.
These pieces are relatively simple with sleek and sophisticated lines, curved edges and different hues. Contemporary leather furniture is easy to fit into any type of décor, be it traditional or modern, as it goes along well with other styles.
If you are having a hard time making up your mind, make sure to take a look at the pros and cons of different types of upholstery materials – including leather – to make an informed decision.
Types of Leather Materials
These are the most common types of leather in Pakistan used for upholstery.
- Top-Grain Leather
- Split-Grain Leather
- Full-Grain Leather
- Corrected Grain Leather
- Bonded Leather
- Bi-Cast Leather
- Faux Leather
Let’s discuss each of these types of leather for furniture in detail.
Leather is usually made from cowhides. However, since they are rather thick, they have to be carefully sliced into thinner layers for processing. The surface cut or layer of the hide, which is the softest yet most durable, is called the top grain. Meanwhile, all other layers are referred to as a split grain.
Top grain leather requires buffing and polishing before it can be used as an upholstery material. However, despite undergoing different treatments, it is still one of the purest types of leather you can buy. It is supple, long-lasting and perfect for both traditional and contemporary décor. Though it is also the most expensive.
The remaining layers of the animal hide are called split grain. This material is stiffer and harder in texture. It is also less durable and difficult to maintain. However, owing to its low price, split-grain is usually used in areas of the furniture that are not blatantly visible. For example, the bottom part of the seat.
It is a more rugged version of top grain leather.
Once the top layer is extracted from the cowhide, the animal hair is removed from the surface and the material is soaked in a natural dye. Since the material is not buffed or polished, it retains its original texture, making it the most authentic type of leather available for use.
Full-grain leather is also very pricey and difficult to find. The material is a little tough, though it begins to soften with time. Full-grain leather has to be buffed and polished to transform into top grain leather.
Corrected Grain Leather
Corrected grain leather is a variety of top-grain leather that has undergone sanding, buffing, polishing, and embossing processes. It has a natural-looking grain pattern, though all the flaws, scars and other surface imperfections are not visible at all.
Bonded or blended leather is made from scraps of authentic leather and different bonding materials. It is a man-made composite material that only comprises about 15 to 17 percent leather but still looks, feels and smells like the real thing. The materials are backed onto fabric sheets and are coated with thin texture film to mimic the appearance of pure leather.
Furniture made from bonded leather is budget-friendly along with being sustainable and environmentally-friendly since leather wastage is used for their production.
When split-grain leather undergoes additional treatment to look like top grain, it is referred to as bi-cast leather.
Usually, a coat of polyurethane is used to give split-grain leather a finer and softer appearance. This is the reason why bi-cast leather furniture tends to be cheaper. However, the major drawback of buying this material is that it can crack and peel after some time.
Faux leather, also known as fake or artificial leather, is a man-made alternative to the actual material. It does not use any animal hides, yet it has a very realistic appearance. Good-quality faux leather doesn’t crack or peel either. It is also very durable, easy to clean, non-porous, and can last for several years. However, it may not be as comfortable or breathable as the authentic fabric.
This type of leather is usually used for car seats and budget-friendly furniture items.
Now that we know about different kinds of leather used for furniture, let’s take a look at some common leather treatments.
Types of Leather Treatments
Raw animal hide undergoes various treatments before it reaches the consumer. Here are the common treatments and their resulting leather type.
- Full Aniline Leather
- Semi-Aniline Leather
- Pigmented Leather
So what do these terms really mean? Let’s find out.
Full Aniline Leather
This leather dyeing process is ideal for full-grain hides with minimum flaws and imperfections. In full aniline leather dyeing, the cowhides are soaked in a translucent dye that permeates into the pores of the material and combines with its fibre. This is the reason why full aniline leather retains its original texture. The colour is also very subtle, which is why it doesn’t hide the scars and marks on the leather, giving it an authentic look.
Full aniline leather is not resistant to stains, but it is extremely soft and comfortable. Over time, it develops a patina finish that adds more character to your furniture, and ultimately, your overall home décor.
Compared to full aniline leather, the semi-aniline variety has a uniform colour. The raw animal hide undergoes the same dying process as the one mentioned above following the hair removal. However, as an additional step, a top coating of highly dispersed pigments is applied to the dyed hide to give it a more uniform hue as well as hide minor surface imperfections.
The supplementary coat also makes semi-aniline leather resistant to stains and fading.
This type of leather is supple, durable and available in a range of colours to complement your home décor.
Animal hides that are not suitable for fill and semi-aniline dyeing processes are usually sent to tanneries for pigmentation. This process includes sanding and buffing the hide to remove as many imperfections as possible. Then, the hides are dyed in stainless drums. An opaque pigment coating followed by a layer of protective coating is then added to the leather for a uniform grain, colour and appearance.
Pigmented leather is usually not as soft as full or semi-aniline leather. However, it is relatively durable and easier to clean, making it an ideal option for families with children.
That brings an end to our leather buying guide. If you are interested in learning about choosing high-used furniture for busy rooms or where to splurge and where to save when decorating your home, head over to Zameen Blog – the top lifestyle and real estate blog in Pakistan.
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