Everything you need to know to shop for leather furniture
It’s hard to surpass the beauty and durability of leather. Once a luxury purchase, leather furnishings are now available in a variety of colors and styles for every budget. Adding leather to a room is an easy way to create instant warmth and character. Plus, it’s one of the few home purchases that looks better as it ages.
- GET TOUCHY-FEELY – Shop in person and take your time. Don’t be embarrassed to test-drive the product. Run your hand across all the surfaces of the piece, not just the armrest.Wear comfortable clothing when you shop and sit, stretch out and recline like you do at home.
- LEARN THE LINGO – The best way to ensure your purchase satisfaction is to know what you’re buying. Use our “Leather Lingo” glossary to decipher industry terminology.
- THINK OUTSIDE THE SOFA – While sofas and recliners are perennial favorites, also consider leather ottomans, benches, bar stools and dining room chairs. And don’t miss the array of leather-covered cabinets, headboards and accent pieces available.
Leather furnishings begin with a labor-intensive process, called tanning, which transforms cow hides into soft, supple leather suitable for upholstery. The result is a range of leather grades and types that influence the price, usability and longevity of each piece.
The strongest, supplest, most durable and valuable layer of a hide. Cowhide is often separated into two or three layers and the outermost layer is the “Top-grain.” The layers below the top grain are known as “splits.”
This portion comes from the bottom layer of a hide and is just as durable as Top-grain leather, though not as supple.
This is Top-grain leather that has been sanded down to reduce some of its natural markings and characteristics, then embossed with a consistent graining pattern that is pressed into the leather.
An affordable alternative to all-leather furniture, leather-vinyl match pieces are typically created using Top-grain leather on the seat and arms (the parts that touch the body) and matching vinyl on the sides and back – rendering the piece less expensive.
One of the highest-quality types of leather, aniline refers to leather that has been dyed with transparent aniline dyes that protect the leather while allowing the natural grain to show through. Only the finest hides (those relatively free of marks and imperfections) are chosen for aniline finish leather.
Sometimes referred to as naked leather, this is the softest and most supple of all leathers, and the richest in natural color. Pure aniline also has the least natural resistance to stains, so it is not ideal for households with young children or pets.
Sometimes called protected aniline, this is a Top-grain leather that has been coated for added protection, while retaining the softness and natural beauty of the leather.
Leather finished with a coating that covers imperfections and produces consistent color and texture. The pigment coating increases the leather’s durability, but can also make the hide stiffer and less supple.
A look associated with quality leather in which full-grain, aniline-dyed leather is waxed or oiled and then pulled— producing lighter and darker areas that add an aged patina and depth of color.
Sometimes called antiqued, a technique that artificially creates the look of natural age and wear in leather.
Designed to be an affordable alternative, bonded leather mimics the look and feel of all leather. It is a blend of polyurethane, polyester/cotton and leather bonded to the back of fabric. It offers a soft feel, beautiful texture and lasting durability.