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By Vivian Martin
You truly get what you pay for in regards to leather. High-quality pieces cost more, but their comfort and longevity make them a worthwhile investment. There are ways to save money without sacrificing style. If you’re simply looking for a display piece that won’t get much use, consider bonded leather or leather-look as a lower-cost option. Or consider “leather match”, in which some of the piece (like the back and sides, where physical contact is minimal) is made of dyed vinyl, and front-facing cushions and seats are made of high-quality leather. Research your options to find the best fit for your taste and budget.
TYPES OF LEATHER AND FINISHES
There are multiple types of leather to choose from, each with their own features and benefits. The options below are ranked in order of cost, from the most expensive to the least.
Genuine Leather – Genuine Leather is highly desired for its fashionable look and durable nature. There are several different types of genuine leather available:
- Full Grain leather retains the imperfections of the hide for a more natural look.
- Top Grain is the uppermost part of the hide, which is sanded and finished.
- Semi-Corrected Top Grain is only corrected if there are major imperfections, like deep scratches.
- Corrected Grain leather has all the imperfections removed and an artificial grain is applied.
- Split Grain is the bottom part of the hide. This leather is corrected and embossed with a graining pattern.
- Bycast Leather has embossed polyurethane applied to the surface.
Bonded Leather – A great alternative to genuine leather, bonded leather is made of hide fibres that are joined together with latex and stamped with a grain-like pattern.
Leather Match – Not every part of your furniture will be seen or touched. On leather match pieces, leather is reserved for visible areas, like the cushions and seats. Vinyl is dyed to match the leather and used on the sides and back.
Leather Look – Made without animal products, leather look furniture is just as stylish as cowhide. To achieve the desired aesthetic, polyurethane upholstery is made to look and feel like leather.
LEATHER FINISHES (ANILINE)
“Aniline” refers to the finish of the leather. There are two ways of finishing or colouring leather — through the use of dyes alone, or a combination of dyes and pigments. You can choose between “pure” or “full” aniline, which uses dye only, or semi-aniline, which uses dye and pigments.
Full Aniline – Full aniline (or unfinished) refers to full-grain leather, with few imperfections, that has been coloured only with dye (no pigments), and therefore contains no protective coating. Because no other coating or pigment is used, full aniline leather is superbly soft and supple with rich, penetrating colour. It also develops a rich patina with use. Only the best hides are used for full aniline leather; it is the most desirable, so therefore it is the most expensive. The downside to full aniline leather is that it is easier to stain and UV ray-exposed leather can fade quickly.
Semi-aniline – Semi-aniline (or finished) leather is of slightly less quality. It is initially coloured using the same dye as full aniline leather, with a top coat of pigment is added. A very small amount of coating or pigment is applied to even out the colour and give better protection from stains and fading. Finished leather may not feature the same softness and suppleness as unfinished leather, but this extra coating of pigment will make it more durable and less susceptible to staining. It’s ideal for large households with children or for anywhere that the leather will be getting a lot of use.
Information source: Sears. Learn about leather care on their site as well!