Comparing Quality in Leather Furniture

Leather furniture is luxurious, supple and one of the strongest natural materials. While leather is a popular choice in furniture, many people aren’t aware of its various types and grades which indicate its quality and durability. Knowing the quality of these grades is crucial when purchasing leather furniture.

Winston Chair & Ottoman by Palatial Furniture

Full Grain

Wrinkles are often found in full grain leather furniture. When the hide is stripped from an animal, there are two layers found: the top layer which produces the higher grade of leather and the bottom layer, which produces the poorer quality. Full grain is one of the top two leather grades which are taken from the top layers of the hide. This leather has been described as elegant and sumptuous. It’s not conditioned—as is the top grain grade—to remove the markings. Such markings in high-quality leather are believed to enhance the material’s texture and beauty. Full grain is the most expensive leather. It is not appropriate for a household with children and/or pets, where hard or-impossible to-remove drink and food spills, as well as scratches, are more likely to occur.

Top Grain

Top grain leather also comes from the top layer of the hide. But unlike full grain leather, it is sanded or otherwise processed to remove the natural markings and imperfections of leather. It’s very strong and durable. In terms of quality, it’s the second highest after full grain. Top grain leather is expensive, and
it has a soft, luxuriant feel. Like full grain leather, it’s wise to avoid purchasing it when children and pets are around and spills and scratches are likely.

Michael Weiss Love Seat from Vanguard Furniture

Split Grain

Split grain, made from the bottom layer of the hide, is not as strong or durable as top grain. It also lacks the textural look of the better grades. But it’s more affordable than the higher quality leathers and is the best leather to use with small children and pets. Sometimes it’s embossed with markings to duplicate the
look of the higher quality leathers. It can also be used on the less visible parts of leather furniture, like the sides and back.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is the lowest quality grade of leather. It’s made from scraps of leather bonded together to make it look like a single piece of leather. It doesn’t have the strength or durability of the single piece leathers. And some furniture experts recommend that it not be bought at all.

Precedent Furniture Round Tufted Ottoman

Pigmented Leather

Pigmented leather is any top grain leather to which a clear topcoat and pigments have been applied. The pigments are what usually give the shiny even top color to the leather. The leather may or may

not be aniline dyed. Sometimes the pigments (color) are applied to a base crust of a different color and in this case the leather in not dyed all the way through. If the pigments are applied to a hide that has been aniline dyed and matched for color then this leather is called a Protected Aniline Leather. Leather is usually pigmented to give it durability and hide its natural blemishes. Pigmented leathers are easy to maintain and have maximum resistance to wear, soiling, and fading from light.

Non-pigmented leather is leather to which no pigments have been applied. These are usually hides of the very best quality and have been aniline dyed for color.

Pure Aniline

Pure aniline leather is top grain leather that is dyed for color without any pigments applied. These hides will exhibit some natural characteristics such as healed scars, scratches, neck and belly wrinkles. Expect color variation from the swatch to the actual leather, due to the fact leather is a natural product and will absorb dye differently within the hide and from hide to hide. This leather will develop a rich patina over time and will fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Protected Aniline

Protected aniline leather is top grain leather that is dyed for color and then receives pigment to ensure color consistency. Without pigment a protected leather is not color consistent. The pigment also
ensures fade resistance and helps the leather wear over time. A clear water based topcoat is applied for additional protection. The natural imperfections of the hide are also less noticeable. Hides average 50-55 square feet. Protected Aniline Leathers are easy to maintain and have maximum resistance to
wear, soiling, and fading from light.

Thom Filicia Rugby Road Sofa for Vanguard


Semi-aniline refers to pure aniline leather that has a small amount of pigment or clear finish thus allowing the natural characteristics of the hide to still show through while offering some of the enefits of color consistency and increased wearability.


Nubuk is top grain leather that has been aniline dyed for color and then polished to create a nap. Since Nubuk leathers have no pigment applied these hides will exhibit color variation from hide to hide and dye lot to dye lot. Some natural markings are visible throughout these hides. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will cause these leathers to fade.

Palatial Furniture Scottsdale Chair & Ottoman

Other Leathers

Distressed leather is aniline dyed leather with an artificially worn and aged appearance in which the natural characteristics of the hide such as healed scars, scratches, and wrinkles are considered a positive characteristic.

Antiqued leather has been dyed with one color over another to create highlights and an aged appearance.

Embossed leather has been stamped using heat and high pressure to create a pattern or design in the hide. The variety is tremendous ranging from alligator, crocodile, ostrich, flowers, geometric and Indian designs, to name just a few.

Next week we’ll be back with Scott’s tips for choosing leather furniture. Have a great week-end!

All of the furniture pictured in this post is available from Scott’s Creative Home. Contact us today at 515.633.0777 or email us if you are interested in purchasing furniture for your home!

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