brown leather modern sofa

What You Should Know About Leather

When buying furniture, you’ll often be asked “would you prefer leather, or fabric”? If you’ve never had leather furniture before, you’ll probably want to know more about the product. If you’ve always owned leather, then it’s time to freshen up your knowledge!

What is leather?

Leather is made from the hides of animals. Exotic leathers can be used for furniture, like ostrich or crocodile, but most leather you’ll see on show room floors is from cows. Leather is known for its durability, flexibility, and long lasting nature. The hides arrive at factories, they are tanned, dyed, and sent out to furniture manufacturers to use as upholstery.

Types of Leather

There are different types of leather that are used: Full-grain, top-grain, corrected-grain, split, and bonded leather.


Full-grain leather refers to hides that have not been corrected, sanded, or buffed to remove imperfections in the leather, like bug bites, wrinkles, scars, or even branding. This type of leather will develop a patina over time, and is very breathable. It is not known for its stain resistance, so young families should beware!




Bug Bites


One of the most common types of leather used in high-end products is top-grain leather. The split part of the leather is cut away, resulting in a thinner and more pliable leather than full-grain. The surface has a protective coat added to it, making it more resistant to stains, and won’t patina over time.


Corrected-grain leather is much like it sounds: the grain has been corrected through sanding, and a grain pattern is embossed onto the surface. Stains or dyes are added to the leather. This type of leather is also much more resistant to stains and also won’t patina over time.


The next type of leather is called split. Remember top-grain leather is split into two? Well that back portion is used in this category. Since there is no grain left on this leather, it is also corrected and embossed with a grain pattern.


Leather Swatches

Bonded Leather

While bonded leather contains leather, it is mainly man made. Manufacturers shred up leather, bond it to a backing, and apply a polyurethane coating which is embossed to look like leather. It is more environmentally friendly and consistent than natural leather, however it is nearly impossible to repair and doesn’t breathe.

Leather Grading

Each furniture company adopts a grading system for their leathers. The price of your furniture piece will depend on what grade the leather is. Lower grade leathers are generally less expensive, with more correction, and higher grade leathers are more expensive with less correction. They will come in a variety of colors, even very bright greens and reds.


Leather Colours

Environmental Impact

Leather does have an environmental impact. Chemicals are used in the tanning process, and air pollution is a result of dehairing and the liming process. However, leather does biodegrade over time, while artificial products like vinyl will take hundreds of years to decompose.

What do buy

If you decide to purchase leather, take some time to think about the use of the piece and how long you’ll have it. Active, young families may want to stay away from full-grain and light colored leathers. If you love to change up your accessories often, a trendy colored leather may not be right for you. Think a neutral colour like beige, chocolate, or the newly popular grey. However, if you love red and know you want to live with it, just go for it!

Whether you’re looking to purchase a chair or a large sectional, the staff at Alford’s will be happy to help you find the perfect piece for your home.

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