The name for this full-grain leather comes from the place where it was first made: Napa, California. The soft and pliable unsplit leather from sheep, lamb or kid skins -- and sometimes, pig, cow and calf -- was first developed by tanner Emanuel Manasse in 1875 for the tanning company for which he worked. It's a pricey leather, and you can find it on high-end designer or quality home furnishings.
The Touch of Nappa
High-end furniture designers often use nappa, also spelled "napa," leather to upholster their quality furniture. As a pliable and soft leather, it develops a pleasing finish with age. With its intact top grain, it doesn't retain moisture and breathes better than cheaper leathers -- it's considered a premium grade of leather. In spite of being soft, it's both durable and strong. You can find nappa on home furnishings of the highest quality such as expensive desk chairs, couches, chairs, ottomans and recliners.
Only the highest quality skins are chosen for nappa leather; the leather does not contain scars, bug bites, scratches or other physical imperfections. Because of the quality of the hides chosen to make nappa leather, the material itself is more expensive. The hides -- after tanning with chromium salts and alum -- are immersed in colorant and tumbled for hours inside a drum to encourage maximum penetration of the dye. The skins are generally taken from animals also used for meat.
One company makes faux leather tiles that resemble nappa leather for use in home decor, and used the name for the leather in its company name. The company uses a base material made from a waterproof, fire- and bug-resistant magnesium oxide board that is not subject to fungus or mold growth. The surface materials of these faux leather tiles consists of polyurethane faux leathers, and they're used to decorate walls and headboards in the home.
Sometimes people refer to forms of full-grain leather as nappa leather, but each company has its own way of making nappa leather. Taken from the top layer of the hide -- where all the grain is -- full grain leather develops a natural polish with age and use. But even though a label says full-grain leather, only a few parts of the furniture may be made with it. Check to ensure that if you buy a piece of furniture that says full-grain or nappa leather, the entire surface is covered with full-grain leather and not just the seat and seat backs.
Care of Nappa Leather
Apply a leather conditioner or similar product -- as recommended by the manufacturer -- after your leather furniture is first set up in your home. Once a month, or sooner if needed, remove dirt and debris from the leather surfaces with a clean, damp cloth. At least twice a year, recondition the leather with the recommended products. Furniture in homes with dry climates may require more conditioning to keep the leather supple.