Types of Leather Used for Furniture

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Most people love that feeling of sinking into a soft leather couch. Of course, some are softer than others. And some look more well-made than others. One reason is there are different types of leather used for furniture, and the type used affects the look and feel of the piece. The most authentic leather may even show signs from the animal's hide, such as insect bites, healed abrasions from brushing against a fence or a farmer's brand. These details enhance and individualize the quality.

Types of Leather Used for Furniture
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There are several different types of leather used in the making of furniture. Each has a different degree of quality and a different price point.

Full Grain Leather

To get full grain leather, the animal's hair is taken off the epidermis of the hide and only a few layers of the hide are used. This portion of the skin, just below the hair, is where the highest quality of leather comes from. After hair removal, the hide is soaked in a vegetable dye. Because full grain leather isn't treated or polished and finished, it's the most natural looking and tends to look even better as it ages. Over the years, full grain leather will develop a patina from being handled, which makes it look even more rich and authentic.

Top Grain Leather

The second highest quality leather is called top grain leather. It's quite similar to full grain except the top layer is sanded and buffed to remove imperfections. This makes the leather look more uniform, but it also makes it less durable and it will break down faster than full grain leather.

Nubuck Leather

This is the super soft suede that feels delightful against your skin but can be damaged easily. Nubuck is rawhide from a cattle that is polished and sanded on the grain side in order to create that velvety or suede appearance. After this process, the nubuck is sprayed with a finishing or polishing agent, which makes it look more uniform. Typically less expensive than full grain leather, nubuck should be waterproofed in order to maintain its beauty.

Blended or Bonded Leather

This mixture of leather scraps and fibers is made in a way similar to the manufacturing of paper. Like paper, bonded leather is formed into a roll using bonding materials or adhesives. This is the lowest end leather you can buy other than faux leather. Although it may look nice in the showroom, that blended leather couch won't last as long. But you do pay much less for it.


Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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