Bonded leather and blended leather are essentially the same product, designed to emulate the look of pure leather. Bonded leather, sometimes called blended leather, is made by fusing small leather scraps to fabric using additional synthetic materials such as polyurethane. Some manufacturers call their products blended leather, while others call it bonded leather. Bonded leather is the more common of the two terms.
Bonded and Blended Construction
Bonded or blended leather contains small leather bits fused onto a thin layer of fabric. Polyurethane, which is responsible for the leathery look and feel of bonded leather, is the top layer, textured and colored to emulate the real deal. The leather pieces are only a small percentage of the material -- sometimes less than 20 percent. Aside from the leather bits on the backing, bonded or blended leather more closely resembles faux leather than genuine, pure leather.
Benefits of Blended Construction
Bonded or blended leather is generally far less expensive than genuine leather, since the materials that are used to make it cost less than real leather. A quality bonded leather chair may feel even softer than a similar seat made from actual leather. Bonded leather also looks like actual leather when used in furniture construction.
Compared to genuine leather, bonded or blended leather is far less durable and has a shorter lifespan. The surface coating may crack, eventually exposing the thin layer of fabric holding the entire construction together. Some retailers sell furniture listed as leather, when parts of the item are made from bonded leather; for instance, the seat and backrest on a sofa are real leather, while the sides and back of the piece are made from bonded leather tinted and textured to match. Ask your retailer as many questions as possible before purchasing a leather or bonded leather item to ensure that what you buy is exactly what you expected.
Genuine Leather Traits
Genuine leather, as opposed to its bonded or blended counterparts, is made from sheets of animal hide stitched together into a final product. Even among similar genuine leather products, there is a difference in quality and price in the different types; for instance, top-grain leather is the outermost part of a cowhide and requires minimal processing, compared to split leather, which is from a lower layer of hide. If you're seeking genuine leather furnishings, ask the retailer to ensure the entire item is made from leather, not just the seat or armrests.