Leather Furniture 101 – Value vs. Cost

I Thought It Was a Bargain!

We’ve heard many lament “I thought it was such a bargain.  It seemed like such a good deal and a price I couldn’t pass up!”  The stories are varied, but all the same results.  At first look, the piece looks great, and maybe feels great, but that initial joy is short lived.  That sofa with the foam that felt so comfortable the first time but quickly lost its bounce, or the fabric that looked great at the beginning but didn’t hold up, all make you wish you had bought more wisely and informed.  So we are going to tackle one issue at a time in our series “I thought it was such a bargain!”

Leather 101

Let’s start with the confusion about leather.  It’s disappointing to see all the advertisements for an inexpensive leather sofa that tempts you in every way but in reality will not hold up, but of the misleading descriptions.  Did you know that a company can call it leather even if it is ground up leather waste that has been mixed with a binding agent and applied to vinyl?  It may also be called reconstituted or blended leather.  Apparently, even if it only has 20 – 30% leather content, the word leather can be used in the description, so how can you determine what you are really getting?  And how long can you expect this product to last to determine its value? 

Originally, leather was a luxury product only, but when the industry raced to produce lower priced “look alikes” and introduced bonded and low-end product, the love of leather declined.  By the early 90’s, the word leather became associated with the big, bulky recliners, and seemed old and tired.  But now that is changing, because these leather-like products have made people aware of the difference in quality, and perhaps they appreciate more the one of a kind qualities that good leather offers.  And we are offering it in beautiful colors and well-designed furniture.

Types of Real Leather:

Full Grain – This is the highest quality and comes from the top layer of the hide, so naturally tough and all the grain.

Top Grain – This is the second highest quality leather and comes from deeper into the hide, and is often obtained from leather that has had its top layer split and sanded to get rid of blemishes.

Corrected Grain – This can also be called split or genuine leather, and comes from the remaining layers of the hide after the top is split off for top grain and gull grain.

There are reasons for selecting one leather over another, which you can determine by desired look, use, and cost.  You need to realize that real hides can have blemishes from barb wire fences, branding, or stains due to various reasons, and that is part of the beauty and uniqueness.  Although sometimes not.  Just be aware and perhaps give instructions about avoiding the “blemishes”.

Leather Finishes:

Aniline – High grade, full grain hides are most sensitive to light and temperature, and are colored by immersing in a transparent dye that penetrates the hides.  Since they do not have a finishing coat, they are also more susceptible to water and stain.

Semi Aniline – These full and top grain leathers have also been immersion dyed, but are finished with a pigment or thin finishing coat, giving more protection without covering the look of its natural markings.

Protected – Also called pigmented leather, it has pigment and a protective coating applied to create a barrier and uniform color.

Nubuck – Also called reverse suede, they are made from aniline leathers that have been sanded or brushed to create a velvet-like texture, but are susceptible to staining.

Suede – This s a napped leather made from the underside of a hide, and while it is thinner and less durable than a top or full grain, it is liked for its soft texture.

Carroll Leather has Purely Protected leathers that reduce the scratching, fading, staining and color variations found in aniline leathers.  Hides are available for custom upholstery through Fabric House.

How long should leather last?

Let’s consider how long a sofa will last with real leather vs a bonded leather one.  Some leather sofas are treasured for 20 years or more with proper care and maintenance, whereas a bonded leather piece may only last 2 – 4 years with proper care and gentle use, because it has a tendency to peel or flake.   

How to take care of your leather

So let’s talk about the care and maintenance.  Recently we had a sofa cushion brought in to Fabric House that looked like it had acid poured on it, had a hole and a lot of stains.  The owner said they had tried various cleaning products and it apparently just got worse and worse.  So let’s go over the proper care and cleaning of leather so you don’t have something like this happen to you! 

I believe sometimes people think leather is just indestructible, or at least maintenance free, so they don’t do any upkeep until there is a problem.  Actually, leather should be cleaned to keep dust from settling in the grain, and kept away from heat and direct light sources to avoid drying, cracking, and fading.  A good practice would be to obtain leather conditioner, protectors and cleaners that have been formulated just for leathers.  Resist the temptation to use home remedies like vinegar, cooking oils, alcohol or detergents. 

With the a good leather cleaner even this Motion Craft white leather recliner will stay looking new for years.

Know before you buy!

We haven’t mentioned the synthetic, faux or performance leathers that are also available for a similar look, but a cheaper price than the real leather.  Technology has made these pretty believable, and sometimes it is hard to tell what you are really getting, but these are a polyurethane applied to a base material and stamped to imprint a leather grain look.  These can be the perfect solution for some situations.  And there are some of these that are performance and can be used for outdoors.  The point here is to know what you are buying then you can determine if it was a “good deal” or not!

Norbar faux leather options available at Fabric House

Norbar faux leather options available at Fabric House

Design House and Fabric House offer a wide variety of products available in both real leather and faux leather.  Stop in to see all your options!

Other posts you may also be interested in:

2020 Vision for Interior Design

2020 Vision for Interior Design

2020 Vision for Interior Design As we begin 2020, perhaps I’m relating it to good vision, but I’m feeling it too.  For the start of this new decade, I’ve made my own actually "doable" resolutions, how about you?  Personally, I’m going to start clean and relieve some...

read more
Inspiring Interior Trends From High Point Market Fall 2019

Inspiring Interior Trends From High Point Market Fall 2019

Inspiring Interior Trends from High Point Market Fall 2019 I’ve been walking a large part of the 12 million sq. ft. of interior design showrooms at High Point market twice a year for many years.  I’ve seen lots of products come and go and come again, but technology...

read more
Picking the Perfect Performance Fabric

Picking the Perfect Performance Fabric

Picking the Perfect Performance Fabric It’s been almost nine years since I first wrote about performance fabrics and bringing them inside from their common use outdoors.  My blog back then was about Sunbrella and nanotech technology and how you could have kids, pets...

read more