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Your 101 Guide To Picking Leather For Your Furniture

Your 101 Guide To Picking Leather For Your Furniture

Learning about leather can be taxing! With so many types of leather skins, terminologies, varied usages and ideas resting on this one very revolting, versatile and sturdy material, how does one really make the right choice?

Read our blog to find out

Leather is widely used in upholstery and thus choosing the perfect type that would suit for the requirement of your usage and the look of your home becomes a decision of importance. The process of making leather upholstery has three key steps splitting, dyeing and texturing.

Basic things to know about leather

A leather hide that is naturally processed in the tannery is usually very thick and is thus split across to give you the top half called the Full-grain and the bottom half is called Split.

The top is the expensive part that is ideally used in making the upholstery. It is very durable with high elasticity and therefore can be moulded to perfection on your furniture. 

The split-grain, however, is the less durable, fragile part that becomes a by-product after the splitting process and is sold by the tanneries at cheaper rates to the markets to make what is known as ‘Genuine’ leather (which is actually the less expensive rip off of the real Full-grain leather). 


Types based on finish

Full-grain– The most authentic type of leather that retains the natural texture of the animal skin. The only process used on this leather is the hair removal and the dyeing/ tanning process. If you are fond of a raw finish, you can go for full-grain leather that gives a completely natural look of the skin.


Top grain– Just as pure as the full-grain leather but the only difference is that it has a cleaner and more consistent look as opposed to the natural textures because it goes through a buffing process. A top grain leather usually pairs well with the vegetable dyeing/ pigmentation technique.

Top grain leather is a preferred choice for furniture designs in the UK whereas, further west in the United States, people prefer a more natural finish of the leather.


Bi-cast leather– This is made by coating the split-grain with the colour polyurethane and finishing it to make it look like top grain. If the process isn’t correctly done, this type of leather is prone to peels and cracks.


Faux leather– Faux leather is a perfect alternative for animal lovers and ones who are looking for something less intense in terms of maintenance and pricing.

It doesn’t have the equivalent quality of real leather but it can be a smarter choice if you want to be animal-friendly.


Nubuck leather– Nubuck uses the rawhide of the cattle primarily which is then softened in the finish by sanding the outer surface of the hide. It has a finish similar to suede except it comes with shorter fibres.

Nubuck leather furniture is high maintenance since it requires special treatments for spillage and water resistance and hence is not an ideal choice for a home with children unless it is treated.


Suede– As opposed to nubuck, suede is made from sanding the inner surface of the skin for a softer, smoother and velvety finish as compared to nubuck or any other type of leather. Again like nubuck, suede is also not water-resistant.

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Pull-up leather– Pull up is a type of finish on the nubuck leather, it is greased, oiled or waxed for a shinier look.

Types of leather dyeing techniques

Aniline– Aniline leather is drum dyed with a translucent dye that retains the natural texture/ grain look of the leather. This process of dyeing softens the leather which is highly preferred for luxurious furniture upholstery.

It is, however, not recommended for a home with children since aniline leather does not have a protective layer to resist water or staining of any kind.


Semi-Aniline– This one is like aniline but instead has a protective layer on top of it that prevents staining and fading of the leather.


Pigmented / vegetable dyed– In this process, the colour is applied only to the surface of the leather. It doesn’t give a natural skin look necessarily but it is a durable option to consider while buying. It is also considered non-toxic.

Considering the texture, colour and finish your leather upholstery should have is a decision based on a number of factors and should thus be taken considerately of every factor, including the household condition, harmony in the interior decor elements, comfort of the upholstery, the geography of living (even though real leather can adapt with the surrounding and body temperatures) and your budget for furniture.

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