Hide and Seek
Finding the perfect leather furniture is about choosing what’s right for your home and suits your personal lifestyle. When it comes to shopping for quality leather furnishings, there’s no single choice that’s best for every situation. When buying leather, it is important to understand the different types. Below is a basic reference guide from Dallas-based leather furniture manufacturer American Leather. Naturally finished leather, also referred to as “full top-grain or full aniline,” is the most supple and sumptuous leather on the market. Naturally finished leather undergoes the least amount of processing, leaving its natural character intact and, in fact, natural leather often has “character marks” on the surface, including scars, stretch marks, wrinkles and subtle shading variations. These leathers age beautifully and develop a soft patina over time. As with all fine leather, visible natural markings and slight color variations are part of their inherent beauty, and only the best quality leathers are selected for this process. These types of leathers only require normal care and maintenance, but should not be placed in a location with direct sunlight. Nubuck leather, often called “brushed” leather, is as soft as naturally finished leather, but provides a brushed look and feel. With noticeable marks and grain variations, nubuck leather is characterized by its lush and luxurious nap. It is more durable than suede, but it still requires more care than natural leather. Waxed leather is covered with a layer of wax to create an antique, rugged look that ages gracefully over the years. Natural markings are apparent, and subtle color variations convey an impression of rustic beauty. For someone who is looking for that vintage appeal, this type of leather is ideal, as it will continue to develop more character and appeal over time. Protected leather, also known as “semi aniline,” features a pigmented finish for better stain protection and color consistency. With protected leather, the natural grain is still evident, and the color and texture are noticeably uniform. For heavily protected leathers, an embossed process is performed to put a uniform leather “grain” back onto the surface, making it look more natural. Sometimes these leathers are buffered to create a smooth, consistent surface, before a protective finish coat is applied. The lighter the protection, the higher the quality of hide. Any protected leather is ideal for families with children and pets or for high-traffic areas because it is the easiest for cleaning and care. Bonded leather, sometimes called “reconstituted” leather or “vinyl,” is not the whole skin of an animal, but leftover pieces of hide blended together to form a seamless piece of leather material. Manufacturers will often use many types of coats and permanent polishes to make bonded leather appear more like genuine leather. Bonded leather sofas actually contain very small amounts of real leather, as the percentage of actual animal hide can differ depending on the retailer or manufacturer. Though it offers a less expensive alternative, the difference in quality and durability from a full-aniline or semi-aniline leather is significant. Other effects that leathers can have include: Sauvage – A subtle marbled effect that adds depth to the color Sheen – Aniline-dyed hides can be enhanced with oils and wax to bring out their distinct pebble grain, soft sheen and supple hand. Shimmer – A unique, light pigment coat provides consistent coloration and enhances its appearance with a subtle metallic finish. Distressed – These hides are typically aniline dyed with a burnished wax finish and are tumbled to produce a distinctive, almost “distressed” appearance.