Things to know before purchasing leather furniture

For centuries, leather has been one of the most popular cover materials for furniture. Leather is tough, durable, and looks great. However, the tanning process required to achieve the desired result is not so simple. Below is a list of things you need to know when you’re looking to buy leather furniture.

Brown Leather Living Room Furniture

Tanning Processes

There are many types of tanning processes and many different stages within each. Chromium tanning, for example, uses chromium salts to achieve a softer, supple feel to the leather. The leather may also be milled or tumbled in a rotating drum to increase this softness. For a softer feel, inquire about the ‘hand’ of the leather – i.e. the softness of the leather when touched with the hand.


Finish and Aesthetic

Leather can be finished with a matte effect, or it can have a shinier, glazed finish. Following the liming process – the removal of the hairs from the raw leather hide – the leather may be distressed or antiqued to create a more aged effect.


Black reclining Leather armchairDurability

Leather is a very durable material and for the most part, will stand up to repeated washes and extended use. However, not all types of leather have this level of durability, and this is something you must inquire about, especially if you have young children or indoor pets. Napped leather and suede leather will be less durable than more natural grain finishes. Durability can be increased using processes like Bi-Casting or via the addition of a protective layer.


Types of Leather

There’s real leather, imitation leather and quite a few mix and match in between. The grain of the leather is the pattern which appears on the surface. A natural grain will show marks and blemishes which appears on the original hide, while embossed or corrected grains will have been altered in some way to make them appear smoother or more uniform.


  • Full Grain Leather

This is the most authentic type of leather. It is the most expensive leather furniture and it has the best durability. The texture of full grain leather is tough at first but softens with use.


  • Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather is softer than full grain, but with the same durability and longevity. If you want a softer look and feel, go for top grain instead of the more rugged full grain leather.


  • Split Grain Leather

While less expensive, split grain is harder in texture and more difficult to maintain than the higher-quality types.


  • Bonded Leather

If you want that high-quality leather look at a lower cost, consider furniture made from bonded leather. This leather is created from the scraps of other leather projects, and then rolled up using adhesive materials. It still gives a leather look and smell.


  • Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is known for its fragility and requires waterproofing treatment if you intend to keep it for a long time.


  • Bi-Cast Leather

Bi-cast leather is split grain with a coating of color polyurethane that makes it look like top grain leather. It’s much less expensive than top grain, but without the right treatment, it peels and cracks. Make sure you know the difference between bi-cast leather and top grain before you make your purchase, and understand proper maintenance.


  • Faux Leather

For some animal lovers, faux leather furniture is an attractive alternative. This fake leather is cheaper and it still looks great.


leather furniture color swatchesColor

Leather is available in a wide variety of different colors, giving you the opportunity to improve your interior design. Some tanning processes – such as the chromium salt process – will leave their hue on the leather, but usually, colors are added after tanning by dyeing. Leather may be pigmented, or colored in a drum using a process known as aniline. Some methods may provide a two-tone effect which adds more depth to the color.


Not sure what option is right for you? Visit our furniture store on the Outer Banks. Let our team of experts help you make the right choice for your lifestyle and your budget.