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A Beginner’s Guide to Leather Furniture

Beginner's Guide to Leather Furniture

By now, you make have noticed that there are often huge price differences with leather furniture – even if a piece is the same style, shape and sometimes even from the same manufacturer. Why is that? Besides the construction, it could very well be the leather. Don’t fall into the trap of believing “genuine leather” means a 100% real, quality leather furniture product. There are many different types of leather used in furniture, and they are not equal. Here’s a little rundown on the different types, and why it pays to be an educated leather furniture consumer.


This is the highest-quality, most durable leather available. Essentially, the only thing that’s been done is scraping the fur from the hide and then tanning in order to bring out its natural, earthy tones. Because of this, the thick, rugged texture is generally stiffer and tougher than top-grain, but it softens with age, often with beautiful grain lines. It’s also very water-resistant and breathable—think of saddles, boots, and other cowboy accessories—and it can last practically forever.


This is the next highest quality of leather. It is very similar to full-grain, as it comes from a slightly thinner slice of the top layer of leather. However, it goes through an additional buffing-and-polishing process, making it softer and smoother, without sacrificing the long wear of full-grain. As a result, it can take on more vibrant colors, so it is much more versatile. Top-grain leather also can be treated to be stain-resistant, though it’s not as breathable. There may be some grain lines as it patinas, but not as many as full-grain, meaning it will mostly retain its glossy beauty. Top Grain is a very desirable type of leather to use in furniture, which is why Top Grain Leather furniture costs more than lower-quality pieces. However, the durability will pay for itself.


When the top-grain layer—where the strongest fibers are—is sliced off, the split-grain is the middle or bottom layer beneath it. It’s more supple than full-grain or top-grain, and it can rip somewhat more easily, but it is still very durable. In fact, most work gloves are made from split leather. Because of its fuzzy, nappy texture, it is difficult to make water-resistant. After it’s softened, brushed out, and color-treated, it’s commonly known as suede. BUT BUYER BEWARE: “Coated” or “Laminated” split leather is basically plastic or other cheap material (with fake grain texture) applied to split leather with an adhesive…it is not 100% real leather. As such, the film can tear or separate from the leather and soon fall apart.

Currier’s Leather Furniture only sells 100% real leather furniture. When you shop here, you can always shop with confidence.


This is made from leftover scraps of leather that are shredded and mixed together with other synthetic materials, and then glued onto a backing sheet to form a large, thin piece of fabric which can be used to upholster furniture. As a result, only 10 to 20 percent may be actual leather, but it can still be called “genuine leather” (which is very deceiving).  It is the cheapest option and, unsurprisingly, the least durable. Depending on the type of glue, the thinness of the sheet, and how well it’s pieced back together, this so-called “leather” could look great initially, but it will eventually fade, wear, tear and develop that ragged “monster” look that plagues most low-quality leather furniture pieces.

Currier’s Leather Furniture does not sell this type of low-quality furniture. Our 100% real leather furniture is designed to look great and last a lifetime.


There are other leather subtypes, such as nubuck (similar to suede but more fragile) and bi-cast (similar to split leather but often peels and cracks), but the above four categories are the ones you should know when shopping for your leather sofa and chairs.

With a little knowledge – and armed with the right questions – you’ll never be fooled by claims of “genuine leather” again!