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Choosing the Right Leather: What You Need to Know

From full grain to bonded, leather quality varies tremendously. Get to know the basic types of leather in order to choose a top-notch piece of furniture.

Bonded leather, also known as reconstituted or blended leather, is the most affordable "leather" for upholstery. It's not 100 percent leather, but is a man-made material made up of three layers—a fiber or paper backer, a pulp made from shredded leather bits mixed with bonding glue, and a polyurethane coating embossed to look like leather. You'll find bonded leather on books, desk accessories, belts, bags and furniture.

Full-grain leather is the highest quality leather and is made from the topmost layer of the cowhide. This leather has not had any sanding or buffing to remove imperfections and natural marks on the surface, and includes hair-on-hide, often referred to as “cowhide,” which is full-grain leather with the hair still attached. For this best-quality leather, the full grain is left intact, which provides strength, durability and breathability. With continued use, full-grain leather will develop a rich patina.

Top-grain leather is the second highest quality. It is made by removing the layers above and below it, leaving it thinner and more pliable than full-grain leather. Top-grain leather is sanded to remove any scars or marks from the hide, and is the most common choice for leather goods and furniture, as it is strong and durable.

Genuine leather is created from the fibrous part of the cowhide that's left once the top layers have been removed. This split layer is usually treated with a finish or dye to make it resemble higher grades of leather. It's also used to create suede, which is leather with a fuzzy texture on both sides.


Carole Rains is the founder and owner of Rustic Artistry, which offers furniture and home décor handmade by American artisans. View Rustic Artistry's profile or contact Carole at (908) 741-4317.


Content for this article provided by Rustic Artistry.

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