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You can’t beat leather furniture. Luxurious and hard-wearing, leather furniture is something you buy for a lifetime. In this definitive guide, we answer common questions and demystify the technical aspects of leather furniture.

What is the difference between Top Grain & Split Grain Leather?

During processing, a hide is split horizontally into 2 or 3 layers. The top layer is known as ‘top grain’ and displays the actual skin surface of the cow. Any subsequent layers are referred to as ‘split grain’.

Top grain leather is highly valued, not only because of its look and feel but also because of its strength. It is the most common type of leather found in high-end products and the only leather you’ll find at McKenzie & Willis.

Split grain on the other hand does not possess the same qualities and requires extra processing such as sanding and coating. This results in a somewhat plastic feel with less breathability. Split grain can be finished and embossed to mimic top grain leather but the quality is never the same.

Why does the origin of the hide matter?

The origin of the hide is the single biggest influence in determining the price of the finished leather.

Due to the warm and arid conditions in South America, hides of this origin display more scars caused by an increased exposure to factors such as insects, barbed wire and thorn bushes.

Conversely, hides from Europe come from cold climates and are typically raised in barns. Under these circumstances scarring caused by the environment is minimized. Hides from other non-European countries are usually somewhere between.

South American and non-European hides undergo sanding, buffing and embossing but don’t be fooled into thinking that these extra processes equate to a higher price tag. These hides remain less expensive than European hides which are prized for their natural aesthetic.

Corrected grain VS Full Grain

Corrected grain means that the original grain has been partially removed by buffing. A new grain finish is then pressed onto the leather. The advantage of corrected grain is that in some cases less expensive hides from non-European countries can be used, as imperfections are removed during process.

Full grain refers to top grain leather that has not be sanded or buffed. The leather is left untouched in its most natural form. Instead of eliminating imperfections, full grain leather is celebrated for its unique character.

What are the different dye techniques and how do they affect the leather?

Natural Aniline

Natural aniline refers to leather that has been drum dyed with transparent organic dye. The dye permeates the entire hide without obscuring the natural variations of its surface. Natural Aniline is soft and warm with a beautiful texture however it is more prone to soiling.

Finished Semi Aniline

Finished semi aniline differs from natural aniline in that along with being coloured with a permeating dye it is also sprayed with opaque pigmented colours. Finished semi aniline is a practical option for higher use while still retaining much of the softness and natural characteristics of natural aniline leather.

What is the best type of leather for me?

Choosing the right type of leather comes down to a variety of factors and is as much about personal taste as it is about finding the right type of leather to suit your lifestyle.

The different types of leather sit on a continuum, with luxury natural aniline leather on one end and pigmented corrected grain on the other. Pigmented corrected grain is usually better suited to family life whereas natural aniline is appreciated for its looks but requires more care.

Selecting the right leather is often a balancing act between looks, suitability and budget. If you would like expert help choosing the right type of leather for you, visit us in store or contact us now.

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