People either love leather furniture or not. I know from experience that most men left to their own devices tend to purchase the biggest black leather sofas they can find. Unfortunately, when they meet the woman of their dreams they discover that black leather is not the choice of most women!
Leather upholstery is perfect for many applications. It has a longer lifespan than fabric, it ages well and is easy to clean. Leather is particularly good for people with allergies because dust particles don’t get trapped in it. Aniline leather in particular is perfect with children and pets!
Leather furniture is generally more expensive than fabric upholstery. One of the reasons for this is that hides are seldom cured in the USA because of the noxious chemicals used in the process and instead are sent all over the world. Italy is known for producing high quality leather and is a producer of many lines of leather furniture.
A Product of Nature
No man-made material can compare with the natural beauty and feel of genuine leather. Leather is a product of nature.
The most expensive hides are those that look rough and unrefined with scars from scratches, bug bites, wrinkles, and even brand marks. This is genuine leather that has pores and breathes just like our skin allowing the leather to quickly adjust to your body temperature.
Only five out of every hundred hides is chosen to be aniline dyed. The skins are soaked in translucent dyes so that the natural marks are not obscured. These are not defects but the hallmarks of nature.
For those who like order, tidiness or balance, aniline may not be for you. In addition to the natural markings, the leather will stretch with continuous seating and soak up spills creating more “natural” marking.
The next prized category is semi-aniline leathers. Out of a hundred hides perhaps fifteen are selected for this process. They usually exhibit some of the natural markings of the range but are not as extreme. Most hides are touched up by a process called micro-pigmentation which results in a combination of the soft feel of aniline leather with the protective benefits of a light finish. The darker the leather, the fewer imperfections will be seen.
Protected & Pigmented
As many as eighty out of a hundred hides fall into this category because they have too many marks and blemishes and require heavy buffing to remove them. The surface of the hide is given a protective topcoat of opaque dyes or paint that minimizes any remaining marks and then sealed with a clear topcoat to protect and enhance the stain resistance and increase the durability of the coloring.
These leathers generally have good uniformity of color and to have the least dye lot variation but remember that with leathers, the sample you see in a showroom or from your decorator may not be an exact replica of what you’ll receive. Due to the finish of these hides they may be prone to damage from scratching which will tear the protective top coat.
Care & Maintenance
Proper cleaning and conditioning on a regular basis will help prolong the life of your leather. Products specifically developed for the type of leather being purchased will help prevent damage caused by drying as well as oil and dirt build-up. My recommendation is to install a humidifier into your existing H-Vac system – it won’t be just the furniture that will benefit!
Written originally for Montgomery Newspapers, now used as a blog for Decorating Den Interiors franchise owners.