Why are There So Many Different Names for Leather?

cognac colored, modern leather sofa

I apologize that this is a duplicate. When my website was hacked, I had to take it down and repost.

When ordering leather furniture, how do I know it’s real leather?

Great question! The terminology can be confusing and online descriptions can be deceiving. For example, if you Google “leather office chair,” you’re going to get results that include materials that are not “real” leather. I’ve noticed that the product title says leather whereas the description reveals otherwise.

When it comes to a highly durable and breathable upholstery fabric choice, you can’t beat genuine leather. Although pricier, you get a better bang for your buck with genuine leather as it lasts four times longer than most fabrics. There are two types of real leather: top grain and split hide.

Made from the top half of the rawhide, top grain leather is soft to the touch. Its first layer is called full grain leather, is the most durable, and typically used in smaller leather products from wallets to briefcases.

Split leather is cut from the bottom half of the animal hide and is rougher in texture and slightly thicker. It typically has an added artificial layer on top and is embossed with a leather grain (this is called bicast or bycast leather). Suede also comes from this bottom layer of the hide.

Various levels of quality and treatment of genuine leather include standard, premium, and super-premium grades.

When it comes to bonded leather – also called blended leather, reconstituted leather, composition leather, or LeatherSoft, you will save hundreds of dollars because the material is only 5-20% real leather. It is made with leftover leather scraps, including dust and shavings, ground together with a polyurethane to strengthen the material. With multiple layers, a stamped grain pattern, and extra polish, bonded leather can give you the look of genuine leather. It can be hot in the summer and cold in the winter, it wears quickly, and does not get better looking with age, unlike its true counterpart.

Faux leather – also called pu (polyurethane) leather, leatherette, synthetic leather, and pleather – is an engineered fabric produced to mimic leather but with no leather components at all. Made with a woven fabric backing, it is water and stain resistant. This synthetic material can look and feel like real leather, costs considerably less, but is a poor-quality substitute for the real thing.

Remember, buyer beware: you get what you pay for.

With many satisfied clients since 2008, Barbara Graceffa owns and operates Secretary of the Interior in Quincy, MA offering decorating services at reasonable rates. If you want to suggest a blog topic or have a decorating, downsizing/decluttering or home staging project needing professional help or are interested in hosting a workshop or quilt show, please contact her via her website www.sec-interior.com or phone 617.921.6033.

By Barbara Graceffa

Barbara Graceffa, CEO of Secretary of the Interior, serves decorating clients; assists with professional organizing, home staging and moving assistance; teaches on these subjects; and delivers quilt lectures and trunk shows.

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