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How to Shop for Leather Furniture

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Leather furniture can define a living space in a variety of styles from modern and contemporary to rustic and comfortable. Surprisingly, choosing leather furniture can be as involved a process as shopping for fabric upholstery.

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Basic leather furniture shopping is dependent on the grade of the leather. Furniture sellers typically categorize their leather pieces using a simple class scale distinguishing the types of leather from the most high-end to the most low-end. Leather furniture grade is based on quality of the hide, how the leather is tanned and processed, the feel and durability, the pigmentation, and also the entire construction of the furniture piece as a whole. For example, a couch frame may be covered in the back with lower-grade leather while the cushions are upholstered with soft high grade leather. When the furniture is pieced together in this way, it brings down the cost compared to a sofa made entirely of high-grade leather.

The most high-end leather is pure aniline, made from full grain hides with minimal sanding and corrections with a soft supple feel. As leather moves down the grading scale, it has been treated in some way—perhaps with a color-protective coating or buffed or removed tears and scratches. The more corrections made to the leather, the lower the cost and quality of the leather. There also is “bonded leather” which achieves the look but is not real leather. Bonded leather is merely vinyl with 17 -20% of ground leather sprayed on the back of the vinyl. Bonded leather only looks like leather and has none of the desirable properties of genuine leather.

It is also important to consider that leather furniture requires additional maintenance. Supple leathers may easily scuff, and to keep up the original look of your furniture will require a time investment and the use of leather treatments or cleaners. Of course, many people choose leather because they like a more “worn” look, so if you’re working toward a more rustic feel that way, leather is definitely your best choice.

Insider Tip – Be sure to have your sales professional show you which parts of the furniture item is genuine leather and which parts might be synthetic. Where ever the body touches should be genuine leather.

Insider Tip- Punctures and tears in leather furniture can be expertly repaired if needed.

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