Full Grain Leather
The term "full-grain" refers to leather that hasn’t been buffed to remove marks or imperfections, so it includes the entire thickness of the skin. While sanding these out may make the leather look better, keeping the grain allows for additional strength and durability. This leather is of the highest possible quality and durability, but it’s really expensive and the thickness makes it impracticably stiff for most furnishings.
Top-grain leather is full grain leather that has been split to take the imperfections away, making the hide thinner and more workable for the manufacturer. This is the most common type of leather used in high-end leather furniture, so you’ve likely seen it before. This leather has had its surface sanded and a finish applied, giving it a “smooth” feel. While this finish takes away most breathability, it prevents stains that would otherwise sink into full-grain leather.
Suede is formed from full-grain leather, which has had the top-grain rawhide removed to leave behind the drop split. This can be further divided or sanded down to reach the desired thickness. Because it’s thinner, suede is not durable and more vulnerable to spill stains. Similar to suede but generally regarded as being more durable, nubuck is top-grain cattle hide leather that has been lightly sanded on the outside. This creates a very short nap, giving leather its signature velvety feel. Both suede and nubuck are seldom used for furnishings.
"Genuine" Leather (also Corrected-Grain Leather)
Simply put, corrected-grain or “genuine” leather is not good leather for your furniture. This leather is constructed from the excess layers not used for top-grain leather. It has an artificial grain applied to its surface and is sprayed with a stain or dyes to give the fake grain a more natural appearance. Despite what other retailers and marketers say, this leather is NOT top quality and will break down after only a couple of years.
Bonded leather uses leftover scrap pieces of leather that are shredded to a near-pulp. These shreds are then bonded together using polyurethane or latex on top of a fiber sheet for the look of a solid piece of leather. There’s no way of telling the level of organic leather material versus chemical unless the manufacturer tells you (very unlikely). Though bonded leather gives the look of leather without the price, in no time you’ll be ponying up to buy a replacement.
In all natural forms, leather will bear the unique marks of its origin. That's the beauty of leather.Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting the best quality leather with “genuine” leather. At Brown & Beam, we carry quality top-grain leather furnishings at great prices. Stop by our showroom or browse our products section.