Skip to main content
How to Decorate

Leather: Tips & Tricks for Shopping

 When shopping for leather, it is important to know the type and quality of leather to ensure your furniture is long-lasting.

Learn the difference between Full grain, top grain, and bonded leather to find what best fits your lifestyle and comfort level.

 Full Grain Leather

This is the highest quality of leather because only the most beautiful hides that need no correction can become full grain leather hides. For this leather type, the hair is removed from the hide and then tanned, the thick hide which has not been sanded or buffed in any way will have all natural marks and scars visible. The top layer will develop a patina over time which means that the hide's color will change with time and use as it ages - this is a very desirable quality for such a natural product.

Full Grain Leather

Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather sits right below the full grain layer and is incredibly strong. Because the top layer has been removed, the leather is very pliable and soft to the touch. Most imperfections and markings have been removed, although brands and scars may occur in top grain leather because of a hide's natural markings throughout its lifetime.

Top Grain Leather

What To Avoid

When shopping, if a product is labeled "Genuine Leather", make sure to ask which cut of the hide it is - full grain, top grain, or splits - as they are all considered "genuine leather". However, there is a big difference in quality and durability between the different cuts.

What to avoid in leather

Top grain and full grain leather fibers are much closer together creating a tighter grain which provides maximum durability and wear over time, as pictured in the visual. Split leather has fibers that are much looser and spread out, meaning it is less durable. When the leather is new it will look the same, but as you use it over time you will see the difference in quality.

Avoid Split Leather

Split leather is the layer beneath both the full grain and top grain, the stronger layers, that have been removed. It is still truly all "genuine leather", but it is not as strong and does not have natural markings the way top layers do. It will be given artificial grain and sprayed with stain or dye to give it a more natural appearance. Over time, split leather fades and gets damaged in natural light, whereas full grain and top grain leathers will not wear this easily.

Avoid Split Leather

Avoid Bonded Leather

Bonded leather should not be considered leather. It is made when leftover scraps of leather are shredded and ground to near a pulp and bonded together again with a resin. This is the equivalent to saying that pressed wood is "wood" because it has scraps mixed in. Bonded leather peels and completely unravels ruining your piece of furniture.

avoid bonded leather

Next Blog: "Amish Country"