Know your hides: Leather grades explained

Leather is a popular furniture upholstery choice in Singapore. It is often used in the manufacture of luxury goods, because leather is luxurious precisely for its natural beauty and exquisite feel. This time-honored material gets softer and more supple with age, and can possibly last you a lifetime. While real leather is made from tanning animal skins, mainly cattle hides, the part of the hide and how it's processed affect the look, feel and durability.

Leather sofas are highly sought after because of their durability and the class of opulence they exude. However, not all leathers are created equal. Leather sofas can be made from a variety of leather grades, here are some of  their characteristics and how they can change up your environment and living experience.

1. Full Grain Leather

In Singapore and everywhere else in the world, full-grain leather sofas are likely to carry the highest price tags. This is no surprise as full grain leather is the purest form of leather you can get. Full grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide. Typically, the only process that is carried out on the hide is the removal of hair on the animal skin, followed by soaking it in a natural dye. It does not go through any sanding or buffing to remove the imperfections and is essentially untreated leather, retaining all its natural texture, markings and fibres. As full grain hides without many blemishes are the least common, they carry hefty price tags that not many could afford.

2. Top Grain Leather

Top-grain leather, like full-grain leather, is also made of the topmost layer of the hide. Unlike its full-grain counterpart, it is lightly buffed and sanded to remove obvious imperfections and smoothen out the grains. The refinement of the leather creates a subtle surface, uniformity and greater stain resistance. It is more pliable, which makes it more suitable for working and tooling by manufacturers. Many high-end designer furniture labels are using top grain leather because of the bounteous hue and design options available, which renders more versatility in their design creativity.

Leather sofas with top-grain leather upholstery have been long-time favourites of homeowners, beating other leather types hands down in terms of  durability, comfort and price point.

3. Corrected Grain Leather

Corrected grain leather is typically top-grain leather which has been more rigorously buffed and sanded to remove flaws and then embossed with an ‘artificial’ grain to achieve a more uniform look. It is often treated with a pigmented dye. Corrected grain leather is less breathable and is not as supple as its uncorrected counterparts. Still, corrected grain leather sofas are popular among furniture buyers as they are cheaper and almost as durable, making them more appealing to budget-conscious consumers.

4. Split Leather

Split leather is crafted from the fibrous part of the hide left after the top grain layer has been separated. It is also known under the general term Genuine Leather or Suede and has a nappy appearance.

Split leather can be embossed and finished to look like top-grain leather, but it is less durable, which in turn makes it less expensive.  Split leather is often used on low traffic areas of your leather sofas, such as the side and back panels, which makes it an excellent cost-saving measure.

5. Bonded Leather

Bonded leather, also known as reconstituted leather, is a type of leather constructed from ground-up leather scraps, including shavings that are shredded to a pulp. These scraps are bonded together and adhered to a sheet of fibrous backing, which is further coated with a sealant and stamped to replicate grain patterns.

Environmentalists favour bonded leather sofas as they reduce leather wastage. Scrap leather, which would otherwise be disposed of, are fully utilised to become finished products. Worn leathers can also be recycled into newer materials.

Leather sofas bring on a touch of class to your living space and guarantee a plush experience for any sitter. Most designer furniture labels in Singapore carry leather upholstered sofas and seatings as their core collections. Understanding the various leather grades, their differing quality and visual appeal helps you make a better informed decision when investing in a leather sofa for your home.


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