Guide to Leather Furniture – Quality vs Price

What’s behind the cost and comfort differences in leather furniture?

Leather grades are an indicator of production cost – not of quality.  An expensive leather could well stain more easily or wear less well than an inexpensive grade.  Or not.  You have to go a bit deeper than price to understand leather.  And since you’ll be sitting on and living with leather furniture for years… it’s worth making the effort.

Leather Quality

  1. Hide Type.
    1. BEST –  No equivocation here.  Top Full Grain and Top Grain are the best. The difference? Top Grain is slightly corrected (sanded), losing just a bit of the natural grain and breath-ability. This may be desirable to achieve the even coloring or protection needed for certain applications.
    2. GOOD – Genuine Leather or split leather is clearly a distant third best.  It is the hide that is left after the top grain is removed. Any grain is artificially applied. All other things being equal — get top full grain.  Of course, all other things hardly ever are equal.  
    3. FAKE – “Bonded Leather” should be considered an artificial product similar to vinyl and not included in this comparison. It may be fine for some choices. It just isn’t leather.
  2. Finish Type. This is an aesthetic and lifestyle choice. And it comes down to this: more finish or less finish. This presents you a real trade-off. More finish means more protection but also a harder “hand” and less natural look. Neither is best for every situation! You must choose what seems best for you, the particular piece and your lifestyle.
    1. PROTECTED FINISHES will be uniform in color & texture. They will be the most durable and least likely to fade. Care is easy making them a great choice for families.
    2. NATURAL FINISHES will be quite supple and have a natural appearance. They are full-aniline dyed. Natural finishes show lots of character. Each hide is unique and surface marks testify to the leather’s authenticity. Every hide accepts the dye differently.
    3. WAXED FINISHES have a rugged look and a soft waxed sheen. There are noticeable color variations and natural markings are very apparent. Waxed finishes often show an antique appearance and will age gracefully.
    4. SPECIALTY FINISHES are unique creations often done for high a fashion statement. They are exotic in appearance and often have patterned or designed surfaces. Definitely one-of-a-kind leathers.

Leather Cost

Here is a table showing the price differences you might expect on a sofa at various leather grades. These are all good choices IF…

A) You see clearly what you are buying and

B) You are fairly charged for the difference.

Price Grade “Sample” Retail Finish Category Hide Type Dye
G $3849 Waxed Full Top Grain English Bull Hide Pure Aniline
F $3599 Natural Full Top Grain Cowhide Aniline
E $3399 Natural Full Grain Cowhide Pure Aniline
D $3199 Protected / Crypton Top Grain Domestic  
C $2749 Protected Corrected Top Grain Bovine Pigmented
B $2699 Protected Corrected Top Grain Cowhide Pigmented


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