It is important to note that quality leather offers the following advantages over fabric:
- Leather outlasts most fabric coverings. It has an exceptionally long useful life.
- It will not tear -- even along the seam lines.
- It is fire resistant and emits no toxic fumes, even when exposed to intense heat.
- Modern full grain leather products won’t crack or peel.
- Quality leather stretches and retains its shape without sagging.
- It "breathes", assumes body temperature rapidly and is instantaneously comfortable.
- It resists heat and sun damage.
There is 'Bonded' leather, this is leather pieces glued together and essentially covered with a vinyl top, for that reason it takes on the same properties of vinyl and actually has less stretch ability, bonded leather can be made to look good but doesn't have the same durability. It's one advantage is that it resists staining very well. This will be offered at a nice price point and will be a good choice for certain furniture uses.
Then there is 'Top Grain' leather, when the hide is split the top portion is considered to have the best properties to make leather furniture. This top portion can be left as 'full grain' which is not buffed or sanded or can be made into 'Corrected Grain' which has the surface markings altered by being buffed or sanded.
Generally, leather that has too many surface imperfections will require correction. Full grain leather, is considered to be of greater beauty and higher quality than corrected grain leather, and so commands a higher price. It is important to note that corrected grain leather does not lose it's favourable properties. However, some manufacturers top grain leather will weigh one ounce per square foot while others will weigh up to three ounces per square foot, and thicker is better! When it comes time to decide between 'Full Grain' and 'Corrected Grain' you need to analyze your living conditions. A 'Full Grain' will be soft and supple and show the natural flaws and markings which adds to the natural beauty of the top grain but this probably isn't a good choice for a household with 3 young children. A 'Corrected Grain' will have a coating which creates a smooth finish and allows for unique effects like alligator or ostrich finishes and provides a certain protection for heavily used furniture.
Finally, as leather continues to grow in popularity manufacturer's try and find ways to cut costs to make it a more affordable choice. You will hear the term 'Splits' or 'Vinyl Match' this essentially is cost saving because only the sitting area of the furniture is made with top grain leather and the rest is covered in a vinyl or the less sought after bottom portion of the leather split which is stiffer and not able to be used in the sitting portion of the furniture.
Having the knowledge of those 3 common terms (Bonded-Top Grain-Splits) in the furniture industry is a good starting point. From there knowing how the furniture will be used in your home is important and then dive into the look and feel you want for your home!