A material that was once used to protect the body, hands and feet in the age of the cave man, leather is one of the oldest materials known to mankind… and has come a long way!
Although an age-old material, the use of leather and leather technology has changed dramatically throughout the years. Today’s leather industry is very much scientifically based. Modern research has been used to develop an improved leather product to meet the needs of modern life (and style!)
Because of its durability and comfort, leather has been used for furniture seating for many generations. The first leathers were made from almost any type of animal hide available. Today’s leather upholstery is generally made from cow hides as this is a readily available byproduct of the cattle industry and best lends itself to the modern demands of designer, producer and consumer.
Leather is simple to care for, a soft cloth and a basic leather conditioner (applied at least four times a year) are the only tools you’ll need to care for leather.
Leather continues to be the material of choice for many people. Real leather is a natural product that breathes, is easy to care for and has individual characteristics which make each hide unique. These characteristics are what a true leather lover looks for.
Helpful Leather Terms:
Aniline or semi-aniline dyed
The term “aniline” refers to a type of dying process where the hide is submerged in a liquid dye and dyed throughout. Almost all leather is dyed using this method. The goal of the leather producer is for the leather to have a uniform colour so that once waxes and oils are applied to the leather that the result is a beautiful, uniform finish. The difference between “aniline” and “semi-aniline” leather is simply that semi-aniline leather has a thin protective coat added to protect it from wear and staining. Pure aniline leather would be left unprotected and is more susceptible to wear and staining.
Wax pull-up finish
This term refers to a finish that is applied to leather by hand to “pull up” the natural look of the leather. Oils and waxes are rubbed into the leather to give the leather desirable high and low colouring as well as to provide a protective barrier. With the passing of time and use, wax pull-up finished leather will naturally develop a patina which greatly enhances its beauty.
When leather has a very uniform, sleek appearance with little colour variation, a pigment finish has likely been applied to the leather. Leathers with a pigment finish have a very consistent, uniform colour perfect for a more modern look. This type of finish may be more desirable to families with children or pets as it tends to be very durable and easy to clean as a pigment finish is a protective coat on top of the hide.
Top-grain leather vs. split leather
Leather hides are typically cut to create two layers. The top layer is referred to as the “top-grain” and the bottom layer the “split.” Both layers are used in upholstery but top-grain leather is the desirable cut for areas where the body sits. What makes top-grain leather superior is its natural elasticity and generally softer touch. When cared for, furniture upholstered in top-grain leather can last generations. Split leathers (sometimes referred to as byscast leather) are commonly used on leather furniture that is not primarily used for seating such as an ottoman. Split leather is also sometimes used on the sides of furniture where the body does not sit or touch as it will generally not see wear. It’s important to note that although different types of leather may be used on one piece of furniture that the piece is still made of all real leather.