Everything you need to know about leather, and more
Urban Barn’s commitment to sourcing the best products possible brings us around the globe sourcing leathers that offers the best blend of quality, comfort and style for our customers. This leather is primarily top-grain leather as top-grain leather is the smoothest, supplest and most natural looking leather.
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.
How to care for leather furniture
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.
Terms used in Leather:
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 or dye has likely been applied to the leather. Leathers that are pigment dyed have a very consistent, uniform colour perfect for a more modern look.
A clear coat protective layer is applied to help protect against everyday stains and spills. Leather with a protected finish still has all the charm that a natural leather would have as the finish is clear. 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.
Unlike a pigment dyed leather, natural leathers are finished minimally with oils and waxes to create the desired look. Very little is done to natural leather to finish it. Applying a protective finish would take away from the look of the natural matte finish. Due to this finishing technique, natural leathers do not have as much of a protective barrier as other types of leathers but in most cases will be protected with some waxes or oils.
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 bycast 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.
Which is the softest leather, Top-Grain or Full-grain?
Not to be confused with full grain leather, top-grain leather is generally the softer, more comfortable choice for furniture. Full grain leather is a natural hide at its full thickness. A full grain leather hide is split into 2 layers – the top layer (the layer with the most desirable characteristics) is referred to as the “top-grain” The bottom layer is referred to as the “split” or sometimes bycast leather. A split is still 100% genuine leather but does not have all of the characteristics of top-grain due to processing differences. When processed the right way, this type of leather can still be extremely durable. This type of leather is used sometimes on Urban Barn furniture on the sides of backs (areas where your body will never make contact with.) Top-grain leather has a reputation for amazing wear and the ability to change (for the better) over time. With use, top-grain leather can develop a patina and look that can’t be replicated.
Have you ever wondered why some leather is more comfortable than others and seems to warm up faster? Well, it all has to do with the leather’s moisture level. Typically, top-grain leather holds about a 15% moisture level. For this reason, top-grain leather warms up quickly to your body temperature. A conditioner such as Diamond Kote leather conditioner sold in Urban Barn stores will help to retain this moisture level. This conditioner will not only moisturize leather, it will also clean, protect and rejuvenate your leather furniture.