A Little About Leather

Shown: Elite Sofa Chaise and Corset Ottoman in brown - both made with top-grain leather

Sleek and durable, leather is a great option for the living room. One additional bonus to working with it is that as a medium, it’s very easy to match – the smooth texture and finish mean that you’re basically working with carte blanche when it comes to working it in with other furniture. While most of us know that not all leathers are the same, it’s not always clear what the different names mean. Here’s a quick rundown of some terms you’ll probably encounter with leather furniture:

Full-grain: This leather is cut from the outer layer of the hide, and has been treated such that the very top layer, or grain, of the hide is intact. It is very strong and soft, and cared for properly, will develop a nice patina over time. However, given the nature of the leather, any marks or imperfections on the hide (such as bug bites, scratches, veins, etc) will end up showing. Since near-perfect hides are harder to come by, full-grain leather is naturally pricier. We do not currently carry any full-grain products.

Top-grain: Top-grain leather is cut from the same layer of the dermis as full-grain, but has had the top couple millimeters of the hide buffed or sanded to remove imperfections and give the leather a more uniform look. When a hide has only a few serious marks, it can be touched up in only those areas, and then is called “corrected top-grain”. Top-grain leather has the advantage of being durable and soft, and because it can make use of hides that full-grain cannot, is more affordable. Most of our leather sofas and chairs use this grade of leather, including our ever-popular Belvedere recliner.

Shown: Preston Sofa, Kata Swivel Chair, Belvedere Recliner, all made with top-grain leather


Bi-cast / Bycast leather: This has been made with the inner layer of the hide (aka “split leather” – which, fyi, is also used to make suede), and will typically be stiffer than a full-grain or top-grain leather. The split leather is embossed with a grain, and then has a layer of polyurethane applied over top (since untreated split leather is not very practical). It is a very cost-effective leather available for upholstery, and is easy to care for because of the coating. You can see an example of it on our Chelsea Leather Bed.

Shown: Chelsea Bed, Tuft Ottoman, and Elegant Dining Chair, all made with bycast leather.

There is a lot more terminology out there, but these three should be a good start! If you’ve got any questions about leather or how to care for it, please post here – there’s a lot of info out there in the webiverse regarding leather (and not all of it agrees with each other), so we’re happy to help. And as a quick tip – we do have a great promo running until June 17th on leather chairs for the living room, so feel free to come into the store and impress the sales associates with your leather knowledge!

  1. Purchased a leather sectional 3 years ago from urban barn. The leather is creasing and there is now a rip in the crease:( Everyone we have approached to do the repair is telling us it is bicast leather, but surely given the amount we paid it was of a higher quality? What should we do?

*Required fields