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Leather furniture is sophisticated and durable, making it a smart choice for office settings and living spaces. If you’ve ever tried shopping for a new leather piece, you’ve likely discovered that not all leather furniture is created equal. There is a wide variety in texture, quality, sturdiness, and sophistication between all of the leather furniture options on the market.

When you start shopping for leather furniture, it helps to have a base knowledge of what you might want, and how that type compares to other choices.

Check out our guide on the types of leather used in furniture, starting with the most expensive types and descending in price.

Full Grain Leather

This is the most authentic type of furniture leather you can buy. The only process applied to the original animal hide is hair removal, followed by soaking it in a natural (usually vegetable) dye. There is no additional treatment of the leather, and it retains the look and texture of the actual hide. Since this leather is so pure, it’s generally the highest price of all leather furniture choices. The texture of full grain leather is tough at first, but softens with use.

Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather gets a little more polishing than full grain leather, though it is very similar to full grain in its purity. Top grain leather goes through a buffing process, making it softer than full grain, but with the same durability and longevity. If you want a softer look and feel, go for top grain instead of the more rugged full grain leather.

Split Grain Leather

When the “top” outer layer of leather is removed, the remaining hide section is used for split grain varieties of furniture. While less expensive, split grain is harder in texture and more difficult to maintain than the higher-quality types.

Bonded Leather

If you want to have that high-quality leather look at a lower cost, consider furniture made from bonded leather. This leather is created from the scraps of other leather projects, and then rolled up using adhesive material. In most cases, the end product contains just 17% leather but still gives a leather look and smell.

Nubuck Leather

This type of furniture leather is made using only the rawhide from cattle, which is then sanded to give it a suede-like, soft appearance. Nubuck leather is known for its fragility, and requires waterproofing treatment if consumers intend to keep it for a long time.

Bi-Cast Leather

Bi-cast leather is split grain with a coating of color polyurethane that makes it look like top grain leather. It’s much less expensive than top grain, but without the right treatment, it peels and cracks. Make sure you know the difference between bi-cast leather and top grain before you make your purchase, and understand proper maintenance.

Faux Leather

For a leather look that doesn’t actually use any animal hides, try faux leather furniture. Technology has not yet made it possible for man-made leather to quite reach the quality of its real counterpart, but it has improved enough that faux leather furniture is durable and looks great. For some animal lovers, faux leather can be a smart, attractive alternative.

Bonus Type: Royalin

One of the many types of leather exclusive to European furniture-maker Ekornes, Royalin leather is composed of natural pebbled grain and contains variety in original markings. Due to its high quality, Royalin needs protection treatment to safeguard it from moisture and contact with human skin. Royalin leather is a good choice for buyers who want top-notch leather that is also comfortable.

When it comes to furniture, quality is a strong consideration. Remember that bargain furniture can sometimes be costly to maintain or may need to be replaced in the short-term; opting for home or office furniture that is long-lasting – even if that means a higher price point – is often a worthwhile decision in the long run. Use this guide to become an informed buyer, and choose your leather furniture with price, quality, and design in mind.

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