Leather is one of the most popular choices of upholstery for our Chesterfields — but there are a few essentials that you should know about.
This helpful guide will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about leather so that you can make a decision that is informed and just right for your home. Read on to find out more.
Leather comes from the curing of animal skins, a technique known as tanning. The process creates a completely natural product that is both warm and durable. Each hide is highly individual, carrying all of the marks from its origin, including scratches, areas of differing fiber density, growth marks, and hair pore structure. It’s important to know that none of these characteristics affect the quality of the leather — they just go towards making each piece unique. The material can be used for a variety of purposes, including sofa upholstery.
Upholstery leather is made through a specialist tanning process that has several stages. Before it arrives at the tannery, it is salted to ensure it is properly preserved. Once it arrives, it is bathed in chemicals that remove the skin’s hair follicles and cause it to swell to a thickness of 8mm (0.3 inches).
After this, the leather is sliced into two layers through its thickness, a technique called splitting. The upper layer, which has the hardy, grained surface, is separated and used for furniture. This section is tanned with chemicals containing chromium, a process that has replaced traditional tanning with vegetable extracts and urine. Finally, it is dried to create the finished product. The lower layer is used to make something called split leather, which you can read about later in this guide.
Before it can be upholstered, the hide undergoes an inspection. Here, the larger and less scarred hides are identified and sent off to be used for full-grain leathers, while the others with more scarring are buffed to create corrected grains.
It’s also worth noting that tanneries only produce a standard quality of leather — it’s the finishing methods applied after tanning that determine the quality and price. Some retailers have a grading system for their leathers, which can be confusing for those who aren’t aware of this. These systems are only used to make the customer believe that the more expensive hides are of superior quality, which is not necessarily true.
There are several different types of leather that can be upholstered on a Chesterfield sofa. Depending on the surface coating that is applied, the leather will gain different characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at the three main kinds and what properties each of them offer.
+ Greater durability
- Less natural appearance
Pigmented leather is the type with the most consistent surface texture and durability, which it gains from a polymer surface coating that contains pigments. This surface coating lends the leather much greater resistance to soiling, scuffing, and fading. Thanks to flexible modern finishing methods, pigmented leather can be embossed, printed, or left plain for a variety of looks and textures.
+ Preserves natural look
- Needs more care and attention
Aniline leather preserves the natural characteristics of the hide, leaving a more natural look. This type of leather is colored solely with dye, and does not receive a polymer or pigment coating. Sometimes, a layer of non-pigment coating may be applied — this is usually to improve aesthetics or to protect from any spills or soiling.
With aniline leather, it’s only natural to expect some marking or variation in shading. It is also more likely to soak up liquids and is vulnerable to the effects of sunlight. This leather does need some extra care and attention to keep it in the best condition.
+ More natural appearance than pigmented
+ More durable than aniline
- Doesn’t have the full characteristics of either
Semi-aniline leather combines a more improved durability like pigmented leather, while still offering much of the natural appearance associated with aniline. This is achieved by applying a low-pigment surface coating, which lends it more protection and more even coloring.
A leather Chesterfield sofa has the potential to be luxuriously comfortable, particularly if it is made using sturdy frames for support and cushioning that you can just sink in to. You only have to look at the presence of leather Chesterfields in the offices of therapists and psychologists, where they are chosen for their supreme coziness when patients need to feel safe and secure. Our guide to choosing a comfortable sofa can give you further advice on this topic.
A Chesterfield made with real, premium leather should offer years of durability. Furthermore, if they are cared for in the right way, they can last a lifetime of regular use.
Thanks to its natural qualities, real leather has an inherent water resistance which can come in handy if you were to spill something. Also, leather does not really accumulate dust, so the sofa won’t have to be vacuumed as much as other furniture. Simply put, compared to a fabric sofa, leather sofas are much simpler and easier to clean.
Leather is also tough, and can resist wear and tear more effectively than other materials. It will stand up to everyday use without much of a problem, while any scuffs or scratches they do pick up adding to their character.
Please be aware that dye from non-color fast clothing and garments can transfer onto leather and fabric and is usually more noticeable on light leather or fabric colors, such as whites, creams and ivory. We also recommend to always check your labels on your clothing and garments for further information.
The leather grain is the topmost layer of the hide that makes up the surface. The term is also used when describing the embossed lines that can be seen on the surface of many finished leathers. There are three main types of grain in leather — let’s take a closer look.
+ Fully natural appearance
- Visible natural blemishes aren’t to everyone’s taste
Full-grain leather has its upper layer left completely intact, free from any buffing. This allows the natural smoothness to shine through, and any scars or blemishes from the hide’s origin are preserved. It is commonplace for aniline leathers to use full-grain hides, though semi-aniline leathers can use either full or corrected grain.
+ Any blemishes are concealed by buffing
- Completely natural appearance lost
Corrected-grain leather has had its topmost layer buffed very lightly to flatten out any raised scarring. The appearance of imperfections is often concealed further with the addition of an embossed effect across the surface. It is usually the case that pigmented leathers use corrected grain hides.
Split leather is made when the original hide is sliced into two sections — the upper grain, which is used for upholstery; and the lower section, which has no hard-wearing surface. This undersection is known as split leather.
As this type of leather has no natural grain, it has a fuzzy, napped texture on both sides and is used to make suede items. There are some low-budget leather producers who will coat one side of the split leather heavily with a pigmented layer so that they can create an artificial grain on its surface. Though this type of material can appear to be acceptable, once used it will quickly suffer wear and tear. It’s best to avoid this type of split leather if you want a quality Chesterfield sofa.
At Timeless Chesterfields, we don’t use any split leather on any of our furniture. It’s also worth noting that some manufacturers might list their upholstery as being made with ‘genuine leather’. This usually means that the material is of the lowest quality and should be avoided if you are looking for quality.
It’s important to know that when you order your tufted furniture with us, we will use only the finest leathers available. You can choose to have your Chesterfield sofa, chair, sofa bed, corner sofa, or footstool upholstered in any of the premium leathers in our collection.
Our expert team have developed a keen eye for premium leathers, which are sourced from the most prestigious tanneries around the world. Each shipment that we receive is meticulously inspected to ensure it reaches our quality standards.
Take the time to explore our expansive leather chesterfield sofas collection for yourself — we feel they represent the very best and most on-trend leathers on the market. There are a wide range of colors and textures to choose from, and each one will look spectacular on your custom-made Chesterfield furniture.
You can also get some great tips on keeping your leather in top condition with our guide to leather care, which contains a lot of maintenance advice.
If you have any questions about your leather Chesterfield order, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, who will be more than happy to help.