About Our Leather
Preface: The Article Goal
One of the largest differences in the quality of leather furniture is found in the type of leather used. In the most general sense to effectively understand leather types for furniture, there are two basic types; Top Grain Aniline Leather and Standard Split Grain Leather. Top Grain Aniline is ideal if you are looking for a Mid Century Reproduction that you want to last for decades with a higher initial cost. The good news is Kardiel specializes in Top Grain Aniline and while you will still pay more for this premium leather, has extremely low rates on variety of Mid Century reproduction pieces in this leather type.
The majority of reproductions found online or in stores feature Standard Split Grain Leather, which is marketed under a variety of different names. There is a difference in the appearance and feel of the surface texture as well as the breathability and longevity of the leather. It is however less expensive and if you are on a tight budget for your project you may find the standard leather a viable option.
The goal of this article is to quickly explain the differences between standard leather, which is still genuine leather and Top Grain Aniline Leather so you are able to decide which is the right fit for you.
100% Italian Leather, Genuine Leather, Standard Leather; What it is and what it isn’t.
When you are shopping, you will most commonly see specifications that indicate the furniture is made with 100% Italian Leather or European Leather or simply 100% Genuine Leather. In the furniture industry, these terms are “Split Grain Leather”. Split Grain is the underside of the hide that has been separated from the surface or “top” of the hide. While genuine leather, Split Grain leather does not have the natural surface grain of the cowhide. A topical layer of insoluble pigment is applied to the surface of split grain leather, which is then stamped or “grain embossed” to imitate the surface appearance of actual Top Grain leather. By law, in the U.K and Australia split grain can no longer be sold as 100% leather as the surface area is not the natural grain but insoluble pigment. 100% will often accompany the description of the leather meaning 100% of the furniture’s surface (back, sides, cushions) are covered in split grain leather.
Split Grain Leather has a lower cost and due to the surface layer covering the leather, it has effective stain resistant qualities. The large majority of standard furniture and mid-century furniture reproductions in the mid-price range are upholstered with Split Grain Leather. It is reasonable to state that “Split Grain” is a form of leather as it comes from the very base layers of the hide. This base layer is not of high enough quality in appearance or texture to be used as a leather surface covering in absence of the pigment layer and expansive surface grain embossing.
In short “split grain” will cost less and is stain resistant. It is missing the natural softness of touch and it has a more pronounced embossed grain than most leather in its natural state would have. While it breaths more than a Faux leather option, it does not breath like its Top Grain counterpart. Nothing last forever nor maintains its original appearance, however it is a reality that when the embossed polyurethane top layer of Split Grain leather scrapes, cracks or wears through, the natural greyish tone of the hide will be underneath.
100% Top Grain Aniline Italian Leather, the real thing.
Top Grain Aniline Dyed European Leather is describing the actual surface of the cowhide. While no one knows the actual number, a small percentage of furniture sold today is upholstered in Premium Top Grain Aniline leather. Some claim as low as 5%. Aniline dying describes one of the two processes in which color is applied to the leather with the dye penetrating the leather and extending beyond the surface, into the leather itself.
For modern furniture requiring a clean aesthetic, Top Grain Aniline Leather is both “liquid vat” (deep penetrating) and surface dyed to achieve the main color selection and to conceal uneven tones and blemishes in the hide. Top grain aniline is the softest leather and naturally breaths well. Sitting for extended periods of time is comfortable from a touch and temperature perspective. Because Top Grain refers to the actual surface of the animal hide it provides the natural leather grain appearance you would expect from actual leather.
While it is true that raw Top Grain Aniline Leather absorbs spills easier, Top Grain Furniture leather features a stain resistant treatment that makes it exceptional for everyday lower maintenance use. As you may imagine things such as insect bites and scars are part of the undesired reality with Raw Top Hide natural leather. You will not find these imperfections on Top Grain furniture leather as they have been treated, dyed and or removed prior to upholstering your furniture. Top Grain is the premium leather option for durability, softness, natural leather appearance, and stain resistance. Nothing wears, looks or feels better than premium Top Grain leather. Over time, it patinas and becomes more comfortable versus wearing out.
Kardiel’s Quality Difference
Kardiel features a wide selection of furniture pieces in Top Grain leather upholstery.
Click the image below to browse these amazing timeless pieces.