So you've made the decision you're going to buy a leather chair (great choice!) but you aren't quite sure which type you should be buying. We understand this, as the leather industry is a bit of a mine field terminology wise. Here we give a brief run down of the main terms used throughout our site to help you make an informed choice.
Faux leather is a catch all term generally used to describe any non genuine leather. Faux means made in imitation or artificial.
Our faux leather chairs are mainly upholstered in PU Leather. PU Leather is a man made leather produced from the inner splits of the hide and finished with a polyurethane coating. PU Leather is water resistant and has a high fade resistance, making it easy to clean and ideal for chairs in every day use situations. In addition to being hard wearing it is also very good value for money usually coming in at a much cheaper price than genuine leather.
PU leather is used extensivley throughout manufacturing industries including; upholstery (sofas & chairs) shoes, clothing, bags, purses, and even car seat covers. With good tactile feel, breathability and good durability it's not difficult to see why it's in such widespread use. Other types of faux leather chairs include PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and even fabrics that have a faux suede/rubbed through antique leather look. All of these faux leathers amount to the same thing, a cheaper more affordable option to genuine leather.
Be careful when you're shopping online, many companies will list a product as leather or real leather when in reality it's actually a faux leather of some kind, or a bonded or bycast leather, none of which are the real thing. If you're after the real deal, make sure it's stated as "genuine leather" and is priced accordingly. Expect the vast majority of genuine leather chairs to be fairly expensive. If you find a chair somewhere that is stated as real leather and it seems very cheaply priced, unless it's an ex display or clearance line from a legitimate retailer you trust, chances are it's not genuine leather.
Bonded Leather or reconstituted leather is a material with varying degrees of genuine leather combined with other substances to give the look and feel of genuine leather but at a lower cost. Most Bonded leather chairs made today are a polyurethane or a vinyl product, this is backed with fabric and then a layer of latex or other material mixed with a small percentage of leather fibers in the product's backing material. The actual leather content percentage varies according to quality.
The characteristics of bonded leather are that it's decently hard wearing and easy to care for, and can be a fair compromise to genuine leather in some cases, however it can still be quite expensive. In most cases a PU faux leather is probably a better value for money proposition for the budget conscious.
At present we don't offer any Bonded leather chairs for sale, as we feel our contract specification faux leathers are a much better value proposition as they are less expensive and harder wearing.
Bycast leather chairs (also known as bicast leather) are made from a split leather with a layer of polyurethane applied to the surface and then embossed. Bycast was originally made for the shoe industry for glossy shoes, and has been adopted by the furniture industry since.
Bycast leather has an artificial texture and comes with a glossy finish, this makes it easy to keep a consistent finish without the scars and marks that sometimes appear on real leather. Although it does look like leather it will not develop a patina or suppleness nor otherwise improve with age, it is however easy to clean and maintain.
At present we don't offer any Bycast leather chairs for sale, as we feel our contract specification faux leathers are a much better value proposition as they are less expensive and harder wearing.
Genuine leather chairs are somewhat of a rarity these days, with cheaper imported faux and imitation leather alternatives dominating the market at the entry level price points. Genuine leather normally means high prices, quality craftsmanship and special order lead times, but if you don't mind the cost and the waiting there are some great options to choose from.
Genuine leather is extremely varied in types and finishes and is beyond the scope of this article to cover completely. However we will cover the main types of genuine leather used in upholstery and found on our website. The most common genuine leather types used in upholstery (from most expensive to least expensive) are Aniline Leather (which includes Pull Up Leather and Nubuck Leather), Semi-aniline Leather and Smooth Pigmented/Corrected Leather.
Aniline leather is the most natural-looking leather type, with the unique surface characteristics of the hide remaining visible and is coloured only with soluble aniline dyes. Because it doesn't have a pigment based surface finish, aniline leather is a porous and very sensitive smooth leather. The natural texture of the skin is clearly visible and so aniline leather is usually classed as high-grade and with a price to match its status. The lack of a pigmented colour layer on the surface means that aniline leather feels natural, soft and warm to touch. A light surface coating may be applied to enhance its appearance and offer slight protection against spillages and soiling.
Aniline leather that is completely porous and without any finish is classed as pure aniline leather or just pure aniline. Soft aniline leather can also be called napa leather. In addition, leathers with velvet-like surfaces, such as suede and nubuck are included.
Aniline leather whilst beautiful and soft, is susceptible to scratches and staining, due to these characteristics we wouldn't recommended Aniline Leather for households with small children and/or pets.
Pull Up Leather
Pull-up leather is aniline dyed in the drum to create deep, vibrant colors, it is then finished with a combination of oils and waxes giving the leather a lovely soft finish. Pull Up leathers are designed to become distressed looking through time and use.
Its properties are similar to full aniline but in places of heavy use, the oils will be pushed away leaving lighter areas - particularly on the seating areas. As a pure aniline leather, marks, scratches, and signs of wear will show and a rich patina, or shine, will increase over time. This gives each peice of furniture it's own unique history, full of character.
If you're looking for a leather that will change and age with use, then this is what you want.
Semi-aniline Leather is more durable than aniline whilst still retaining a natural appearance. The increased durability is provided by the application of a light surface coating which contains a small amount of pigment. This ensures consistent colour and imparts some stain resistance. Semi-aniline leather is soft and warm and feels very natural due to the less intense coating and the absence of compression of the leather fibres by a strong embossing.
In contrast to aniline leather, which is completely porous and very sensitive, semi-anilines have better protection. The protection is by no means as strong as for pigmented smooth leather, where the pigment layer acts as a barrier and the hair pores are no longer recognisable. Such leathers are mostly firmer and feel colder than semi-aniline leathers. The advantage of semi-aniline leather is a warm feel and naturalness and the main disadvantage is the sensitivity.
Smooth Pigmented/Corrected Leather
To make leather more durable, more stain-resistant and permanently water-repellent, a layer of a binder-pigment-mixture is applied to the surface of pigmented smooth leather that has already been completely pre-coloured with aniline dyes. This colour coat is also called finish or pigmentation. These leathers are then referred to as pigmented leather or finished leather.
Smooth Pigmented/Corrected grain leather presents as a solid colour with very little natural variation, making it perfect if you want the hard wearing characteristics of genuine leather but don't want the natural variation, patina and scarring that can be found in more expensive and unfinished leathers.
Pigmented leather feels cooler and firmer to the touch than more expensive leathers, but is significantly easier to clean and care for and less sensitive. Pigmented leathers also have lower breathability properties than porous leather. Smooth pigmented leather is by far the easiest to maintain for those with small children or pets.
We hope that helped you come to an informed decision on your future purchase, if you still have any questions regarding leather (or anything else for that matter) please don't hesitate to contact us.