Choosing a Leather Couch

If you’re looking for a classic couch to withstand everyday use, leather may be just what the decorator ordered.  Leather seating never seems to go out of style, while some of the shapes and colors may, a good quality, neutral leather couch with clean lines is guaranteed to be a hit pick for family rooms, living rooms, offices and dens.

But all leather is not alike, learn the basics before spending the money, not when it’s too late.

There are two primary types of leather, commonly called corrected leather and pull up leather.  Corrected leather is dyed and coated, much like the leather for the interior of a car.  It’s more durable and spills tend to wipe up more easily.  It is also less expensive, but doesn’t quite have the look of pull up leather.

Pull up leather is treated, but shows the imperfections of leather more than corrected leather does.  Most people like this in a leather couch, while it does scratch more easily, and doesn’t withstand moisture, it takes on a great patina and look over time but may be better suited to families without kids or pets.  It also tends to be a little more expensive than the corrected leather, as the hides used to make the leather need to be free of flaws.

To break it down even further, leather is typically graded.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is basically scraps that are made to look like a single piece of leather.  While it is the least expensive choice, it will not have the strength and quality you would expect in a leather sofa.

Split Grain

One step up from bonded is split grain leather, it’s the inner portion of hide, and although it’s a single piece, making it stronger than bonded, it is not as high quality as the outer portion.

Top Grain

The outer layer of the hide is considered top grain and is a higher quality and more durable than split grain or bonded.  It is often processed or sanded to give it some texture and to hide flaws.  This is typically the best choice for families with pets or children, as the processing helps it withstand wear and tear, but it lacks the beauty of the full grain leather.

Full Grain Leather

Full grain is the highest grade and is from the outer most layer of the hide.  Because it has very few ‘flaws’ it’s not processed, so the natural grain shows through and gives an unparalleled look to the leather.  While very durable, it doesn’t withstand spills and scratches well, and may be best for adults or in an office or den setting away from the kids (including the furry ones!)

Tip:  If an item is labeled genuine leather, it is typically lower grade, such as bonded or split grade.

So if you have to look closely for a label to tell whether the leather is real or not, it’s typically one of the lower grades of leather.  Opt for the top grain if you’re looking for a good, durable family room choice.