Whether you are buying new furniture or reupholstering an existing piece, Artistic Upholstery supplies a wide variety of leathers in a multitude of textures and colors. We offer the perfect choice of leather for sofas, chairs, ottomans, benches, banquettes and pillows. We can help you decide which leather is the right choice for you.
How and where you intend to use your leather furniture should determine what kind of leather to use. What’s most important is the finish of the leather. You’ve probably heard the terms “full grain” and “top grain” in reference to leather types. These phrases refer to whether the surface of the leather is in its natural, “pure” state or whether it has been buffed to remove superficial defects. However, this has little to do with how the leather will perform.Typically, raw material with a lot of range marks and other imperfections (representing about 85% of the hides on the worldwide market) needs to have the defects physically removed to make the leather usable, but this does not affect performance.
Well-made leather is dyed all the way through: the color permeates the entire hide from back to front. To achieve this, the hides are placed in rotating vats, or drums, that can hold up to 100 hides. While they are tumbling, special dyes are added to the drums through central tubes. The dye, called “aniline,” is water based and transparent, and is designed to enter the leather and bond with its fiber structure.
When the hides are removed from the drum, they are ready to be “finished,” a process whose purpose is to protect and enhance the surface of the leather. During this stage, the hides receive their ultimate color, protection (against abrasion, heat, light, liquids and dirt), texture, sheen, and any special effects, such as antiquing. This is done by passing the leather on a conveyor belt through a spray line where it receives a top-coat spray. This will “correct” the color, or bring it up to within 100% of the color desired. This topcoat will consist of either aniline dye, which will give the hides a transparent coloration, a pigment (oil-based dye), or any combination of the two, known as “semi-aniline.” Pigment is the type of color that is opaque: it actually coats the leather, rather than enters into it, and hence creates a uniform coloration.
Pigment is most commonly used on hides that have surface defects which need to be minimized. Adding a small amount of pigment to an aniline topcoat serves to give the hides a certain amount of uniformity that is desirable in the American market. Italso affords the hides an extra layer of protective agents, making them an excellent choice for high-use areas.
Aniline and full-grain almost always go together. Full-grain leather will not be sprayed with pigments since there are naturally no surface blemishes to be covered up. However, an aniline topcoat or a “naked” leather that has not topcoat at all, offers very little protection to the leather.
The bottom line is that “pure” aniline leathers, while more natural and beautiful,are a good choice only for low-traffic areas. These finishes will fade in direct sunlight, can scuff and scratch, and can easily be stained, even with water. Semi-aniline and leathers with pigment are essential if they will be subject to wear-and-tear, used around food and drinks, or climbed on by kids and pets. They are typically easy to clean with just soap and water. Remember – the more pigment, the more protection on the leather.