Shopping for furniture can be a bit confusing as there are different kinds of leather, different levels of quality and, of course, different price points. And buying the most expensive furniture doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get the best and longest lasting piece. By being a knowledgeable shopper you can get the best deal possible and find a quality piece of furniture that will always look good, feel comfortable and last forever.
Unfortunately many furniture stores hire people who don’t know that much about the furniture or they’re working on commission and will throw a lot of jargon your way to confuse you. The best way to combat this is by educating yourself and learning something about the terms used when referring to these types furniture.
Leather is not simply the hide of an animal, hides are actually split in two pieces with the outer layer, the part you’d consider the skin, is called top grain leather. Top grain is the best quality and most supple and durable. Look for top grain if it falls within your price range as it’s the better quality product.
Split is the counterpart to top grain as it is the underside of the skin which is on the inside of the animal’s hide. Split is usually pieced together and less durable and more stiff than top grain leather. Split is also usually dyed more heavily which makes it stiffer but its generally the only choice you have if you want an unusual colored piece of furniture.
Is a one dye process and little or no buffing and work is done to repair imperfections. Analine finishes are applied to the best pieces of top grain leather as these pieces look the best naturally and in this case it’s the real natural beauty of the hide that you want to shine through.
A semi-aniline finish means the hide has gone through a series of dying and surface treatments. These processes come with benefits and pitfalls. The benefits with a semi-aniline finish are that you can get some great colors and there is more protection from staining and wear so its great if you have children or pets. But semi-aniline is stiffer, less comfortable and won’t develop the great patina that aniline finishes will over time.
Nubuck is a top grain leather that has had the outside surface sanded or buffed to create a nap and a velvet type feeling. Some may confuse nubuck with suede but suede comes from the inside of a leather hide, nubuck is the outside meaning its stronger and more durable. Nubuck is typically expensive but it is one of the most durable types of leather available.
Pull-up is coated with a heavy wax or oil on the surface which gives the furniture piece a distressed look over time. These pieces are generally very attractive, especially over time but they do tend to have a slippery feel and are susceptible to scratches and faded butt marks.
Be wary of salespeople who toss around the phrase match without fully explaining to you that it means there are actual pieces in the most notable places, but the other spots (backs and underside of cushions) are made of vinyl that is dyed to match. Match is good if you’re on a limited budget and not planning on keeping the piece forever. But if you want a quality piece of furniture that will last a lifetime and will fade and age evenly, match is not for you.
If you know these terms and understand what you’re looking for it will make the leather furniture shopping process much easier and you’re more likely to get the performance out of your leather furniture that you were hoping for. Don’t let the store you’re shopping at try to confuse you with terms, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or think something shady is going on, leave the store. You can either go home and research the jargon that you heard so you know what you’re getting or go to a different store where you feel more comfortable. Furniture is expensive and meant to be a long term purchase so don’t feel pressured and rushed and don’t let someone confuse you into purchasing an inferior product.