When shopping for leather furniture, there’s a lot more to consider than the color, shape, and size of the piece. When you start seeing terms like full grain, corrected grain, top grain, split grain, pigmented, nubuck, and suede, it can quickly get very confusing.
Knowing what these terms mean is important since you often find two similar pieces at vastly different price points. How do you know which to choose?
Simply put, high-quality leather furniture will be either full aniline or semi-aniline. They are both made from the top layers of the animal’s hide. These layers are known as full grain and top grain. The major difference is how the hides are treated and dyed.
Full-Aniline and Semi-Aniline Leather Furniture
It is a common misconception that ‘full-aniline” and “semi-aniline” are grades of leather. And that one might be lower quality. In reality, furniture labeled aniline, full-aniline, or semi-aniline are all high-quality and classified as grain leather. The terms refer to the dyeing and finishing process that is used, rather than the quality of the leather. Only the best full-grain leather can be used in these processes, so both aniline and semi-aniline leather furniture are high-quality.
What Is Aniline Dye?
Aniline dye is a carbon-based chemical product blended with other substances. This process creates a clear transparent dye that can come in many different colors. When used on full grain leather it leaves saturated color without changing the grain pattern and other surface characteristics that leather is known for and that leather aficionados value. The natural beauty of the leather upholstery remains unchanged.
Dyeing Process for Aniline Leather Furniture
The dyeing process for full-aniline and semi-aniline leather upholstery starts out the same. The tanned and finished leather is put into large vats of aniline dye in the chosen color. It stays in the vats until the dye completely penetrates the leather to create a fully-saturated and even color. That’s the end of the process for aniline leather.
Dyeing Process for Semi-Aniline Leather Furniture
Semi-aniline leather goes through a few more steps before it is ready for furniture. Secondary finishes or pigments are applied to the top surface, either by hand or by machine. A clear coating is then applied to increase durability and protect against stains, wear, and exposure to light. The coating can add either a glossy or matte finish.
When you buy full- or semi-aniline leather furniture, you are indeed getting a high-quality product. To be sure, look for these terms on the label: full grain, top grain, aniline leather, or 100% leather. Your best option is to purchase from a reputable furniture store, such as Baer’s Furniture. That way, you’ll know you are getting what you pay for.