Birchwood Furniture Galleries
7315 11th St. SE Calgary Alberta T2H 2S1 587-323-3227
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Choosing the Right Fit for You: Which Leather is Best?

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Before making any big ticket furniture purchases, there are many things that should be taken into account. A seemingly simple option, overlooked by many, is the type of leather that your furniture is upholstered in!

This selection can make all the difference in the durability and longevity of your upholstery. By doing a little research, you will find furnishings that are right for both your style and lifestyle – and of course the design consultants at Birchwood Furniture Galleries are always here to help tailor a piece to your needs!

There are two things to keep in mind when selecting the right leather for you. These are type and finish.

Leather Types


Generally, upholstery leather comes in four forms; split/ bycast, corrected grain, top grain and full grain.!

Split/ Bycast leather is created from the fibrous part of the hide after the top grain has been removed from the rawhide. The split leather will have an artificial layer applied to it and is embossed with a leather grain. Because the naturally water-resistant grain has been removed, these leathers are treated with a protective coating to repel liquids.!

Corrected grain leather has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. The imperfections are sanded off and a faux grain is stamped onto the top of the hide after which it is stained or dyed. Corrected grain hides are generally used for pigmented leather as the heavy pigment helps hide the corrections. This type of hide will not grow better with age but is fairly durable due to the processing. Although not the best quality, corrected grain does have practical applications where it is better suited than a full grain, such as upholstery of dining chairs or other high traffic areas.!

Top Grain leather is the second highest quality and is the most common type used in mid-to-high end leather products. As opposed to full grain, a top grain leather has the top couple of millimetres sanded and buffed to remove imperfections. A finishing coat is added which gives it a cold, plastic feel. This coating gives the hide a more uniform look but does not lend to its durability. There is less breathability and the hide will not develop any natural patina.!

Full Grain is the best quality leather on the market. It is the strongest and most durable part of the hide, found just below the hair. These leathers that have not undergone sanding or buffing to remove natural markings (scars, bug bites, etc.) on the surface of the hide. The tight grain pattern on this type of hide is very tight which means that it will retain less moisture during contact. Instead of wearing out over time, full grain leathers will develop a rich, worn-in look, or patina.!

Leather Finishes


Leather hides for upholstery typically undergo three different types of finishing; pigmented, semi-aniline and aniline.!

Pigmented leather is coated with layers of coloured stains or dyes, whether meant to mimic a natural leather look or other fashionable colours like red or green. An applied polymer layer contains a mixture of pigment and clear coat which provides a durable surface coating. !

Semi-Aniline leather has a clear base coat applied with additional coats of dye layered on top. Natural markings will still be seen but pigment generally settles into these features, giving the hide a two-toned look. A semi-aniline coating will lend some additional durability to the hide. To the bare eye, it is hard to differentiate between full and semi-aniline.!

Aniline leather is dyed exclusively with with soluble dyes and is not covered with a topcoat or any insoluble pigments. The dyes used are clear and transparent chemicals, allowing the hide to retain its natural grain and leaving visible any pores, scars or markings of the animals original skin. These dyes show the natural texture but do not protect the leather from damage.!


Still unsure how to select a piece you’ll love?

We can help! Any of our design experts will be able to help you create the perfect piece to meet your budget, match your lifestyle, and create a look that you will love for years to come!


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