Types of Leather & Fabric

Furniture upholstery

Leather types

Leather main
The smell and feel of a plush leather furniture gives the feeling of luxury and quality. However, did you know that not all leathers are created equal?

Leather can undergo complex treatment processes in order to create numerous furniture products, hence the many different terms being thrown around. All the different types of leather have their own characteristic look and feel and thus, are used for different purposes. Here, we demystify the various types of leather used in making furniture.
Types of Leather
Bonded Leather
Full Grain
Top Grain
Split Grain
Faux Leather

Padded Leatherette

Bonded Leather Bonded leather 2
Cost               Medium
Durability  Good
Fragility      Good

To create bonded leather, leather scraps and fibres are mixed together, and then formed into a roll using adhesives or other bonding materials. In fact, the manufacturing process is very similar to making paper. After the roll is formed, it goes under drying equipment to reduce the moisture content. Since it usually contains only 10 to 17 percent leather fibres, some industry experts do not consider it real leather and express concerns with it being marketed as such.

However, before you scoff at it, bonded leather does has its advantage as a furniture material. Firstly, it is highly durable. Secondly, it contains low levels of environmentally unsafe formaldehyde as it doesn't undergo chemical tanning and is therefore suitable for people with leather allergies. Lastly, bonded leather furniture is significantly cheaper than real leather.

Full Grain full grain leather
Cost              High
Durability Excellent
Fragility     Excellent

Full grain leather, is the leather that is formed just by removing the hair present on the epidermis of the hide. The whole hide is used, not just some layers of it. Except for hair removal and soaking in some form of natural dye like analine vegetable dye, it is basically untreated leather. No polishing and finishing is done to the grain. Although there may be imperfections on the leather, as it retains all of the original texture and markings of the original hide, this kind of grain tends to look and feel better with time. As such, it is usually the most expensive kind of leather furniture available.

Top Grain top grain leather
Cost         very high
Durability Excellent
Fragility     Good

The leather, otherwise known as corrected grain or full grain pigmented, is taken from the outer layers of the hide and is the toughest leather type. Unlike full grain, top grain is usually buffed to remove any imperfections. Top grain leather furniture will typically be more expensive, but will have an incredibly soft feel and will be long lasting.

Split Grain Split grain leather
Cost          very high
Durability Good
Fragility     Medium

After the removal of the top grain, you get split leather from the remaining part of the hide. This leather is harder and cheaper than full grain leather. Split leather is comparatively more fragile and gets easily damaged if not handled properly.

Alma Leather - Samples

Alma Leather - Samples

Cost         very high
Durability Good
Fragility     Bad

This is top grain cattle rawhide leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, giving it the appearance similar to velvet and suede. It has a more uniform appearance because the exterior is sprayed with a finishing agent. It is cheaper as compared to full grain leather. However, nubuck furniture is fragile in nature and requires careful maintenance. A waterproofing treatment is mandatory to keep the material looking good.
Bi-cast Bicast leather
Cost          Medium
Durability Bad
Fragility     Medium

It is made by gluing a sheet of polyurethane colour to a split grain. It has the appearance of top grain leather, at a fraction of the cost. Bi-cast does not age well. In fact, it cracks and peels when exposed to too much friction. So, make sure that you purchase bi-cast furniture knowingly and not because you were led to believe it is real leather.

Faux Leather Faux leather Cost          Medium
Durability Excellent
Fragility     Excellent

As the name suggests, this is not real leather. It is man-made leather made from synthetic materials such as plastic and rubber-coated fabric. Faux leather has come a long way as the technology has resulted in great improvements in the material composition, thus increasing the comfort level of such sofas. It is durable, looks like original leather and is the cheapest type of leather for furniture.

Padded Leatherette Padded Leatherette 1
Cost          Medium
Durability Excellent
Fragility     Excellent

Leatherette is a form of artificial leather, usually made by covering a fabric base with plastic. The fabric can be made of a natural or a synthetic fibre which is then covered with a soft PVC layer.

Leatherette bound books and 20th century cameras are good examples of leatherette. Leatherette clothing of various kinds (including lingerie) also exist.

A disadvantage of plastic "leatherette" is that it is not porous and does not allow air to pass through it; thus, sweat can accumulate if it is used for clothing, car seat coverings, etc. One of its primary advantages, especially in cars, is that it requires little maintenance in comparison to leather, and does not crack or fade easily.

Fabric Types


Different types of materials have different characteristics, like strength, durability, stain resistance, and cost. Some fabrics are more fade and mildew resistant than others. Fade resistant fabric is best if the sofa will be standing in direct sunlight. Mildew resistance is desirable in a humid climate. Those with allergies should consider fabrics like microfiber, which does not attract dust and is lint free.

Microfiber: Microfiber

Microfiber is a type of very fine polyester that is soft but durable, easy to clean, and competitively priced. It is extremely closely woven and does not allow pet hair to stick to it.


Chenille also looks elegant and it is stronger than other fabrics. It can be made from cotton, but is often created from synthetic materials like rayon or olefin.


Linen has similar characteristics to cotton. While it is not the most durable fabric, it is handsome and a great option for homes without small children and pets, or for sofas used in more formal settings.


Corduroy is a textile composed of twisted fibers that, when woven, lie parallel (similar to twil) to one another to form the cloth's distinct pattern, a "cord." Modern corduroy is most commonly composed of tufted cords, sometimes exhibiting a channel (bare to the base fabric) between the tufts. Corduroy is, in essence, a ridged form of velvet.