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When is leather right for you?

What do cowboys, motorcyclists, and bookbinders have in common? They love leather-for its never-say-die durability and other attributes. The same qualities can make leather your longest-lasting upholstery fabric-in fact, quality hides can get better with age.

Now cowhide also comes in a widening palette of colors, and is used to cover many furniture designs.

Prices also run the gamut, from less than $500 to $2,500 for an armchair. (High price does not guarantee high-quality furniture construction; see "How to uncover quality in upholstered furniture" in

To shop intelligently, you should understand terms salesmen and product brochures use.

Top grain refers to the outermost layer of hide split off from underneath layers.

Corrected means hide has been sanded or buffed to minimize or remove markings, such as excessive wrinkles and scars that can reduce a hide's appeal.

Full grain is uncorrected top-grain leather retaining its natural grain.

Aniline dyed means dyed with a color formulation that fully permeates the hide.

Pigmented leather is spray-coated after correcting with opaque pigments to ensure uniform surface color; pigmenting is sometimes done to uncorrected hides to even out color after aniline dyeing.

Embossed means imprinted with a mock grain to cover up imperfections; rarely done to top-quality leather.

Glazed means polished with high-pressure steel rollers to produce a glossy finish.

Split leather is the inner layer of hide left after top grain has been split off, it's stiffer and less durable than top grain. Lacking natural grain, it must be embossed. It's used on cheaper furniture for less visible parts of upholstery.

Before you shop for leather, decide where you'll use it and how much wear it will get.

Top of the line for a luxuriously supple "hand" is full-grain aniline-dyed leather-sometimes called naked leather. With use, it gets softer and develops a rich patina. But it's also prone to fade in sunlight and has no stain protection.

For better durability, choose full-grain "aniline-plus" leather: after dyeing, the hide receives a light spray coating of same-colored pigment infused with penetrating chemicals that provide liquid and grease resistance. This step also gives some protection against fading.

Basically, the more correcting, pigmenting, and embossing a leather undergoes, the stiffer, less durable, and more prone to cracking it becomes.

Unzip a cushion (or look at the bottom of a chair or sofa) to see the leather's edge. Check if the edge shows color on the outside and white in the middle-like a sandwich. That means pigment was only sprayed on; with wear, white may well show through. Heavily sprayed pigment can peel.

PROPER CARE

Wipe off regularly with a dry soft cloth. Do not use saddle soap (too strong for dyes and finish), wax polishes, or spray dusters (they clog pores).

To remove almost any spill or stain, blot away excess, apply suds of mild pure soap and water with a soft cloth, rinse with clear water on a soft cloth, and blot dry. This will break down any oil or grease. A mark may remain, but it will fade over a few days as the area dries.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Inside the Western Home; leather furniture
Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:511
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