Tips for Buying Leather Furniture

Just like any big life investment, buying leather furniture should require thoughtful consideration and planning. What room will it go in, and who will be using it? Does it need to stand up to a household of pets and kids, or are you looking for a living room showpiece? And what’s the style of your home? It’s important to ask yourself these questions so that you can hone in on exactly what you need before you start shopping. Beyond the basics, you’ll also need to understand the words that describe leather furniture. For instance, what’s top or full-grain versus full-grain? And what’s the best way to test how leather will wear over time? Here are a few of the major terms you’ll come across along the way.

Davis brown leather sofa with rustic coffee tables


Graining refers to the markings or patterns on a hide’s surface just below the hair. Full-grain leather comes from this top layer of the hide, where the graining is tight, durable, and moisture resistant. Full-grain leather is prized for its durability, natural characteristics, and the way it develops a beautiful patina over time. Top-grain leather is similar to full-grain leather, except that its very top layer has been carefully sanded and buffed to diminish imperfections and markings. Top-grain leather offers more uniform color.


Bonded leather is made of pieces of hide blended together to form a seamless piece of material. Durable and sleek, bonded leather works well on furniture in high-traffic areas, like dining room chairs and stools.


Aniline dying is the process of coloring leathers with transparent dyes. Full-aniline-dyed leather is wonderfully soft and isn’t treated with a protective coating that would alter its natural feel. Semi-aniline dying adds a thin protective top coat to the hide, providing more uniform color and protection from wear and staining.


Leather is natural, so it will also naturally age. And as leather lovers can attest, patina adds richness, depth, and smoothness. Direct sunlight will also age the leather, especially on exposed areas, so keep furniture placement in mind when you’re shopping.

Axis brown leather sofa with beige pillows Eiffel brown leather chair

Natural Markings:

Leather is a natural material, so no two hides are ever exactly alike in color and markings. If you are given a leather swatch for color reference, pull and stretch the leather swatch to get a sense what the leather would look like when upholstered onto a furniture frame.


Unlike a fabric sofa or chair, with leather sofas and chairs the bottom of the cushion isn’t encased in leather. Part of the bottom of the casing has a tightly-woven mesh material, which allows the cushion to breath. Like your favorite leather jacket, leather sofas and chairs only get better with age. If you love a piece now, you’ll love it even more down the road. So do your research, consider the options, and your dream piece of leather furniture will live with you for years to come.

For more furniture buying tips, check out the Ideas and Advice section.

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