Leather Education

The natural beauty of leather
Leather has natural wrinkles, marks, and scars.
Variations in color and texture are genuine and natural features of leather.
We appreciate your understanding of this when ordering.

Leather Tips and Education

Facts About Aniline Leather & Quality Leather Grain

Aniline Leather
Only the finest hides in the world fall into this category. Lovers of truly natural products are particularly fond of these leathers. Over time this type of leather develops a "patina", which is a deep honey or amber color formed naturally on a surface over time. As you can imagine, this effect can only add to the value of your furniture creating an even more spectacular focal point to any room. Only Grade "A" hides meet this criteria totaling a mere 5% of the world's entire hide supply.

Full Aniline Leather
Some of the finest hides in the world fall in this category. The only difference between Aniline and Full Aniline is that Full Aniline has slightly less stringent qualifying criteria for their hides. Full Aniline has a slightly protective finish (usually micropigments) applied via a roller or added into the tannage to give the leather some serviceability.

Semi-Aniline Leather
These leathers are a bit more processed, first by dying the aniline in large drums (just like the finer leathers as listed above), but these leathers are then also finished on top. Spray pigments are applied to the tops of the hides to even out the finish and to camouflage natural occurring imperfections. These leathers are light-resistant and scratch-resistant and are very easy to clean. The next 10-15% of the world's hide supply fall into this Grade "B" category.

Quality Leather Grain
Every piece of leather has a texture all its own, as unique as a fingerprint. Just as the grain and markings in wood reveal the nature of the tree from which it came, leather should display the markings and grain characteristics of the animal from which it was taken. These markings are natural and demonstrate the authenticity of genuine leather. During the tanning process, the outermost layer of the cowhide is separated from the rest. This is what's called top grain."

Sometimes this top layer is scarred or damaged by insect bites, branding, or barbed wire. These serious imperfections can require the entire surface to be sanded down and pressed with an imitation grain. This has several negative repercussions, as it alters the natural surface and also closes the pores, disallowing the leather to breathe. Additionally, the new pattern is much more uniform and unnatural, and rough to the touch. With the heavy pigmentation and chemical process often applied, they can become stiff and board-like, to the point of looking and feeling like plastic.

During the tanning process, the choicest top grains with few imperfections are selected for high-grade leather products. Very little processing is required, and these leathers remain in their most natural state. They are soft, supple, and clear to the touch and feel. These are called "full top grain" leathers.

At Town & Country Leather, we have partnered with brands like Natuzzi and Palliser, who share our passion for the most natural full top grain leather upholstery. Don't be fooled by the term 'top grain," not just any will do. You should be able to see the grain variations and fat wrinkles. It should look natural and feel soft to the touch. As a premium full top grain leather ages, it becomes softer and distressed, which adds to the beauty of its style.

Tips on Caring for Your Leather

1. Protected (Pigmented) and Semi-aniline Leathers Clean with a mild soap and water solution. Use a mild soap with a neutral pH. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue. Do not use a soap product that is harsh on your skin, as it will be harsh on the leather. Always test the soap solution in an unseen area on the sofa to ensure that the solution does not damage the leather (no leather color transfer on to your cloth).

2. Natural (Aniline) Leathers Clean with only a slightly damp cloth. Do not use any type of soap on natural (aniline) leather.

Tips on Buying the Perfect Leather Furniture

- Things You Can Do to Make the Best Choice

Know What You Like
Measure your existing furniture so that you know the seat depth and seat height. Most furniture is made for people 5'6" to 6'1". If you are taller and want a more relaxed style of seating, look for oversize furniture. If you are shorter than 5'6" and you want your feet to touch the ground, then measuring seat height and depth are very important to being comfortable. Measure carefully to determine what size furniture you need. Determine whether you like firm supportive seating or a more casual soft and relaxed feeling. It may help to look around at some leather furniture in your area so that you know what it feels like and looks like. Measure the seat depth and height if you find a piece that you think is really comfortable. Once you have determined the range of dimensions you like, compare them with the furniture you are considering purchasing.

Know What You're Getting
Leather has natural wrinkles, marks and scars. Variations in color and texture are genuine and natural features of leather. We appreciate your understanding of this when ordering. High quality leather furniture usually has smaller pieces on the back and under the arms to fully utilize the hides.

Leather is very different from fabric as there are variations in the coloring of a good quality leather hide. Some manufacturers use vinyl on the back to save money. We don't usually do that.
If the description on the website doesn't tell you what you need to know email the owner, Eric Salem, and let him know what additional information you desire and he'll send it right away.

We will be happy to send close up pictures and leather swatches if you want to see the detail better and if your furniture will float in the room, ask to see a picture of the back view as well. Learn about springs and construction methods so that you insure that you are buying good quality construction. Be certain that you know whether the back and seat cushions are sewn in place or whether they are detachable. Ask Eric, Tom or Robert about zippers on cushions and pillows.

Will It Fit?
Carefully measure your room to insure that the furniture will fit in the room in a complementary layout. Also measure access to the room, to insure that the furniture can be moved through the doorway, elevator or stairwell. If the description says that the furniture is oversize compare the dimensions carefully to what you currently have to insure that the set won't be too large for your room. Many of the new designs are much deeper than older furniture. If you are purchasing a recliner, ask for the clearance to fully recline it and measure your space for placement to fully recline the chair.Will the Colors Match Your Room?

Always request a swatch before placing your order so that you can see the leather color and texture in the light of your own home and also see it next to your draperies and your flooring.

It is important to note that leather does not come in dye lots. The swatch you will receive is a close approximation of the color. The coloring of leather varies throughout the hide, and the grain and shading is different across the hide because natural leather comes from a natural resource.

Advantages of Leather Furniture

Variety: Leather furniture is an incredibly versatile choice. Whether your style is relaxed, contemporary, classic or somewhere in between, there is a product to fit your taste.
Ease and Prestige: Leather living room furniture is an excellent lifestyle choice. It exudes an immediate sense of prestige and good taste, yet is easy to clean and service over time.
Strength: Highly resistant to fire, scratching and tearing, leather furniture is a low maintenance solution. It's strong enough to maintain its shape and resist wear, even with everyday and extended use.
Comfort: Flexible, breathable and natural, nothing beats the comfort of leather furniture. It does not stick to your skin, stays cool in summer and warm in winter.
Value: Investing in quality leather living room furniture is choosing lasting value. The timeless appeal of leather has spanned many generations, and will continue to be a highly regarded product for ages to come.

Leather Glossary
Leather that has had the original surface of the skin or hide removed, (usually due to imperfections in the original grain surface), and a new grain embossed into the leather. This is also called corrected grain. Most top-grain leathers have altered or corrected grain.
The name given to the particular transparent dye used to color dyed leather.
Leather that has been dyed through with aniline dyes. Pure aniline leathers represent approximately 5 percent of all upholstery leathers produced worldwide. Sometimes topped with a protein, resin, or lacquer protective coating; can also be waxed.
See "Vegetable Tanned"

BASEBALL LEATHER-Leather used for the covers of baseballs. Prior to 1974 baseballs are covered in cowhide; today quality baseballs are covered in alumtanned horsehide.

BELTING LEATHER-The vegetable-tanned leather used in the construction of furniture and other strength-related requirements.

BLUE, IN THE-The state of hides or animals being "chrome" tanned after they have been removed from the tanning solution. Chromium salts cause the tanned hides to be light blue before they are dyed.

BOARDED LEATHER-Leather softened by creasing the grain by folding to and fro across the hide, either by hand or boarding machine.

BOAR DY-An adjective applied to stiff, inflexible leather. This term is not to be confused with boarding, which is the process of softening leather.

BRUSH COLORED-The application of dyestuff to leather with a brush, the leather being laid on a table.

BUFFED-Leather which has been abrased or sueded. This can also be referred to as snuffed, nubuck leather, or grain-sueded leather.

CASE LEATHERING-A general term for leather used in traveling bags and suitcases. The staple material for case leather is bovine hides.

CENTER CUT SUEDE-A suede split that has had the edges trimmed to leave the bends and the shoulder, leaving the best and most usable part, or the center of the material.

CHROME TANNAGE-Leather tanned in chromium salts, primarily basic chromium sulfate resulting in soft, mellow hides receptive to excellent color variety. Currently the most widely used tannage in the USA.

COMBINATION TANNAGE-Leathers tanned with more than one tanning agent, such as chrome and vegetable together, resulting in both softness and body in skins.

CORDOVAN-Leather made from the tight, firm shell portion of horse butts. Cordovan has very fine pores and a characteristic finish, and is very durable.

CORRECTED GRAIN-The outside skin is sanded or abraded to minimize faults. It is then pigmented to cover the sanding and printed with an artificial grain. A spray sealer topcoat is then applied. Corrected grain material is usually called top grain leather.

CROCK (noun)-The coloring matter that rubs off of poorly dyed leather.

CROCK (verb) -To transfer color of rubbing.

CROCKPROOF-Leather, suede or fabric that has been treated to prevent color from rubbing off. With suede, this term also means to treat to prevent shedding or rubbing off of fibers.

CRUST-Leather which has been tanned but not finished. Such leathers referred to as being "in the crust."

DEGRAINED LEATHER- Leather from which the grain has been removed after tanning, by splitting, abrading or other process.

DOUBLE BUTT SUEDE-A term sometimes used to mean center cut suede.

DRAWN GRAIN-Shrunken, shriveled, or wrinkled grain surface of leather.

DRUM DYING-The application of dye stuffs to leather by the immersion of the leather in a drum that is tumbled. This process allows full dye penetration into the fiber.

EMBOSSED LEATHER-Usually corrected grain, in which a pattern is applied by extreme pressure in a press to give a unique design or imitation of full grain characteristics. Sometimes leathers are embossed to make them appear to be another leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern into cowhide.

EMBOSSED, FANCY-A fancy or geometric pattern is impressed into the leather.

FAT WRINKLE-Wrinkles in the grain of leather caused by fat deposits in the animal that create beauty in the leather. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation grain leather.

FINISH-A surface application on the leather to color, protect, or mask imperfections. More specifically, all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.

FULL GRAIN-The term used for the outside original skin or hide which has had the hair removed, but otherwise has not been corrected or altered. Full-grain leather possesses the genuine original grain of the animal.

FULL HAND-Leather which is full-bodied, such as some combination tanned leathers and fine vegetable-tanned upholstery leather. Also called round hand.

GLAZED FINISH-Similar to an aniline finish except that the leather surface is polished to a high luster by the action of glass on steel rollers under tremendous pressure.

GLOVE LEATHER-A term used to describe soft leather used for gloves, which is normally lambskin. The term is also used by some to define soft leather.

GRAIN (LEATHER)-The outside of the hide or skin consisting of the pores, wrinkles and other characteristics which constitute the natural texture of the leather.

GRAIN CHARACTER-The natural markings on the surface of the leather.

GRAIN, EMBOSSED-An artificial grain pressed into the surface of top grain leather from which the original grain has been removed.

GRAINED LEATHER-Any leather on which the original natural grain has been changed or altered by any method, process or manipulation; also top grain.

GRAIN SUEDED-A process of sueding the grain side of the skin to achieve a buffed or sueded condition. See "Snuffed".

HAND-A term used in the leather industry to describe the feel, i.e., softness or fullness of upholstery leather.

HEAVY LEATHER-A somewhat indefinite term, generally understood to include vegetable-tanned sole, belting, strap and mechanical leathers made from unsplit cattlehides.

IMITATION-A variety of materials which have been made to resemble genuine leather. The great bulk of these are rubber or plastic-coated fabrics. It is unlawful to use terms connoting leather to describe imitations.

LEATHER-An animal skin which has been preserved and dressed for use.

LEATHERETTE-A manufactured product which imitates leather.


MATTE FINISH-A flat or dull finish.

MINERAL TANNED-Leather which has been tanned by any of several mineral substances, notably the salts of chromium, aluminum, and zirconium.

NAKED LEATHER-A leather with no surface, impregnated treatment of finish other than dye matter which might mask or alter the natural state of the leather.

NATURAL GRAIN-A leather which retains the full original grain.

NUBUCK-A brushed, grain-sueded leather.

OAK TANNAGE-Originally, the tannage leather occurred almost entirely with oak bark, later the term applied to tannage with a blend containing oak tannin. Now it is loosely applied to any tannage of leather with vegetable extracts.

OIL TANNED-Leather tanned with certain fish oils. Produces a very soft, pliable leather such as chamois.

PATENT LEATHER- Leather with a glossy impermeable finish produced by successive coats of drying oils, varnish, or synthetic resins.

PATINA-A surface appearance of something grown beautiful, especially with age or use; an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character.

PERFORATED-In leather, the process of die cutting small holes to form a pattern. The holes can vary in size, density and pattern.

PIGMENTED-A process of coloring and coating in the leather surface with colored pigments dispersed in film-forming chemicals called binders which can be tailor-made to produce surfaces that are highly resistant to wear, fading, etc. Leather that has been sprayed with a pigmented, opaque finish. This is usually done to cover imperfections in leather

PLATING, PLATED LEATHER-Pressing leather with a heated metal plate under high pressure. Most furniture leather is usually sanded, pigmented and plated to cover imperfections.

PRODUCTION RUN-Cheaper, ungraded leather sold to manufacturers for use on furniture.

RECONSTITUTED LEATHER-Material composed of collagen fibers obtained from macerated hide pieces, which have been constructed into a fibrous mat.

RETAN-A modifying secondary tannage applied after intermediate operations following the primary tanning.

ROUND HAND-A full-handed leather, usually slightly swelled as with vegetable tanning.

SADDLE LEATHER-Vegetable-tanned cattlehide leather for harnesses and saddles, usually of a natural tan shade and rather flexible.

SHRUNKEN GRAIN LEATHER-A full, natural-grain leather which is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain of the leather.

SHOULDER LEATHER-The thickest part of the hide from the shoulder area of the cow.

SIDE-Half a hide cut along the backbone.

SIDE LEATHER-Grain leather which has been cut in half, forming two "sides" in order to better accommodate tannery equipment.

SKIVE-To shave, slice or divide, to peel into a thin layer.

SNUFFED-The grain surface is abraded with brushes, emery wheel or sandpaper. Leather is snuffed for the purpose of removing defective grain, or for sueding the surface of the leather.

SPLIT LEATHER (SPLIT)-Skin sliced in layers to give uniform thickness to the piece (grainside). Split leather (inside) is trimmed and finished as suede. Cheap leathers are sometimes pigmented splits with embossed imitation grain.

SPLITTING-Cutting leather into two or more layers, or cutting leather into two sides preparatory to tanning.

SPREAD-The size of a skin measured by machine in square feet.

STRAP LEATHER-Heavyweight vegetable-tanned leather used for industrial purposes, or to support seats and backs on certain types of seating.

SUEDE-Leathers that are finished by buffing the flesh side (opposite the grain side) to produce a nap. Term refers to the napping process, and is unrelated to the type of skin used. See "Split Leather".

SUEDING-The process of raising fibers on the grain side of a hide or skin to give a velvet nap effect. This is generally called "nubuck" or "grain suede."

TABLE DYEING-The application of dyestuff to leather with a brush, the leather being laid on a table. Also called brush coloring.

TABLE RUN- Leathers which are not graded. See "Production Run".

TANNIN-Any various solvents; astringent substances of plant origin used in tanning leather.

TOP GRAIN-The term intended to define genuine grain leather, as opposed to split leather which has been pigmented and embossed with a new grain. In reality, top-grain leather usually has had the original grain removed and an imitation grain embossed into the surface.

TRIM-The removal of parts of a skin or hide not suitable for making leather, such as portions on the outer edges.

UNFINISHED LEATHER-Normally defines aniline-dyed, naked leathers with no additional application intended to finish, color or treat in a way that would alter the natural characteristics of the leather.

UPHOLSTERY LEATHER-A general term for leather processed for use in furniture, automobiles, and airplanes.

VAT DYEING-An older method of dyeing leather sometimes confused with drum dyeing.

VEAL CALFSKIN-An upholstery leather skin averaging 30 square feet of premier quality.

VEGETABLE TANNING-The conversion of rawhide into leather with a greater body and firmness than the more general method of chromium tanning.

WEIGHT-The weight of leather is measured in ounces per square foot.

WICK-To absorb and dissipate moisture and heat through the fiber structure of the leather.