DARAFEEV uses only fine Top Grain Leather when leather upgrade is specified. Bonded leather is available as a standard grade option, with no upcharge. Bonded leather is a low cost approach to achieving the look of leather, though it is not on par with the quality or durability of top grain leather.
Genuine Top Grain Leather
The top grain is the smoothest, supplest, most natural, and best kind of furniture leather your money can buy. Each hide is as individual and unique as a fingerprint. Real, top-grain is comprised of about 12-14% water. For this reason, top-grain leather acclimates quickly to your body temperature. Leather is a natural product and thus breathes like one. Top-grain comes in two different grades: aniline and semi-aniline. Aniline is the most natural and has no protective coatings or treatments that alter its natural feel. Because of this, it’s the softest but also susceptible to stains, while semi-aniline may be coated with a protective topcoat. Many people who have experienced “sweating” on leather and are therefore turned off by the idea of leather furniture are referring to a leather product like bonded leather or vinyl.
“Bonded leather” a cheaper line of attack in selling the look and feel of leather for a “great deal.” Unfortunately, bonded leather is hardly leather at all—by definition, it has to be only 17% leather. So leather is to bonded leather what chicken is to chicken McNuggets (or pressboard to wood, or dryer lint to fabric): In other words, it is heavily processed. Bonded leather is made from scraps of leather that are ground up in a machine into even smaller pieces that are laid out in a long, thin layer and then adhered together with a thicker layer of polyurethane (plastic). While bonded leather, being merely a “leather product,” is used all too often in misleading customers, as retailers may try to pass it off as the real thing in order to inflate the perceived value of their product. In reality, a person sitting on bonded leather is not sitting on leather at all, only plastic. And unlike real top-grain leather, the ground-up hide and plastic will never acclimate to your body temperature or get better with age. Darafeev offers bonded leather as a standard grade upholstery option, with no upcharge. This is an inexpensive alternative to genuine leather and allows for the leather aesthetic, though the quality will not match that of top grain leather upgrade. It is not recommended for heavy use as it will wear over time.
Bicast leather (also known as bi-cast, bycast, or PU leather) is what most people consider the next step up. Before a hide is put into production, it is cut horizontally into layers. These layers consist of the top grain (the top layer that maintains the actual surface of the cow’s hide where the pores and hair follicles used to be) and then every split below that. Bicast leather is a layer of split which was too thin or flawed for normal use and that, like bonded leather, is completely sealed on top with a layer of polyurethane. Like bonded leather, no actual point of contact is possible between the natural leather and your skin and, therefore, bicast doesn’t demonstrate any of the same wear or comfort attributes of top-grain. Bicast and bonded leather have plastic surfaces essentially. Darafeev does not use bicast leather.
As mentioned before, a split is merely the lower layers of a hide underneath the top-grain. A split is still 100% real leather but does not have all of the characteristics of top-grain due to processing differences. When a split is made, it is initially light-colored and fuzzy or suede-like on both the top and bottom of the hide so that it won’t look like top grain. On leather furniture, the traditional top-grain leather look is shiny, has natural variations in color (as a hide is a natural product with variations in thickness and quality and, therefore, withstands dyes differently), has a smooth and soft hand (or feel), and natural “pebbling” (the unique bumps that vary depending on from which part of the cow the hide was taken). Because a split has none of these qualities, the split must be processed through various means to simulate the appearance and feel of top-grain leather. Although the result is still 100% leather, some softness is always lost through the processing procedures and natural variations in color and pebbling are no long evident as these hides are run through a uniform screen. Darafeev does not use split leather.
Leather-matching is the practice of placing real, top-grain, 100% leather everywhere you touch on a piece of furniture (e.g. the seat, back cushions, and arms), but then filling the side panels, back panels, and the backs of the cushions with a non-leather. Darafeev does not use leather matching techniques.
Leather and Natural Patina
Think about it… Leather is like skin, and it will age. Top-grain leather will change colors differently than splits, splits differently than bicast leather, bicast differently than bonded, and bonded differently than vinyl. For the true leather-lover, the patina is one of the most charming qualities of the material. This is where the importance of steering clear of leather-match is evident. Because your furniture may be in your home for a long time, what started out as a subtle variation in color from the back and sides to front will eventually become an obvious mismatch.