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Furniture Materials Crash Course From Hazz Design: Part 5 - Leather Finishing

Furniture World News Desk on 12/15/2012

Tracey & Tom Hazzard

In this installment of our refresher course on furniture materials, we will continue to discuss leather with a focus on leather finishing. Again, whether you’re an experienced, well-trained salesperson, or, just beginning to learn the art of selling furniture, knowing how a consumer views leather can mean the difference between “Just looking,” and “I’ll take it.”

In addition to buffing or sanding the natural leather surface, finishing leather through the use of dyes and/or pigments are the most common ways to color leather. “Aniline” refers to the general term for color-finished leather. Dying processes vary and are rarely identified, with the exception of those labeled “Chrome-Free,” typically referring to the use of aldehyde-based dyestuff, which is not chrome-based.

Full-Aniline – This refers to a finish that is as natural as possible using only dyes to achieve color and no protective coatings. Full-aniline leather is soft and supple with color that penetrates throughout the thickness of the leather. Typically only used on Full-Grain leathers, it is the most expensive but also the easiest to stain and fade.

Semi-Aniline – Leathers processed the same way as full aniline leather but with an added pigment top coating are referred to as semi-aniline. The thin layer of pigment is used to even out the color and give stain and fade protection. Semi-aniline treatment causes the leather to be less soft and supple, but it is more durable.

Suede (or Nubuck) – This type is usually a Split-Leather, but instead of an artificial layer applied, texture is created through sanding or buffing, which gives it the soft fuzzy look. Because the surface is broken down in the process, it is less durable than Top-Grain. Suede is easily stained and picks up dirt because of its buffed fibers.

Customers generally expect leather to have a specific feel – thick, but soft on the surface. If it is too stiff, unnaturally colored or too thin, consumers consider it faux leather, even when it is not.

Educate them on real leather qualities without being condescending about their preconceptions. Show them how to feel the temperature of leather with their hands on a section of the furniture: with full-grain, top-grain and corrected-grain leather, the colder room temperature should quickly begin to match their body temperature. If the piece stays cold to the touch, then it is either heavily treated, Bi-Cast, Bonded or Vinyl. Salespeople and manufacturers often try to convince customers that Bi-Cast and Bonded Leathers are inferior, but the durability and easy-cleaning may be just what a consumer needs for in her high-traffic, sunlit living room used by toddlers or teens.

About Hazz Design: Graduates of Rhode Island School of Design, product designers Tracy and Tom Hazzard have worked together for most of their two-decade marriage and professional lives. Their shared vision that good design should never cost more, that there is always a solution, and that one-plus-one can have an exponential result has earned them career-expanding projects, multiple design awards, more than a dozen patents, two children and a fine-tuned sense of what consumers want and need in well-designed products. Visit them at www.hazzdesign.com. They can be reached via email at info@hazzdesign.com or by phone at 714-673-6541
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