Leather 101: Blended Leather

Posted In Knowledge - 04/06/2017

Blended leather, also called bonded leather or reconstituted leather, is manufactured furniture upholstery comprised of a layering of leather, a fiber or paper backing, and binding materials. It is finished with a polyurethane coat and embossed with a grain texture that closely mimics leather.

Blended leather allows manufactures to utilize the whole hide; leather scraps are shredded into a pulp and bonded to a cloth backing.

The advantages:

  • Looks great – blended leather closely emulates real leather, some even smell like the genuine article.
  • Less expensive than top grain leather.
  • Good for the environment – blended leather makes full use of what would have been waste, keeping product out of landfills and reducing the need for additional farming.
  • Highly durable.
  • Consistent finish – because of the manufacturing process blended leather has a consistent finish without variations and blemishes that are inherent to top grain leather.
  • Versatile – there are a wide variety of colors and textures are available in this upholstery alternative.

The drawbacks:

  • Slightly stiffer and less supple than top grain leather, though with quality products the difference can be minimal.
  • Doesn’t match your body’s temperature the same way that top grain leather does.
  • Shows wear instead of developing a “patina” over time.
  • While durable, it is not as durable or resilient as leather.
  • Bonded leather repair is difficult or impossible.

What to look for:

Not all blended leather is the same.  Manufacturers use different percentages of leather and other components.  Lower quality blended leathers can be bonded with materials that “off-gas” or that become separated and crack over time.  Look for well-known manufactures with a reputation of quality products.

How it’s used:

Because it can match leather seamlessly, many manufacturers keep the costs of leather furniture down by using blended leather on any surface that your body doesn’t touch when sitting.  These seating pieces have the arms, seat, back cushions, and foot rests upholstered in leather; while the sides and back of the sofa are upholstered with blended leather.  This solution allows the supple feel and additional durability of top grain leather on the surfaces that you touch (and that get the majority of the wear) while keeping the overall price of the piece affordable.

Some sofas, sectionals, loveseats and chairs are completely upholstered in blended leather.  This allows you to purchase furniture with a high-end leather look at extremely affordable prices.  The trade-off is that blended leather furniture will not last 20 years as a genuine leather piece might.  In today’s market, consumers replace their sofas 5-10 years, not because they’ve worn out but because they are ready for a new look. When evaluating blended leather furnishings, consider how long you’ll want to keep the piece.

Blended leather is also used in upholstered beds, ottomans, upholstered benches and dining chairs.  It can create distinctive looks on living room tables, accent cabinets and desks.