Bonded leather furniture may sound like a manufacturing term for top-quality upholstery, but in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The scraps of leather shaved from hides used for top-grain leather are mixed with polyurethane, wood pulp or other chemicals to make bonded leather furniture. The result is akin to pressed wood; only it’s pressed leather, embossed to look like the real thing. Yes, bonded leather does contain leather, but not enough to qualify as a real piece of leather furniture. If the upholstery is bonded leather, a label must be attached to the furniture that includes the percentage of leather used in its fabrication, along with listing the other materials. An animal hide is relatively small, especially after it’s been sized and cut. To cover a sofa with real leather requires several hides stitched together. Bonded leather is rolled like fabric and applied to a furniture frame in large fabric pieces, identifiable by a patterned repeated grain. Bonded leather ultimately sags because use stretches the fabric, especially since it is not seamed in smaller portions. To identify a bonded leather furniture, examine its surface for regular repeated patterns, look at the manufacturer tag or speak with the salesperson, as they must honestly disclose the couch’s materials.
Strides have been made to create bonded leather furniture that appears to be top grain leather. It feels similar and even smells a bit like leather. But one marked difference between bonded leather and real leather is the price. A bonded leather furniture may look good in a family room for a while, but daily use, bouncing children and drooling pets cut its lifespan short. Upholstered furniture made from durable fabrics offer a more prudent purchase if a real leather furniture is not in the budget.