Probably the most important thing when using leather is marrying the right type of leather with the environment, use and application. Different types of leather are specifically made to not only perform in certain applications or environments, but they are designed to excel in particular conditions, usages and exposure. Too often people just assume that leather is leather and rather than fitting the type and style of leather to the application they base their leather choice strictly on colour and look.
Before looking at types, styles or colours the first thing you should focus on when a client is interested in leather is application and usage. What are the demands and expectations that are going to be placed on the leather? What people seem to lose sight of is that an aniline leather is not “better” than a pigmented leather in terms of quality when it comes to durability and performance. As soon as you get focused on what the “best” leather is you lose sight of what the best “type” of leather is for your application.
Aniline leather is the most expensive leather and is often seen as the “best” but this has more to do with the fact that you can only use the cleanest hides to make aniline. In a restaurant or bar environment aniline can actually be one of the worst types of leather to use.
What you need to focus on is getting the client to give you as much information as possible with regards to the type of application and usage the furniture will see. From there you can focus in on the types of leather that will perform to your clients expectations. A family of four with pets will have much different needs than say a professional couple with no kids or pets. There are times when what the client wants and how that type of leather will perform just don’t mix. So it is important not only to find out the type of usage and application but the expectations of the leather.
If a client wants a contemporary piece that is going to look the same today as 5 years from now you should steer them towards a pigmented or semi-aniline hide. If a client is looking for that classic leather look and wants the piece to age and patina over the years then you want to get them into an aniline. Where this becomes even more important is when you are looking at distressed or pull up hides. If a client likes the “distressed” look but doesn’t want it to get too heavily marked you need to make sure you use the right type of distressed leather.
Another thing to factor in when selecting leather is care and maintenance. Aniline leather is far more high maintenance than pigmented leather. So if your client is looking for a low maintenance piece you should be steering them towards pigmented leather and away from aniline. This is why pigmented or semi-aniline leather is always recommended in dining rooms, kitchens, restaurants, bars and other applications where there is a higher chance of staining or soiling.
We always recommend our clients to consult with us before selecting leather for an application. We have seen countless pieces of furniture that have been made using the wrong leather for the choose application. The furniture may have looked amazing when it was first installed but it failed to live up to the expectations of the client as it was not intended for the use it was exposed to.