Leather Lingo: What you should know before buying leather furniture

Make a smart choice when buying leather furniture by knowing how to choose quality pieces that will last as long as you want them to.

Leather is so versatile.  It can be masculine, worn, and rustic or chic, slick, and modern – it all comes down to the finish and style.  No matter the style, the warmth and feel of leather can add a feeling of depth and quality to any room, but perhaps it’s overwhelming to know which leathers will last the way you want them to, especially when you want to invest in quality pieces that will last.



Know the Leather Lingo

Before you begin, it’s always helpful to know about the different options you have.  Leather furnishings all begin through the process of tanning, which begins with a cow hide and transforms it into smooth, supple leather of the sort that can be used for upholstery.  Because it is a laborious process, there are a range of grades and types that determine the price, possible uses, and lasting quality of the finished piece.  This video describes the process of tanning and discusses some of the different grades.

  • Full-Grain — This leather comes from the outermost layer of the hide, and is the strongest portion.  When the hide is separated into two or three layers, the outermost layer is called the “Full-grain”, whereas the layers below are known as “splits” or sometimes “genuine.”  This leather has lots of natural irregularities and imperfections that, over time and with use, yield a leather with a lot of character and patina.

full grain sofa

Google Images

  • Top-Grain — This leather also comes from the outermost layer of the hide, underneath the “full-grain.”   This leather has been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections.
  • Split Grain — This bottom layer of the hide is as durable as the Top-grain, but not as supple.
  • Corrected Grain — Created when Top-grain leather is sanded down to smooth out some of the natural markings and characteristics.  A consistent graining pattern is then embossed into the leather.



  • Leather-vinyl Match — This more affordable alternative to all leather furnishings typically uses Top-grain leather on the seat and arms and matching vinyl on the sides and back.
  • Pure-aniline — This is the softest and most flexible of leathers, and is sometimes called “naked leather.”  It boasts the richest natural color of all the leathers but also has the least innate resistance to stains, therefore it would not be the wisest choice for homes with children or pets.
  • Semi-aniline — This is Top-grain leather than has been given an extra protective coat.  It will still have the softness and beauty of natural leather, and is sometimes called “protected aniline.”

semi aniline leather


  • Aniline — This term refers to leather that has been dyed with transparent aniline dyes that protect the leather yet allow natural grain to show through.  This results in one of the highest-quality leathers, as only the finest hides are chosen for this process.
  • Distressed — Also known as “antiqued,” this technique gives new leather an aged and worn look.
  • Pigmented — Leather that is treated with a coating that covers imperfections and yields consistent color and texture.  This coating increases durability but can make the leather less supple.
  • Pull-up — This term describes the process when full-grain aniline-dyed leather is waxed or oiled and then pulled.  This yields lighter and darker areas that give it an aged finish and greater depth of color.



  • Bonded Leather — Another affordable alternative, bonded leather is actually a blend of polyurethane, polyester/cotton, and leather, bonded to the back of fabric.  The result is a soft feel, pleasing texture, and strong durability.  If you’re considering leather furniture, but are tempted to go with bonded leather because of the affordability, consider this comparison with genuine leather.

bonded leather

Google Images

The Touch Test

As with most furniture purchases, it’s important to take your time and see things in person.  Consider the construction quality (see last week’s blog), and use your senses to really study the piece before you purchase.  Touch the surface of the leather on all surfaces; don’t just sit down and rest your arm on the armrest!  Wear comfortable clothing and get cozy, just like you would at home before deciding to purchase an item.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what kind of leather was used, what kind of care it might require, and whether there might be feedback about how similar pieces have fared for others who have previously purchased it.

Leather — It’s Not Just for Sofas

When many people think of leather furniture, they often imagine a sofa or recliner, but there are many other options available if you want to bring the unique look of leather into your decor.  Benches, bar stools, ottomans, and dining room chairs are also readily available.





You can even go more unconventional and invest in leather covered accent pieces, headboards, and cabinets.

leather covered cabinet


In the picture below, designer Lori Dennis has used white leather for the headboard and bed skirt.



 Decorating With or Around Leather Furnishings

Do you already have leather furniture but are unsure of how to decorate in a way that reflects your style and highlights the beauty of the leather?  Give me a call!  I’m happy to help you make the most of the furniture you want to keep and provide style solutions in choosing new pieces to give you the look you want.  Here are a few more tips to help you in decorating with a leather sofa.

Are you a leather lover?  Where could you use a leather piece to lend your room a touch of warmth?

Questions or comments?  Contact Melanie Langford, CT interior designer of All About Interiors.

Article information pulled from the Fall 2014 issue of Your Home published by Pilgrim Furniture City.


How are Sofas and Chairs Made? An Introduction to Furniture Quality

Knowing the differences in furniture quality can enable you to make wise decisions when it comes to purchasing pieces that will stand the test of time.

When purchased with knowledge and awareness, thought and care, the upholstery you invest in now can continue to stay in your family for generations – as both a reminder of your family’s memoirs and as an ultimate, highly valued antique, as in this circa 1690 Louis XIII sofa, with original Aubusson upholstery.

ML-1ML-1As many car aficionados appreciate, there is a difference in the engine quality and in the interior fittings of a $24,000 car, a $45,000 car and a $75,000 (and up) car, and because these differences are so distinct, many people are comfortable investing in a very luxurious car.  Similar to a well-made car, well-made furniture can withstand the test of time.

Many people do not understand what the differences are between a $1,500 sofa, a $2,500-5,000 sofa and a $10,000- 20,000 sofa.  Taking into consideration that the upholstery in our own homes, meaning our sofas and chairs, are what give comfort and support to our family and friends, it would make perfect sense to understand the differences between good, better and best.  Prior to investing in furniture, it is important you understand the differences, so you can make informed buying decisions that you will feel good about today and for years to come.

So, let’s begin.

The picture, below, shows what would be considered a *better*, but not the *best*, inner construction of a chair.  The biggest difference is the best quality chair frames are made from solid hardwoods, today commonly maple, and the *better* quality frames are made from 10-14 layers of laminated plywood –combined with soft woods.


This laminated plywood frame would be strong and fine under regular use – for a 10 year life span or so, (unless, god forbid, small children jump up and down on it frequently or alternately if a heavy person is using the piece frequently.)  However, a hardwood frame will last forever – no matter the usage – and would be designed to become a fine antique, able to be passed down through the generations.

Now, let’s take another look at some more pictures of what represents the finest quality:


8 way hand tied innerspring core is considered one of the finest standards for upholstered furniture because they offer the most even, comfortable support over the entire cushion, and they don’t sag or move.

Below is an example of a *better* 8 way hand tied innerspring interior:


This is much more expensive, as it is done knot by knot, by hand.  However today, the more popular ways of attaching them is with *hog rings* or a klinchit gun.  They both are faster and less expensive. That being said, if you want the very finest quality, a custom upholsterer who can hand tie springs will insure that your springs will never, for generations to come, come loose from your jute webbing.

Pirelli webbing

Pirelli webbing is also a common support system used now in many modern sofas, since Pirelli webbing allows for support for sofa models that cannot accommodate the depth of an 8 way hand tied spring unit. However, although considered a *better* support system, it is not the best because eventually it will sag, since it is made of rubber. Unless your sofa or chair gets an unusual amount of wear and tear, you won’t have to worry about this for many years.

Here is an example of what can happen to Pirelli webbing, over time, with a lot of wear and tear: On the left is the before, on the right is the after. Pirelli webbing often is used, by even the finest manufacturers, when a sofa or chair in their collection will not allow for the use of a 8 way hand tied innerspring unit.


And, although a sofa or chair with Pirelli webbing will, eventually, need to have the webbing replaced, most upholsterers will be able to work with Pirelli webbing, so don’t concern yourself if you have your heart set on a beautiful modern or Danish modern, piece of upholstery. Go ahead and purchase it and enjoy it for years to come.


Let’s take a look at upholstery padding and understand the varying differences. There are two main types of inner upholstery padding used: 1) horsehair and cotton or foam and 2) Dacron or foam and down. In most fine antique furniture, you will, if you open it up, see horsehair.


Horsehair is considered the finest upholstery padding because its springiness and durability are first rate. A seat stuffed with horsehair can last for centuries and when it’s time to re-upholster a piece stuffed with horsehair, it can usually be washed and re-used. It is the most expensive furniture fabric in the world and only a few factories in Europe are still producing it.

If you’re having a custom workroom manufacture your sofa or chair exclusively to your dimensions, and you want the finest horsehair interior, ask them about double-stop stitching. Double-stop is the style of stitching that is used when the inner padding is made of horsehair. This is what a double stop stitch looks like.


There are many less expensive options for seat cushion upholstery padding.  Some of the most popular fibers in cushions today are foam, coconut fiber, vegetal fiber, and other types of animal hair. Most of these fall in the *better* category, depending on the quality of material. Most furniture you see in a retail store or showroom is filled with foam, or a combination of foam wrapped with Dacron or down. One warning: make sure to take into account whether you have any allergies before proceeding with selecting your filling materials.

When it comes to one of the biggest investments you will make in furnishing your home — the furniture you will use daily. You now have the beginnings of being able to make educated decisions about what’s best for your family.

Whether it’s to gather with a group of friends for a conversation, to formally entertain, to watch a movie or simply to read a good book, we urge you to invest in the best – for your family’s well being.  As fashion guru, philanthropist and mother of three sons and three step-daughters, Tory Burch, has outfitted her South Hampton home with quality upholstery as seen below.


Make sure to read next week when we turn our attention from the inner construction of furniture to choosing quality materials for the outside coverings.  Please let me know if you have any questions or need assistance with creating the perfect piece of upholstery for your home that will last for generations to come.

Enjoy!  Melanie Langford, All About Interiors

All images and informational content courtesy of the Hadley Court team, Kindel Furniture or referenced and linked to in the post except:
Image 3, 5, 6, 7

Coffee Table Styling

Want to show your coffee table some design love but unsure of where to start?  These ideas for coffee table styling are sure to give you just the boost you need!

The sofa and coffee table are often the first purchase or the first items to be upgraded when you set up a living room, but whether your coffee table is simple or fab, you can still make it stylish by the items you add to it.


Good Housekeeping

Start with a Tray

A tray is a great place to start when decorating your coffee table.  It grounds or frames other smaller pieces you may add later, so they don’t look lost on a larger surface.  It’s also a great place to bring in a pattern or design piece that enhances your overall room design, and just think of the possibilities!  From metal to pottery, handpainted wood, lucite, the possibilities are practically endless.  Want a little bling to dress up your room?  Choose a metal tray and accessorize with other metallic accents (did you ever think of using jewelry to accessorize your space?)

silver tray


Do you prefer a more arts-and-crafts look?  Find a lovely hand-made or painted tray that goes with the style and color palette of your room.

wooden tray


Books?  Yes, Please!

Cicero is famously quoted as saying, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  A coffee table is a great place to display some of your most gorgeous books, which can also add interest and varying height to your table.  They’re called coffee table books for a reason, right?  Whether you choose first edition books with handmade paper or glossy books of modern art will, of course, be determined by your personal style and the style of your room.

gallery wall 7$!600x


Sometimes, simple is the way to go, but sometimes more, particularly if you play with the arrangement carefully, can be fantastic.  Notice how the books in the arrangement below reflect the bright pops of color elsewhere and contrast with the black and white chevron pattern of the rug.

books on coffee table


Bring in Nature and Don’t Forget Height

Fresh flowers and plants are little pieces of art, so whenever possible, add them to your coffee table.  An arrangement or simple vase with flowers will give some vertical height to your table styling, thus increasing visual interest.  Varying the heights of the items you select will prevent your table from being visually boring (avoid looking like a doctor’s waiting room with piles of magazines!).


Don’t Forget the Little Things

With a table top that’s grounded with books or a tray, you can add small, special touches that won’t get lost.  Candles are a great addition, as scents and colors can easily be swapped out with the season, and, when lit, provide an instant warmth and sparkle.  Small metallic accents, sculptures, or unusual pieces can provide a lot of interest, spark conversation, and share your personality all while adding style.



Make a Statement

There are as many ways to style a coffee table as there are opinions on style, so if nothing else, try adding a single statement piece to your table.  Choose a favorite piece and allow it to be the focal point; with the right sculpture or planter, the effect will be understated rather than bland.



Does your coffee table need some love?  What can you add or change today to give it some pizzazz?

For assistance with all your design needs, for coffee tables and much more, contact Melanie Langford, CT Interior Designer with All About Interiors.

If These Walls Could Talk: Using Color in Interior Decorating

The colors we like and use for our homes say a lot about who we are.  Knowing something about color theory can help you make good color choices that will create the look you want in your home.

1.  Colors Reveal Personalities

You may already be aware that there are links between people’s preferred colors and certain personality traits.  Numerous studies have been done on the topic, but if you take a look around your home or through your wardrobe, you may notice certain colors popping up again and again.  This isn’t necessarily something on which to base your whole design, but it’s a fun exercise to get you thinking about how your personality is reflected in your surroundings (and isn’t that, to some extent, what good interior design is about?)  Here are some colors and their associated personality traits:

  • Red – active, cheerful, optimistic, goal-oriented
  • Blue — cautious, peaceful, orderly, values tradition
  • Green — loyal, sincere, well-mannered, good at seeing the big picture
  • Yellow — exciting, self-sufficient, dreamer,  prone to worry
  • Brown — practical, enjoys the simple life, good at accomplishing tasks
  • Orange — energetic, extroverted, loves freedom
  • White — confident, perfectionist, sincere
  • Black — serious, decisive, powerful
  • Purple — comforting, values dignity

What do you think?  Does your personality fit your favorite color?

2.  Colors Affect Mood

Just as colors are associated with personalities, they also reflect and inspire certain moods.  Warm colors, such as red, yellow, and orange, will make a space feel energetic or lively.



Cool colors, such as blue, green, or light purple, will create a restful, calming feeling.  Consider the activity in the room — is it an area where you will entertain?  relax?  Also remember that balance is very important; if you use too much of a color, it will become overwhelming, so pops of neutral colors like black, grey, brown, or white are important in a space as well.



3.  Colors Can Fool the Eye

Most people have a space in their homes that they wish was bigger, and while you may not have the budget or desire to move to a more luxurious home with oodles of space in every room, you can use color to change your perception of how large the space feels, especially if you employ a designer who can help you utilize every trick for making a small space feel larger.  If you have a small space, paint the walls and ceiling a lighter shade, like a pastel.  Choosing furniture that is a similar color to your walls can also help make a space appear larger.

expand small space


If you’re fortunate enough to have a large space,use a bold color to add interest and attract the eye.

large room


4.  Colors Finish a Room

At one time or another, we’ve all seen a room that felt a little empty, that feeling of something missing.  Chances are, there was a lack of color.  Color is the unifying element that pulls a space together.  A designer can easily guide you to making smart color choices that will result in a room that looks finished, but if you are looking to add a few things such as pillows or accessories to a room, or you’re an ardent DIYer, there are a few tips that can help you make smart choices.



  • The 60:30:10 Rule

When decorating a room, use the following percentages to have a good balance of color:

60% dominant color

30% secondary color

10% accent color

In the room sense, that translates roughly into

60% of the room’s color is the walls

30% of the room’s color is the upholstery

10% of the room’s color is in accent pieces

60 - 30-10 2


  • Take a tip from Mother Nature

Many people make mistakes not so much with color, but with value (the relative lightness or darkness of a color, say lavender vs. eggplant).  If you end up with too many dark values on one side of the room vs. light values on the other, your room will feel unbalanced.  The natural world can help guide you towards creating a balanced space.  Choose darker values of color for the floor (like the ground outside), medium values for the walls (trees, shrubs, etc), and light values for the ceiling (sky), thus creating a vertical design that will help you avoid lack of balance.

mother nature


  • The Lead Piece

If you read last week’s blog, you’ll know what the lead piece is.  (If you didn’t, scroll right on down and read it, I’ll wait!)  If you have an item in your room already that works as a lead (a duvet, piece of art, accent pillow, etc), pull colors and values from what you have.  This is also much easier than painting and then trying to find things to go with it later.



Colors, and more specifically, the undertones of colors that show up popularly in stores, fashion, fabrics, etc, change over time.  Think of how yesterday’s colors differ from those you see around today — blues, greens, yellows, etc, but in the case of the 80’s, for instance, all the colors shared a blue undertone, hence mauve (red with blue undertones) or sea foam (green with blue undertones).  Today, we’re seeing a lot of grey or beige undertones in the popular colors.  If you still have a carpet or wallpaper in your home from that era, you’ll have already realized how hard it can be to try to match something to it when the colors with the right undertones are no longer popular.

There are plenty of other aspects of color theory to consider, so if you’re intrigued and want to know more, check out “Why Our Brains Love Colorful Interiors”, or “Top 10 Tips for Adding Color to Your Space”.    If, however, you find it all a bit overwhelming and are concerned about getting it right, get in touch with a designer who can save you a lot of time and money, teach you a bit along the way, and help you achieve the very best look.  As we all know with other things in life, there are times when the rules can and should be broken, and a designer has the expertise to help you discern when breaking the rules can result in something truly breathtaking.

If your walls could talk, what would they say about the color choices you’ve made?  What do they say about who you are?

For answers to all your color questions and any other interior design needs, contact Melanie Langford, CT Interior Designer of All About Interiors.






Decorate With Designer Secrets

Are you faced with decorating or re-decorating a room?  Ever looked around your room and wondered why it didn’t look more pulled-together?  If so, then you need to know a few secrets that designers already know!

So, you have a room that needs decorating.  Maybe you’re just moving into a new house, you’re tired of the same old boring room you’ve been staring at for any number of years, or you’ve got a place that, slowly and surely, you’re trying to pull out of the 1960s that the previous owner must have enjoyed.  (Not likely!)  Whatever the case, there’s that room in front of you, and you just don’t know where to start.

I realize there are a lot of people out there who are DIY’ers so as a professional, I feel obligated to educate with a few designer secrets to help them get a start.  However, that being said… God forbid! Should I become ill, I would attempt to self diagnose.  I’d seek a professional in the medical field who knew what they were doing…but hey, that’s just me.  So if you are absolutely adamant on going at it without a professional designer guiding you, (Which in NO way would I EVER recommend), at least a little important knowledge will be bouncing around in your head before you start.

A few key secrets of how to begin to decorate.

1.  DO NOT pick a paint color!

You’re thinking, “What?  Isn’t this the easiest place to start?  I pick a color and then find stuff to go with it, right?”



No way!  Nuh-uh!  Stop and think:  which is easier – matching a paint color to fabric or furnishings or the other way around?  If you’ve ever wandered around a fabric store or home decor area of a department store trying to spot just that “right” shade of blue, you’ll know that it’s not an easy task.  So leave the paint supplies right where they are; don’t worry, they’ll be there when you’re ready for them!

2.  Think like a Psychiatrist

When you think about this room that you’re decorating, how do you feel?  While that might sound silly, and you may be envisioning lying on a couch chatting it up with Sigmund Freud, it’s a step that will really help you define your style and vision for the room.  For example, consider how a room that feels “posh” or “chic” would look compared to a room that feels “homey” and “rustic.”  To get you thinking about your personal style, here are a few examples of some style-feeling words and rooms that reflect them:

Soft and Feminine

soft and feminine


Homey and Rustic



Bold and Eclectic

bold eclectic


Some other style-feeling words to get you started:

  • moody
  • cozy
  • airy
  • posh
  • bright
  • cheerful
  • glam
  • refined
  • soothing

Once you’ve chosen your style words, commit to them, and do not bring anything into that space that does not go with the feeling you are trying to create.  For a few more style-feeling words, look at these examples.

3.  Make friends with Pinterest

After you’ve chosen your style-feeling words, start gathering examples of rooms that fit in to those feelings or the look you are trying to create.  There are tons of sites out there with pictures of beautiful rooms of every shape and size –PinterestHouzz and  House Beautiful, just to name a few.

Head to your local library and grab some issues of a Better Homes and Gardens or another design magazine.  Plan to do a lot of searching and note taking to determine what you like and don’t like.  Once you have an idea in mind of what you want (or don’t want) and if you are not feeling completely overwhelmed at all the eye candy… Remember, absolutely no one who’s re-decorated a time or two… will blame you if you pick up the phone and call a professional designer at this point.  But if you are still standing and your head is no longer spinning, alas… we move on to rule number 4.



4.  Define your color palette 

Now, the fun part — you get to go shopping!   What you’re looking for is what’s known as a lead — an item such as a rug, pillow, piece of fabric, artwork, etc that contains in it colors you love that also matches the style-feeling words you already picked. This lead piece will LEAD you (get it?) to making good color choices because you’re going to pull your color palette from the colors in your lead piece.  HINT: Keep in mind if you are in a box furniture store, there are lots to choose from.  Choose wisely!  Measure your space FIRST!   Furniture stores have very few inner walls and high ceilings deceiving the shopper into thinking a large sectional will actually fit in a small space.

Once you have your lead piece, then you can go ahead to choose the remaining items that coordinate with your lead color and finally a paint color, still keeping in mind those feeling words.

If you take a look at the picture below, you’ll see that all the colors in the room are pulled from the carpet and the fabric on the seat cushion in the foreground.

orange and teal - Copy


Here’s another example — this time, the lead piece is the geometric artwork on the wall.  You’ll also notice that this room as a much more sleek and glamorous look than the one above, due largely to the choice of wall color, the light fixture and the upholstered bench.

how to decorate a room - CopyPinterest

5.  Florals, Geometrics, and Stripes, Oh My!

Now it’s time to pick other patterns that will go with your color scheme and lead piece.  Let’s say you picked a large, multi-colored floral as your lead piece.  You can pair this with a smaller-scale geometric; it will complement rather than fight with your lead.  To this you can add another smaller geometric or solid, spread them around the room, and voila!  Gorgeous room!

fabric combo


bhg mix patterns

BHG – How to Mix Patterns

There you have it!  So for those of you who want to give it a go… I say, go out and decorate with a few key tools under your belt.  If you start to feel dizzy, overwhelmed and/or unsure of your choices STOP immediately and contact Melanie Langford, CT Interior Designer of All About Interiors.  I am happy to get you back on the right path.

 What’s the first room you’re going to make stunning?