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Bassett vs. Flexsteel – Which Leather is Better?

By Jeff Frank


I am considering buying either the Trevor leather recliner from Bassett or the Digby leather recliner from Flexsteel.

The Bassett leather states “Top Grain Leather” and “Semi-Aniline”. It also has the words “Enhanced Effects”, “Corrected” and “Protected” on its tag.

The Flexsteel leather is “Semi-Aniline” and lists “Transparency: Low”, “Coloration: Medium”, “Correction: High”, and “Protection: High” on its tag.

Any advice on choosing between these two would be greatly appreciated.


The Bassett and Flexsteel leathers you have described are very similar in type and quality.

Both are top grain leathers with Semi-aniline (mostly transparent) dyes.

Many leather terms, including “semi-aniline” are extremely confusing to most people, including furniture industry professionals.

If you are reading articles about high end leathers, the description of “semi-aniline” will contradict the simple definition I have given above.

The Leather Dictionary defines the term as:

Semi-aniline leather is leather, which is only slightly pigmented (colour layer).

The natural leather grain and the hair pores are not allowed to be concealed by the pigmentation.

These can be only be slightly protected and must remain visible.

In the Leather Dictionary’s definition, the term “semi-aniline” should be applied only to natural leathers, and the natural grain should be only “slightly protected.”

Large leather mass producers, including Bassett and Flexsteel, routinely create their own definitions of many leather terms.

“Semi-aniline” has become primarily a marketing term, which includes lower priced corrected and heavily protected hides.

Many other leather terms have multiple definitions, depending on the price range of the furniture. For a detailed study on this topic, check out my article, Buyer’s Guide to Good (and Bad) Leather Furniture. 

“Enhanced Effects” is another marketing term that has no specific meaning.

Furniture shoppers (and salespeople) routinely associate the word “aniline” with high-quality leathers, making it useful as a marketing tool.

Most of the natural grain pattern was sanded off the hide and the grain pattern was then added back using an artificial embossed grain pattern.

“Correcting” hides the flaws (bug bites, barbed wire scratches, branding marks, etc.) that marred the original hide’s natural grain pattern.

“Correction: High” mean that all or almost all of the natural grain has been removed and been replaced by an artificial embossed grain pattern.

“Protection” means that a clear polyurethane coating was applied over the embossed grain. The polyurethane coating provides protection against minor scratches.

“Protection: High” indicates a thick polyurethane protective coating. Semi-aniline leathers have a thinner polyurethane coating over hides that have less “correction.”

Most top grain leathers used for mass produced seating is corrected and protected.

This allows the brands to use cheaper hides that otherwise would have too many flaws.

Less than 20% of all hides are flawless enough to be used without correction (or with only minor correction.)

Most of those will receive thin polyurethane protective coatings that protect against very minor scratches only.

Less than 5% of hides do not require any correction. These are the highest quality (and most expensive) leathers. With proper care and maintenance, these leather will actually improve with age.

Advantages of Leather Correction and Protection: 

Lower cost.

The look (grain pattern) is more consistent.

Maximum protection against minor scratches, fading, exposure to sunlight, sweat, improper cleaning chemicals, etc. that would damage unprotected natural leathers.

Less cleaning and maintenance is required than for unprotected natural leathers.

Disadvantages of Correction and Protection: 

The top surface is the strongest and most durable part of the hide. When this is sanded away for correction, the leather becomes less durable and flexible (although it may still be serviceable for 20+ years if properly cleaned and maintained.)

Corrected leather does not improve with age. It does not acquire a patina, which improves a natural leather’s look and feel as it ages.

Protected/corrected leather feels “stiffer” than natural hides.

Natural leathers are more expensive than corrected leathers. The price difference can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a sofa.
Exceptions: Some cheap leather sofas use natural hides that are cut up into small strips and pieces so that the worst of the flaws are removed. The remaining pieces (including remaining flaws) are then sewed together.
Check out my article, Which Full grain, Pure aniline Sofa is Better? This discusses an inexpensive leather sofa made from 44 separate natural leather hide pieces sewn together. 

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