The question inevitably arises when shopping for upholstered furniture: leather or fabric? If you choose leather, great, but that’s only the first step. There are many choices to consider, and we’re not talking about color. Leather quality, finishes and treatments vary greatly. Also, the leather you choose will affect the way you experience your furniture and how the leather ages. So, here’s how to choose wisely. The answers to these 5 key questions will help you decide which leather characteristics are best for you.
1. Who will use the furniture?
If you have a household full of small children and/or 4-legged animals, a more protected, easy-to-clean leather is probably in order. Ask to see leathers that are protected and durable. We recommend a high-quality, top-grain leather with a clear coat that will help repel stains and dirt. If you like to eat messy foods or if you have a tendency to spill red wine, again, you may want to go with a more protected leather. If the furniture receives light use, or food on the furniture is forbidden in your home, then you are not restricted to protected leathers.
2. Will the furniture receive direct sunlight?
Leather can fade just like fabric and other materials fade with UV exposure. If your furniture will be in direct sunlight, it will most likely fade a little or a lot over time. There are measures you can take to ensure that the fading does not become unsightly. First, choose a light, neutral color. Second, choose a leather that has a finish that helps protect against fading (ask a leather expert for advice). Third, treat your leather furniture a few times a year with a conditioner that contains UV protection. One option would be our Leather Hide Bracer.
3. Do you like the “weathered” look?
Some leathers will have finishes (such as a waxed finish) that will show scratches more readily. Oils and spills absorb into this type of leather more easily and tend to darken the surface. Over time, this leather develops a lived-in look, which is highly desirable in some interiors. Think about the look you prefer. It is also a good idea to give the leather sample the scratch test with your fingernail, which can tell you a lot: If you wince when you see the scratch on the leather sample, then this is not the leather for you!
4. Is the “feel” of the leather important to you?
Typically, leathers with the most surface protection will be the least soft. They also tend to be less breathable, which means there is an increased risk of sticky thighs in the heat of summer. Good quality leathers that have less surface protection and coloring will tend to feel comfortable against your skin. Also pay attention to how slippery the leather is when applied to furniture. Some leathers are very smooth and have a finish that will make you slide, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on the situation.
5. Do you have a budget in mind?
Typically, leather options will range in price. Less expensive leathers tend to be heavily or moderately protected and altered. The reason why is that protected leather hides don’t need to be in perfect shape, since the surface can be altered by applying color, protection and sometimes texture. The most perfect, high-quality hides are made into more natural leathers, where the natural characteristics tend to come through more. Balance pricing with leather characteristics that are important to you. You will most likely use your leather furniture for a long time, so choose a leather that will look and perform the way you want it to.
Talk to an Expert
The best thing you can do is to speak to a leather furniture expert and detail your preferences and needs. An expert will listen, evaluate and make recommendations to ensure that you will be happy with your leather furniture in the long run. You can also ask about our Furniture Protection Plan, which can be a real life saver should a catastrophic event occur (think puppy chewing through a sofa cushion).
To talk to a leather furniture expert, contact us!