When it comes to choosing furniture for your home, there are so many reasons to fall in love with leather. Nothing looks and feels more luxurious. Leather fits any style décor, from urban to traditional to modern and casual. Leather is comfortable, conforming to your body and room temperature better than other materials. And leather is durable, holding up to busy family life and lasting at least as long as three fabric sofas.
Unlike other upholstery options, leather improves with age, developing a beautiful patina over time. And with a variety of grades and finishes, there is a leather option for virtually every budget.
Tips From Our Leather Buyer
We sat down with our leather furniture buyer Sharon Gjertsen to get her insider tips on shopping for leather furniture, especially when it comes to price points. Her first suggestion is to make sure what you’re buying is indeed leather!
“There are many fabrics on the market that look like leather,” she says. Before you buy, make sure your leather sofa is real. If you like the look but don’t have the budget, however, one of the faux leather products may be a good choice.”
Know that when it comes to purchasing leather furniture, you have two choices: Leather that has had some correction made in tanning process or natural leather that is dyed but left as is. Each choice has its benefits.
“Leather that has been treat is more durable for families,” says Gjertsen. “Protection also hides marks on the material, such as scarring, barbed wire marks and insect bites.”
Natural leathers do the exact opposite. “They show everything, and some believe that’s the beauty of leather,” says Gjertsen. “Natural leather is more expensive and not as durable.”
Natural and treated leather are both tanned, which adds color. “There are no green cows,” says Gjertsen.
When shopping for furniture, you should also know that not all sofas are created equal. Price can be affected by the construction of the piece as well as the different types of leather. Also, looking at grades is not a good comparison, says Gjertsen. “There is not a universal system, and grades will vary from company to company,” she says. “The only time it helps is if you are comparing pieces within the same company.”
When you use leather in your home, feel free to mix it with other materials. “The cool thing is people are mixing upholsteries,” says Gjertsen. “You might have fabric sofa and a genuine leather chair. It doesn’t have to be all leather. People more eclectic and item driven. That makes leather very exciting.”
Now that you know more about leather, here are a few things to consider before you head to our showroom to find the perfect piece:
Your family’s lifestyle. Leather is a durable material that can take normal wear and tear of busy family life. In fact, leather is four times more durable than fabric, so you don’t have to be afraid to let the kids use it. If you have pets, however, you need to be aware that their claws or nails could puncture the material.
Your personal style. From contemporary to casual to rustic and urban, leather furniture comes in a variety of styles with one that is sure to match your décor. Since leather furniture lasts for years, make sure you choose a style that fits your home design. You could also choose something transitional that will blend effortlessly if you change your look.
Your color preferences. Full-grain leather has natural imperfections that include one-of-a kind markings or irregularities from the cowhide. This is not a defect, and full-grain leather is prized for its quality and finish. If you prefer an even finish, you can purchase pigmented leather, which has been treated to have a more uniform color. This is a less expensive, stiffer type of leather, and it’s more resistant to stains and scratches, which is great for family use. Leather is a natural material, and no two hides are identical in color and markings. When you buy pieces of leather furniture, it’s best to purchase them all at once in order to avoid color variations that can happen.
Your floor plan. Leather is a natural material, and it will naturally age. This process develops a rich patina that adds depth and softness. Direct sunlight, however, will speed up the process and can potentially damage the finish. Keep furniture placement in mind when you’re shopping, or ensure that you have window treatments that will block the sun to keep your leather furniture protected.
While leather is a durable upholstery choice, it’s important to understand how to care for it. Its lifespan can be shortened if you don’t maintain it properly. Daily care is minimal, says Gjertsen. “All you do is dust or vacuum and wipe with a damp cloth,” she says.
Leather should also be treated with a conditioner every six to 12 months, to avoid cracking and peeling. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification offers tips for the care and cleaning of your leather furniture:
- Leather can be sensitive to spills and liquid stains. As soon as anything is spilled on the furniture, it must be removed from the surface immediately. This substance is highly porous, like living skin, and will quickly soak up any liquids. Once this occurs, it will be much harder to get rid of the stain.
- Leather normally comes with tags that offer many leather cleaning tips. This information can help a homeowner decide which substances to use when conditioning the item.
- Many cleaners are too harsh for this type of furniture. Even soap that is appropriate for hard leather may be too much for the softer material commonly used on sofas and chairs. In general, anything with ammonia or alkaline can damage the furniture beyond repair, so avoid them completely.
- A good substance to use when treating this type of furniture is any mild soap that can be safely used on people but care should be exercised even with these products, especially on brushed leather.
- Before using any soap or water on the furniture, use a soft brush to remove any dirt. This should be done regularly, because solid debris can scratch the furniture. This will also allow the material to breathe and prevent any microbes from growing.
- Do not use any scrubbing or abrasive pads on the furniture, because this will likely remove the finish and damage the furniture.
- One of the most important leather cleaning tips to observe is maintaining the furniture’s finish. This is normally done with a product sold for this purpose particularly, or some form of oil. The substance should be applied a few times and buffed on with a soft cloth.
- Avoid using any oils that contain silicon or wax. These may permanently adhere to the surface of the material and make it sticky.
- To protect the furniture from cracking or drying out, keep it out of direct sunlight and move it away from anything that produces heat.
- Professionals should be hired to treat the furniture when it is damaged or badly stained. This is necessary to restore and preserve the material.
If you’ve never shopped for leather furniture, here’s a quick guide to help you understand the terminology:
Aniline. Leather that is treated in an aniline dye bath so that scratches won’t reveal a different color beneath. This leather is very soft as only the best hides are used for this process.
Antiqued. Leather that has been dyed twice in a lighter and darker color to give an aged distressed appearance.
Bonded. A leather-like material made from leather scraps, polyurethane and cotton layers. This leather is less expensive and is created for durability.
Embossed. Leather that has been imprinted to create a texture as a design element.
Full Grain. Leather that includes one-of-a kind natural markings or irregularities from the cowhide.
Nubuck. A top-grain leather that is lightly brushed to create a short, plush nap that feels like velvet and is resistant to scratches.
Pigmented. Leather treated with a pigment to give it a more uniform color. This is a less expensive, stiffer type of leather, and it’s more resistant to stains and scratches, which is great for family use.
Pull-up. Leather that is treated with anilines to create a weathered or distressed look.
Sauvage. Leather that has been treated with a two-toned effect to create a marbled design.
Semi-aniline. Leather that has a small amount of pigment added, which provides better protection against stains and fading.
Split Grain. The layer of leather found beneath the top-grain layer. This type is usually given an embossed or surface treatment, and it’s usually less expensive than top grain.
Top Grain. This leather comes from the outer surface of the hide, which is considered to be strongest section. It can be left natural or embossed.