For durability, comfort and pure luxury, nothing beats leather furniture. This time-honored material gets softer and more supple with age, and a smart, stylish leather sofa can last a lifetime. Once you have the basics of leather sofa buying in hand, you’re all set to purchase the iconic living room piece for your own home.
Leather Sofa Types
Sofa style, length, width and height vary, so you have plenty of choices. You can even purchase a leather loveseat if you need something smaller or a leather reclining sofa if you want to push back and relax.
The most important consideration when purchasing a leather sofa is the type of leather. While all real leather is made from animal skins, mainly cattle hides, the part of the hide and how it’s processed affect the look, feel and durability. These are some key things to know about leather:
Hides are divided into two pieces: the top grain and the split.
All top-grain leather is treated with a clear vegetable aniline dye that leaves the hide soft, warm to the touch and natural-looking. Other terms for this type of leather include aniline, pure aniline and full aniline. This is the leather that develops the sought-after patina of age, but because it doesn’t have a protective coating, it’s susceptible to stains.
The least-blemished top-grain leather is known as full grain; except for aniline dyeing, it is not processed.
Top-grain leather with marks and scars receives further treatment to partially remove the surface grain, and may then be embossed with a consistent graining pattern. This leather is called corrected grain. Corrected-grain leather can be processed further to give it various qualities.
Semi-aniline is either top-grain or corrected-grain leather with a light surface coating that contains a small amount of pigment. It’s available in more colors than aniline but doesn’t acquire the same patina with age. The surface coating provides some stain-resistance.
Pigmented leather is corrected grain with a polymer surface coating containing pigments, so it offers the widest color choice. It’s also the most durable, stain-resistant and easier to clean.
Splits are the underside of the hide, and their natural texture is suede. They can be processed and embossed to simulate the appearance and feel of corrected-grain leather, but they aren’t as durable.
Top-grain leathers are used for the parts of the furniture that your body comes in contact with (the back, arms, cushions). The remainder of the upholstery is usually top grain or matched splits.
Because leather upholstery can last for years, look for high-quality sofa frames, suspension and cushions to enhance the longevity of your leather sofa.
How to Buy the Right Leather Sofa
While leather sofas tend to be high-end, you will still encounter varying levels of quality. Determining what you want to use the sofa for helps you select the right one for your situation.
For longevity, look for hardwood frames and full- or top-grain aniline leather.
For comfort, focus on the quality of the suspension, cushions and reclining mechanism.
For looks, pay attention to color and style.
For a busy household, make sure the leather is treated to resist stains and improve cleanability.
How to Style Your Place With a Leather Sofa
Leather sofas come in many styles, from traditional to transitional to contemporary/modern, making it easy to match your taste. A real leather sofa with its natural grain and texture blends effortlessly with its surroundings. It becomes both a focal point and a structural piece around which you can build the rest of your room.
When choosing a color for your leather sofa, pick a neutral shade for the most design flexibility. If you want the sofa to be the room’s centerpiece, select a color that complements but also stands out from the other decor elements.
A leather sofa can look timeless regardless of its style. It adds elegance to a room, and even modern and contemporary styles don’t become passé, something that often happens with fabric sofas.Don’t be intimidated by leather. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can find the perfect leather sofa to grace your home for years to come.
Leather Upholstery Buying Guide
You’ve heard the term ‘leather upholstery,’ but did you know that it can actually be divided into several different categories? Learn the differences between faux leather, top grain leather, leather seating and 100% leather and exactly what each type means.
What Is Faux Leather?
Also called synthetic leather or artificial leather, faux leather is a material that is manufactured to resemble, in feel and appearance, genuine leather. Faux leather materials (polyurethane and vinyl among them) are often more affordable and easier to clean than genuine leather.
What Is Top Grain Leather?
Top grain leather is one of the highest quality forms of leather available. In top grain leather, the only part of the hide that is removed is the outermost (and this is done only done to make the leather easier to work with). All other components of the natural hide remain untouched and intact.
What Is Leather Seating?
‘Leather seat’ is defined as a piece of furniture in which only the seats are made of 100% leather. All other areas of the furniture piece are made out of a material designed to resemble leather.
What Is 100% Leather?
In furniture, ‘100% leather’ means the item is made entirely from real leather (genuine animal rawhide).