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Top Tips for Buying Leather Furniture: What to Look for and What to Avoid

You’ve searched high and low for leather furniture to complete your vision for your home. After an exhaustive search, you finally decided that your new sofa or chair should be leather. 

But, you might be unsure where to find these pieces or how to tell what is quality leather furniture and what isn’t. Our comprehensive guide will take you through the various considerations you’ll face to discover the perfect piece.

What are the Benefits of Leather Furniture?

If you’re just starting to dive into the world of furniture in the leather family, you’re likely brimming with questions. Switching from a natural or synthetic fabric might even make you nervous. 

Understanding the benefits of buying leather furniture will get you one step closer to the room you’ve been planning.

Durability 

Leather is a top choice when choosing the material for your furniture because it can last a long time. The better quality of the leather, the longer it will hold up to wear and tear. So, decades down the line, you’ll still have a great piece of furniture with a ton of character.

Leather furniture is also hypoallergenic and spill-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the vacuuming and cleaning regimen as you do with less sturdy fabrics. This means it’s easier to clean, even though it may still be susceptible to oils from the skin or some staining since the material is porous. 

Of course, for it to last as long as it should, you’ll need to maintain the leather. This can be as easy as a wipe-down several times a year. Additionally, it’s essential to use a leather conditioner to maintain the beauty of your leather pieces.

Remember that the higher-quality leather you use, the longer it will last and the better it will hold up. Most leather will gain a patina over the years, so you’ll see wrinkles and some fading, but the outer material can retain its shape longer than some fabric furniture options. 

You’ll have nothing to fear if you keep up with regular care and choose something that’s excellent quality.

Comfort

While leather furniture isn’t always the first thing you associate with comfort in the home, these pieces tend to get better with age. 

You might have had a natural fabric or synthetic material sofa and noticed the cushions lose shape over time. This is partially due to the stretch that occurs naturally with these fabrics. With leather upholstery, the material relaxes to provide a beautiful aged appearance.

Many people think leather is cold. It’s worth noting that leather furniture is excellent at regulating temperature, so you won’t overheat or need to warm up during colder months. Leather takes on the natural body temperature of it’s users. Overall, quality leather furniture gets more comfortable as time goes on while maintaining its timeless style.

Leather Sofa

Understanding Leather Quality

Before you choose your furniture and design your new space, you should understand a few things about leather. Leather types, grades, and characteristics impact the style, durability, and comfort you keep in mind while considering each piece of furniture. 

We’ve assembled some of the most important things to be aware of while you make the all-important decisions for your home’s furniture.

What are the 3 Grades of Leather?

Several leather types are used in furniture and other leather goods, but you’ll find four leather grades typically. 

These terms for leather represent the quality of the material. From best to lowest quality, these are:

Full grain leather

This is generally considered the top of the pack of leather grades. It is also defined as genuine leather.  Put simply, full-grain leather is when the hair is taken off the hide and immediately sent to be tanned. This type of leather is also more robust and durable because it’s thicker. Because this is the top layer of a hide it will show scarring, natural markings and stretch marks, all inherent characteristics for this leather type.

Top grain leather

The second highest grade of leather, this type removes the outer layer of animal hides. When you look at this type of leather, you’ll see it’s slightly thinner, so manufacturers can work with it better. It’s called top grain because the top layer’s surface is sanded away, meaning it can be made more uniform.

Bonded and Bi-cast Leathers 

These two types of leathers are generally lower quality and less expensive. Bonded leather is  considered “reconstituted leather” because it combines natural and faux leather into one material. Generally, bonded leather only has up to 20% genuine leather in its makeup, so even though some companies will market this product as authentic leather, it is not. 

Bi-cast leather is a split leather backing combined with a layer of vinyl or polyurethane. It is the least durable of leathers and is susceptible to peeling. 

Leather Finishes 

Understanding leather types is the first step to grasping what it means when looking for leather furniture. It’s also worthwhile to understand the finishes of leather used for furniture. 

It probably won’t surprise you that 65-70% of the world’s leather comes from different types of cows—generally, cowhide leather is the predominant type for furniture and other home goods. 

Within the furniture world, there is further delineation about the type of finish used for your leather sofas and chairs. Three major finishes  are aniline, semi-aniline, and pigmented or protected leather.

Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is well regarded because it is the most natural-looking and incredibly soft. Blemishes like scars, stretch marks, or pores are not removed during tanning, making each piece unique. If you appreciate the authentic character of an imperfect hide, this type of leather is for you.

Semi-Aniline Leather

Leather that is considered semi-aniline is coated with a lightly pigmented treatment. The coating makes the leather better at resisting dirt and stains. So, this is the best choice if you’re looking for a unique piece that can hold up well in high-traffic areas. 

Protected Leather

This leather is the toughest of the types mentioned here. It is also the most frequently used because of its polymer treatment. That also makes it the easiest to maintain or clean, though it doesn’t have unique patterns and tends to make the leather look less natural. 

Characteristics of Leather

We’ve talked a bit about the different aspects that make leather an excellent choice for your home. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the leather characteristics we believe are the most important.

Strength

Full and top-grain leathers are known explicitly for how dense and compact they are. This means that they resist cracking and age gracefully in your home. It helps that these two leather grades also withstand abrasiveness and scratches, so your furniture will have some toughness if you have pets or kids. 

Breathability

Quality leather is breathable, allowing water vapour and air to pass through easily. It easily adapts to your body temperature, so it absorbs and releases humidity and sweat. Ultimately, this ensures your upholstery remains comfortable, and you can relax.

Water Resistant

Spills and liquids don’t have to ruin your furniture. With high quality, protected leather, you can avoid the staining and mildew that can happen with fabric upholstery. You can easily clean the spills when accidents happen and not risk your room's aesthetic.

Variation

With high-quality leather, you will run into a variety of colours, scarring, and other grain variations that many prize for their uniqueness. This shows how natural the leather is and is seen as a sign of quality because you’ve invested in a one-of-a-kind piece that can last for a long time.

Factors to Consider When Buying Leather Furniture

There are a ton of things to keep in mind when you’re choosing what furniture you want in your home. Price, size, and colours can be huge as you make final decisions about the pieces you want to use at home. 

Furniture Style

When you pick out furniture, you want styles that will last a long time and fit your personality and decor. There’s no point in investing in a luxury piece you’ll get rid of quickly. 

Plus, if you don’t like the style of your furniture, you’re less likely to get comfortable or think the room looks good. If the space you’re curating is used regularly, you don’t want pieces you cringe at when entering the room.

Luckily, most leather pieces are available in a variety of styles. So whether you’re interested in traditional, mid-century modern, or transitional furniture, there’s an option.

Size of Room and Piece

A top consideration for your next leather furniture purchase should be the size of the piece your choose and the room you put it in. This is especially important in rooms with a specific shape or furniture you don’t plan to remove. 

For example, consider one of our leather recliners to maximize comfort and save space if you have a smaller room. On the other hand, if you’re decorating a new home theatre, you might choose our leather sectional that’s fully customized for these spaces in your home. 

Leather Colours

Leather furniture comes in an assortment of colours, so you should be able to find the shade that matches your unique vision. It’s important to remember what you need from your furniture before choosing a colour.

Will your piece go into a room that already has a colour scheme? Are you redesigning your space based on the piece you choose? Considering these questions is important, or you risk buying something that doesn’t suit the room or style you’re going for. 

Leather vs Fabric vs Synthetic Materials: Pros and Cons

The material is one of the first things people consider when choosing furniture. This could be leather, natural fabrics, or synthetic polyester and vinyl. To make a completely informed decision, you should know what’s good and bad about these materials.

Leather

A top-quality choice for furniture, leather is generally associated with elegance and luxury.

Pros

Several pros are associated with leather furniture; we’ve covered some above. Natural leather is exceptionally durable, lasting ten or more years when given proper care. Top and full-grain leathers are also incredibly soft and breathable, making furniture more comfortable. 

Another pro of leather furniture is its hypoallergenic nature. It repels animal dander, dust, and other allergens exceptionally well. Great leather pieces are also easy to clean, and many spills can be wiped away quickly.

If appearance is top of mind, leather pieces are considered more aesthetically pleasing than other fabrics. Furniture made with leather is sleek and develops a patina over time, so it just gets better with age. If you’re looking for a long-lasting piece that you can invest in, quality leather could be the right choice for your living spaces.

Cons

While leather has a lot of positives, there are a few cons to this type of furniture. An excellent leather piece will be more expensive upfront than many fabric or synthetic options. This might not bother you if you intend to keep your furniture for a long time.

It’s also worth noting that leather isn’t a low-maintenance option. Any quality piece of leather furniture needs love and care to ensure it continues to look its best. Make it a priority to regularly condition your leather furniture, monitor it for signs of wear, and wipe it down. 

Sunlight is also a major factor to consider, as the colour of leather can fade if it regularly exposed to direct sunlight.  

If you’re environmentally conscious, you might shy away from leather furniture because tanning often releases toxic chemicals. The upswing of quality leather is that there are few environmental issues at the end of your furniture’s life, and since they last so long, there’s less waste. 

Fabric

Natural fabrics like linen, cotton, or wool can make great additions to your home’s furniture, though there are some pros and cons. 

Pros

Fabric furniture can be a great alternative if you have high-traffic areas with pets and kids. There are so many performance fabrics on the market now, which means that the fabric fibers themselves have been treated with stain resistant protection. If you regularly need to wash your cushion covers, fabric might be a clear front runner because it can be washed and returned to a cushion. You cannot care for leather furniture this way.

Generally, fabric furniture will cost less than leather so you can find excellent quality for a lower bottom line. This can be great if you know your furniture will endure a lot of wear and tear.

Regarding tears, fabric furniture is generally more resistant to scratching, so it’s an excellent option for families with younger children and pets.

Another thing to consider is the colour variety. There are countless shades, weaves and patterns found in textiles. So there are an abundance of fabric options to choose from. 

Cons

Some fabric furniture tends to be less durable than other types because of their looser weave construction. That means you could potentially risk a pull or snag in your fabric.

Fabric sofas and chairs can also be less resistant to staining if not treated with a fabric protector. Spills could sink into these pieces and be very difficult to clean fully. 

Synthetic Materials

Synthetic fabrics are artificial materials like microfiber, acrylic, and polyester used in furniture. 

Pros

Synthetic fibres are fantastic at resisting wrinkles and fading. For this reason, they are often combined with natural fibres, so you get the best of both worlds. 

If you’re on a tight budget, synthetic fabrics are generally less expensive than leather. So you can save some money if you go with synthetic fibres.

Another thing to bear in mind is that many synthetic fabrics are easier to clean or are resistant to specific types of dirt and staining. This can help in areas of the home used heavily by many people.

Cons

Many synthetic fabrics are prone to pilling, abrasions, and other issues. So they don’t always last long and look worn or unappealing more quickly than other fabrics. Other synthetics hold onto oils, and so become difficult to clean, though not all of these fabrics have this problem.

Additionally, synthetics are less breathable and retain warm or cold temperatures differently than natural fabric. When you combine that with the fact that many synthetic materials are less pleasant to the touch, the comfort factor drops lower than the previously mentioned upholstery. 

The lack of staying power with synthetics makes them rank lower than other fabrics because you spend more in the long run, and the furniture doesn’t look as good.

How to Get the Best Value for Your Budget?

With leather furniture, you know you’re investing in a piece for the long haul. That’s why it’s essential to consider your budget, the brand, and other factors when choosing the perfect piece of leather furniture.

Price Range

Deciding how much you want to spend on furniture can set you up for success before you even start shopping. You establish the range that works for you and can then browse for a leather piece that fits there. 

After establishing a price range, you can even research which brands fit into that range and how their aesthetics match your tastes. Then you’ll know you’re Investing in a quality piece that can ensure your furniture lasts a lifetime and keep the cost of ownership low.

You’ll find financing options available so that you can pay over time. This makes it even more accessible to find the perfect piece for your space without sacrificing luxury quality.

Research Brands

Understanding a brand is essential because it helps you choose a piece without sacrificing quality. By researching the brand you’d like to buy, you learn more about how and where they make their furniture, so you can make sure their values align with yours.

If you don’t have much time to dedicate to researching quality furniture, Domaine can help. We handpick all our brands to ensure top-of-the-line quality and craftsmanship in our collection.

Consider Furniture Warranties

When you purchase a new piece of furniture, you want it to last as long as possible. That’s why warranties can be a lifesaver.

Generally, a furniture warranty will guarantee that if your furniture is damaged while you own it, it can be replaced or repaired. These aren’t always blanket warranties, so you should understand the terms before purchasing if the warranty is limited.

Invest in Quality Leather Furniture with Domaine Furnishing

Leather furniture is a great way to elevate your living spaces and create a more luxurious feel.

Our team of interior designers understands that you’re looking for a long-term, quality piece of furniture to add to your space. We’re passionate about matching you with piece that fits your budget and style goals.

Ready to find the perfect piece to add to your living room or bedroom? Connect with us today.

Leather Furniture FAQs

We’ve answered some of the top questions about leather furniture below. 

Is 100% leather the same as genuine leather?

There are two types of leather. Genuine leather is a catch-all, meaning it was made with natural leather but usually not top-grade. 100% leather is generally a higher quality leather with a better grade. 

What designers use real leather?

Many furniture brands that pride themselves on quality use real leather. It’s best to check an individual designer’s site to understand their leather practices better. Our vendors at Domaine use top-grade leather for their furniture, so you know you’re getting the best.

Are leather sofas outdated?

Leather sofas are timeless. Their comfort, quality, and longevity make them a solid pick for someone looking to update and upgrade their space to a more sleek and modern look. 

What type of leather furniture is the most durable? 

No one piece of furniture’s the most durable, but a piece made with full or top-grain leather will be the best for a scratch, tear, and stain-resistant piece. Beyond that, another factor for durability is how tough you are on furniture, so you should also be aware of the kind of base that comes with a leather furniture purchase.

Is thicker leather on a sofa better?

Yes, thicker leather implies a better quality and has the staying power needed to hold up as a durable couch option. A thinner leather is usually missing the outer part of the hide and has been treated more, so it’s less desirable from a quality standpoint. 

Which country has the best quality leather? 

Often, Italy is associated with very high-quality leather furniture. They have specialized processes using a vegetable tanning procedure that yields high results. That doesn’t mean all leather produced in Italy is of the best quality. The term isn’t patented. It simply refers to the geographical location where the leather was made. Still, Italy's leather industry is well-regulated, ensuring a standard for many products. 

The United States is also considered a top contender for best leather quality. Many of the vendors we partner with are exclusively American-made, and their quality is unmatched because of the resources used when making the leather. 

Is there formaldehyde in leather furniture?

Some leather furniture manufacturers have some formaldehyde in their leathers. This is because the chemical has syntans that tanners use to increase leather performance. Most people will never experience an adverse reaction because minimal formaldehyde is left after a quality piece reaches your home.

How much does a couch cost in Canada?

The price of a well-made couch will vary depending on the materials used and the brand. Lower-quality sofas can start around $500. For a better quality couch, it could be a few thousand dollars. But choosing a better quality piece means that you get more life from your couch and can keep it around for much longer, so in the long run, you spend less and get to enjoy your furniture more.

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