Are you searching for the perfect sofa? When your old furniture is in need of replacing you might decide that it’s time for a change. Whether you’ve had a fabric or leather sofa in the past, you want to know which one is the best option when buying your new sofa.
We have an extensive range of sofas to choose from, and the following guide examines the pros and cons of both, to let you know whether a leather or fabric sofa is the right choice for you.
Leather Sofas: The Facts
There’s no denying that leather sofas are luxurious; they’re soft but durable and stylish and they look amazing, adding a touch of class to millions of homes and properties across the world.
But how do they fare when compared with fabric sofas? Let’s examine the evidence.
Leather Sofa Prices
Leather sofas tend to be more expensive than fabric ones, as a rule. That’s because leather production is a more intensive and costly process.
The price is determined by the grade of the leather, referring to the thickness of the material, whether the grain is natural or artificial, and the type of dyeing process used. If you’re going to buy a leather sofa, it’s always worth investing in the best you can afford – cheaper leather furniture is rarely worth the price and is likely to deteriorate rapidly.
All leather goods, including sofas, that are made from real leather should have a label stating this fact. Ideally, they should also advise you of the grain.
The grain refers to the four basic layers that make up cowhide:
- Full grain leather – the layers containing the skin and the grain, just beneath the outer skin. Aniline (and semi-aniline) leather falls into this category, referring to the dye that’s used. This is the best quality and therefore the most expensive type. However, it is the most natural and therefore doesn’t have a protective coating, making it susceptible to stains and damage.
- Top grain leather – taken from anywhere between the top of the grain (but not the outer skin) and halfway down through the corium layer (the section of skin that connects collagen and fat to the cow’s muscles).
- Split (Corrected) grain leather – taken from the grain/corium junction or purely from the corium layer.
- Genuine leather – anywhere from the corium layer, down to the lowest part where it connects with the flesh.
A fifth type of grain is used, known as bonded leather, and this is the cheapest, made from scraps from the lowest part of the corium layer. These are pulped together and bonded with glue (hence the name!) before being applied to a fabric backing.
Learning this could help you to avoid paying for sub-standard leather sofas, as bonded leather is often sprayed to look like top-grain or full-grain leather. The trouble is that it will soon flake or peel, revealing its true nature.
When buying a leather sofa, always ensure that the seller knows that you are aware of the facts! Even some so-called high-quality leather sofas can actually be hiding the truth that they are made from inferior materials such as bonded leather.
While leather is generally a tougher and more durable material, it is often more prone to being scratched and scuffed. For some people, this is fine as it adds character. For others, however, it ruins the look of the piece.
Repair kits are available, as are specialist leather dyes and protection creams, but this means extra expense and hassle for you. Full-grain and top-grain leather sofas are especially vulnerable, as are suede and nubuck leather. These need to be treated with care!
In the worst case, leather sofas can be torn or will eventually crack if left in direct sunlight for long periods. Again, it’s not impossible to fix this, but it involves expense and effort.
Few pieces of furniture can match the classic leather Chesterfield sofa. And most leather couches look stunning, whether traditional or contemporary, with a huge range of styles to suit all interior designs.
Leather ages very well, making a great focal point in any room.
While they can offer plenty of comfort, leather sofas tend to feel hot and sticky on summer days, and can feel cold during the winter. And although the material can soften with age, it is still tougher than fabric and feels firm and supportive.
On the whole, real leather upholstery is easier to keep clean than its fabric counterparts. Although there are plenty of cleaning solutions to choose from, you can usually get away with wiping it down with a damp cloth once in a while.
Severe staining can cause problems, but if it’s not possible to remove the stain completely you can always recolour the sofa. High-end leather, suede and nubuck may need professional cleaning to avoid permanent damage.
A good-quality leather sofa will generally last a lot longer than a cotton fabric sofa. The natural material will soften with time and take on a beautiful patina.
Pigmented leather sofas are thought to be the hardest and most durable option, with a suggested lifespan of around 20 years. However, with the right care and attention, they are likely to last much longer!
Genuine leather is a natural material that is extremely unlikely to trigger allergies or harbour allergens that make life miserable for millions of allergy sufferers. Most allergies are caused by proteins that enter our bodies (through the nose, eyes and mouth) that our immune systems identify as being harmful. This sets off a reaction that results in the symptoms that cause so much misery.
The biggest contributors are pet hair, pet dander (a bit like dandruff) and dust mites, but leather sofas don’t harbour these or any other allergens, making them a great choice for allergy sufferers.
One aspect regarding leather and fabric sofas that we can’t ignore is the source of the materials used. There’s no escaping the fact that leather comes from cows, and that can be a problem for a growing number of people in society; more people are adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and leather furniture isn’t an option.
In this case, faux leather sofas are handy as they look like the real thing and offer similar benefits, but they are made entirely from synthetic materials.
Now we’ve covered most of the pros and cons of leather sofas, let’s move on to check out fabric sofas.
Fabric Sofas: The Facts
You are far more likely to see a fabric couch or sofa in people’s homes, as there’s a wider range of styles and prices. But in our quest to discover the pros and cons of fabric and leather sofas, we need to look at the details…
Fabric Sofa Prices
Fabric sofas tend to be more affordable than leather or other types of sofas, making them an excellent option for those on a budget. Even so, a high-quality fabric sofa might cost about the same as a leather one, depending on where you choose to shop.
On the whole, though, fabric furniture is a much more budget-friendly option.
Fabric sofas are (usually) soft and comfortable to sit on, making them perfect for lounging and relaxation. Some of this will come down to the quality of each item and how much you are prepared to pay for your living room furniture.
One positive is that the surface isn’t affected by temperature; fabric sofas are more breathable than leather, which means they don’t get as hot in the summer and are more comfortable to sit on for long periods. So, you won’t stick to your fabric sofa on hot days, nor will it feel icy cold in winter like you would with a leather couch!
Most fabric sofas are built to withstand wear and tear, but there is a limit to their endurance. High-quality fabrics are more resistant to the trials of daily use, but this comes at a higher price.
Mid-range fabric sofas tend to show wear and tear more quickly than leather or synthetic materials, especially if they are not maintained properly. On average, a typical fabric sofa will last between seven and fifteen years. Often, it’s not the sofa material that gives up, but the foam cushions inside.
Some fabrics are prone to pilling, which can make the sofa look shabby and old before its time. This is when tiny balls of fabric appear on the surface, usually in blended fabrics as the fibres tangle together.
Finally, fabric sofas can fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight, which can make them look worn and dated.
Fabric sofas are available in a wide range of colours, patterns, and textures, allowing you to choose one that suits your style and decor. In terms of variety, fabric upholstery beats leather furniture by a long way.
If you prefer a natural product, many furniture manufacturers use cotton, linen, wool and even silk. However, these are often combined with synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon for extra durability.
These blends allow for a huge variety of designs and styles, which makes fabric sofas a popular choice.
Most fabric sofas can be cleaned fairly easily with a vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth, making them a low-maintenance option. Some sofas have removable covers that can be put in the washing machine, which is very convenient.
Natural fabric sofas are more susceptible to stains and spills than leather or synthetic materials, and some fabrics are harder to clean than others. Heavy staining can be an issue for sofa material that’s in daily use, especially if kids are involved. This is why many parents choose leather because of its stain-resistant qualities!
Regular cleaning will keep your fabric sofa looking clean and fresh, so try to make it part of your cleaning schedule.
Some people may be allergic to certain types of fabric or dyes used in fabric sofas, which can cause skin irritation or respiratory problems.
In addition, the fabric can trap dust mites, pet hair and pet dander. It’s not these that cause the allergic reaction themselves, it’s the proteins in dust mite droppings and in the natural oils in hair and dander. Either way, it’s bad news for allergy sufferers!
You can reduce the effects by vacuuming your fabric sofa regularly (and by keeping pets off the furniture!) but it will always be a risk.
Leather Vs Fabric – The Verdict
So, should you get a leather or fabric sofa? Which one is best?
Well, it’s essentially going to come down to personal preferences!
We’ve explored the pros and cons of both, so let’s have a quick recap of what we discovered:
- Visual appeal
- Generally easier to clean
- Lasts longer
- Comfortable but can be a problem in hot or cold conditions
- Typically more expensive
- A bigger choice of colour, texture and style
- Usually much cheaper
- More difficult to clean
- Many fabrics aren’t allergy-friendly
- Generally very comfortable
- A shorter lifespan than leather sofas
In the end, the final decision is yours in the battle of leather Vs fabric! Whatever you decide, whether your new sofa is leather or fabric, it’s a good idea to go as high as your budget will allow. Invest in products to help you keep them looking great, like stain-resistant coatings and protective conditioners for leather.
Fabric sofas can be kept in good condition through regular vacuuming and cleaning, and it’s wise to keep them out of strong sunlight if possible.
For most people, the expense will be the biggest factor. If you can afford a leather sofa and you are willing to make the effort to give it the care it needs, then your reward will be a seriously stylish piece of furniture that you’ll treasure for years.
Alternatively, a good-quality fabric sofa will serve you well, and you’re more likely to find a design that will fit your personal style without straining your budget too far.
Leather Sofa Vs Fabric Sofa – Which Is Better? is courtesy of Homes Direct 365 Shabby Chic