leather upholstery guide

Leather upholstery is a popular choice for our sofas, chairs, corner sofas, sofa beds, and footstools. However, with so many grains, coatings, and textures to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your sofa.

The first thing to think about is your home's overall design and how important it is to choose a sofa that matches it; while ageless, a huge chesterfield will seem completely out of place in a minimalist home. Other lifestyle considerations include if you have children or pets, where you reside, and whether you're wanting to make a fashion statement or invest in a quality sofa.

Here are a few things you need to know before buying leather upholstery:


What is leather?

Real leather is a natural substance that is both warm and durable, with distinct features that distinguish each hide. Scratches, growth marks, sections of different fiber density, and hair pore structure are all signs of leather's natural origin. These properties have no negative impact on the leather's wearability.

Many stores divide leather into grades. Customers may be confused as a result of this, as they are led to believe that the more expensive, or higher-grade leathers are of higher quality. This isn't always the case, as different varieties of leather can offer distinct advantages.

leather upholstery guide

Not all grades of leather and faux leather are created equal. There are a few important distinctions to consider:


  • - Full Grain Leather shows the natural grain of the leather and is the highest grade for office furniture.
  • - Top Grain Leather is the most common and remains thinner and more flexible than full-grain leather.
  • - Split Leather is made from the remainder of the hide once the top grain is removed.
  • - Bonded Leather utilizes leftover leather scraps to create a new product over a layer of faux leather.
  • - Polyurethane is a synthetic product that can be made to look very similar to actual leather.
  • - Vinyl is another synthetic material that is easy to clean and very low-cost.
  • - Faux Leather typically refers to polyurethane, vinyl, or other man-made materials.
  • - Pure-aniline or full-aniline leathers show the natural surface of the leather, imperfections and all.
  • - Semi-aniline or aniline plus pigments have a protective topcoat.
  • - Nubuck leather is made by buffing or sanding aniline leather. The result is leather that has a soft, velvety feel and suede-like appearance.


Look for something which goes with your style

leather upholstery guide

Leather can be both classic and trendy when used in a living room setting. Leather sofas provide depth and elegance to a variety of home styles; thus, aesthetics should be the first consideration when choosing a sofa. Tailored and tufted look great in a traditional setting, while streamlined with square arms and cleaner lines looks great in a modern setting. Leather provides a layer of rich richness to any room.



Leather upholstery is significantly more durable than linen or velvet furniture. Leather sofas are popular among families and busy households because of their low maintenance and resistance to dirt and discoloration. A leather sofa is also suitable for high-traffic places such as hotels and offices, with daily dusting with a soft, dry cloth and occasional quick cleaning with leather wipes sufficing.


Ages like a fine wine

leather upholstery guide

Because leather is a natural substance with distinct features, it will soften and patina over time, adding to the allure of living with it. Recognize that a lovely, natural leather sofa will not stay like new forever; appreciate the charm and allow it to age gracefully.


Features & Benefits

leather upholstery guide

Leather has properties that make it superior to other upholstery materials. It outlasts fabric covering, has an exceptionally long, useful life, and ages well. Leather will not tear and is resistant to heat and sun damage. It breathes, like our skin, assuming body temperature rapidly and instantaneously becomes comfortable. Also, modern leather does not crack or peel, it rather stretches and retains its shape without sagging.


Maintenance of leather

While leather seems easy to take care of because it can be wiped clean, it has other traits that mean it requires more maintenance than you might expect. For example, UV rays are not friendly to leather — they can cause it to dry out and possibly crack. While this can be prevented with regular conditioning and the application of a UV protectant (think sunscreen for your sofa), it’s an extra step that should be taken into consideration.


How to clean leather furniture

Another issue with leather is that it can get scratched. Some leathers scratch more easily than others, so it’s important to test a store swatch with your fingernail. You may be able to fix smaller scratches with a leather kit, but larger marks will require a professional. The good news is that leather repair companies can do a great job of fixing leather, so if you get a big scratch, all is not lost.