Fabric Furniture versus Leather Furniture

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So it’s time to buy new furniture, but what to make of the age-old question: fabric or leather upholstery? Ultimately, the choice depends on several key factors including budget, performance, upkeep, and personal preference.

Leather Furniture is Timeless

Although there are many price points with leather furniture, it is generally more expensive than fabric, often double the price or more. A leather sofa, however, will typically outlast a fabric one, by many years. Even so, do the collective advantages of leather offset the difference in cost?

Generally, it is much easier to clean leather furniture than fabric. If your furniture gets heavy use, or if you have children or pets, this factor quickly becomes an important consideration. The leather used in furniture construction typically is finished with a protective coating designed to endure over the long haul. A leather sofa is much less likely to absorb or hold spills, smells, and allergens than a fabric version. If your family spends a lot of time on the furniture, perhaps enjoying snacks or beverages, leather may be the best option.

The World of Fabric Upholstery

Some advantages of fabric on furniture include a certain comfort factor, especially in warmer months, as leather does not “breathe” but tends to hold body heat. Another advantage of fabric is the almost unlimited choice of colors, textures, and patterns. Leather can be dyed in many colors, but its versatility of pattern typically ends with solid.

But what if the choice to our pressing question was “neither of the above?” Well, then perhaps bonded leather furniture may be a good compromise to this long-standing dilemma. 

Is Bonded Leather the Best Option?

What is bonded leather furniture? It is essentially a leather/fabric hybrid, made from a process that combines leather scraps and fibers with a bonding agent to create a realistic looking (and feeling) leather facsimile. It is important not to be misled by the name however, as bonded leather upholstery is likely to contain less than 20% actual leather fibers. Nevertheless, it offers many of leather’s benefits (appearance, durability, cleanability) for a price that is much closer to fabric upholstery. Bonded leather is considered “greener” than leather and better for those who have allergies, as it does not go through the chemically intense tanning process that natural leather does.

One word of warning if you go in search of new leather furniture… watch out for “leather match” products (furniture that is covered with some actual leather with the balance in vinyl, often indistinguishable from one another) being sold as true leather. The best way to avoid this is to work with a reputable local home furnishings store, whose professional design consultants can help you identify the perfect products for you and your family.