Design Dilemma: Choosing A Leather Sofa
Buying a couch is already daunting enough, but when that couch is leather, things get even scarier. Leather is so expensive. Is it worth the expense? Will leather really be more durable and practical than fabric? Will it be comfortable or cold to the touch in winter and hot and sweaty during the summer? Following, a few of your questions, answered:
Is leather practical?
Yes and no. It’s true that leather can wipe clean with a damp sponge, thus eliminating the costly upholstery cleaning bills that are just part of life with a fabric sofa. On the other hand, leather can easily scratch, depending on the quality of the leather. (Some of the highest quality leathers are actually more vulnerable to scratching than those that have been treated.) Before purchasing a leather couch, evaluate your needs and choose your leather accordingly. If you have pets or children, choose a coated leather that is resistant to scratches. It may not feel as soft as uncoated leather, but it will likely stand up to a beating. And if you’re looking for that aged and distressed look that comes with time, purchase a high-quality, uncoated leather and rest assured that your leather couch will only look better with time.
What kind of leather choices do you have?
Most leather couches will come in a variety of grades. Aniline is the most natural form of leather with a soft, supple feel that will retain all the natural characteristics of the hide. Just the best hides are used and the leather receivesÂ no chemical treatment or pigmented finish. Semi-aniline leather is a soft top grain leather combining the supple feel ofÂ untreated hide while providing some stain protection through a light surface coating. Semi-aniline leather is dyed in a dyebath to acheive an even coloration and is finished with a thin layer that keeps the hide feeling soft. Coated leather or “corrected leather” has been sanded, treated and embossed to correct blemishes and often has a high-gloss finish resulting from the application of a film of colored polyurethane. This coating makes the leather more resistant to spills. “Corrected” leather is usually less expensive than uncorrected leather because hides must not necessarily be of the highest quality for a uniform, beautiful look.
How is leather maintained?
Some people are under the impression that leather requires no maintenance whatsoever. That’s not true. In fact, most leathers benefit from regular treatments with leather conditoners to keep the leather from drying out. Before applying a leather conditioner it’s probably not bad to swab down a couch with a gentle barely damp sponge.Â Commercial leather cleaners also exist for the same job. Avoid oil soaps that can stain and darken leather and be aware that dishwashing soaps can change the color of the leather. When you purchase your couch, be sure to inquire about recommended cleaners for the type of leather you’re buying.
Is leather cold… or too hot?
Leather will definitely feel colder than fabric in a cold room, and is likely to feel hotter when the temperatures rise. Usually, however, those temperature adjustments last just a minute or two and the leather will warm to your body temperature, or feel cool even on a hot day. Vinyl and faux leathers, however, are a whole different story. Be sure to keep your leather couch out of direct sunlight, which can lead to cracking. Also, avoid placing leather couches near extreme sources of heat or cold like radiators or air-conditioners.
What color choices are most practical?
If your home is filled with children and pets, or if your couch will get heavy use, you’re probably better off sticking with darker colors. A cream or white leather couch will show dirt with time and can be vulnerable to stains. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily have to go with dark brown or black to gain a measure of camouflauge from dirt. Any color beyond stark white or cream — particularly tans, olive greens and taupes — will provide more mileage as far as dirt and stains go.
Can leather be repaired?
Yes, rips and tears can be repaired, but it doesn’t come cheaply. You can try it on your own with a leather repair kit but it’s not easy to do well unless you have lots and lots of practice. Clear liquid compounds on the market can be used to repair small rips and scratches. These sorts of repairs are not lasting, however, and the rip will open again in time. Larger repairs are best handled by a professional. Photograph the rip and send the photo to a leather repair professional for an estimate of repair costs.
What are the best style options?
Because a high-quality leather sofa is a durable choice that may last you years — or a lifetime — you’re better off choosing classic, elegant shapes that will endure for the ages. Beware of ultra-trendy two-toned models or shapeless couches that will lose even more shape with time.