Sofa shopping is confusing, I know. There are a thousand different choices one feels they have to make in their quest for the perfect sofa. But regardless of whether you desire a high or low back or fixed or loose cushions, as a designer, the question I get asked most often when someone is sofa shopping is, “Should I buy leather or fabric?”
Unfortunately, there is no right answer. Fabric and leather sofas both have their positive and negative characteristics.
However, we can list the benefits of each so you can better decide which sofa finish is right for you, your family, and your home.
If you are trying to decide between a fabric or leather sofa, may this guide help you make the best choice.
The Benefits of Fabric Sofas
- Comfort: Fabric sofas vary widely depending on the fabric and the support system of the sofa (i.e. the cushions and frame). However, fabric sofas tend to be much more comfortable than leather sofas for several reasons, but the main reason is that fabric tends to be an overall softer, warmer finish than leather. Just like your leather car seats, leather can often feel hot and sticky in the summer and cold in the winter, and leather sofas tend to feel firmer than fabric sofas.
- Care: The wear and tear of fabric sofas most often depend upon the grade of fabric. Of course, the better fabrics (just like the better leathers) will withstand wear better. Most fabric sofas are treated with a stain-resistant finish, so when spills do happen, they are easily cleaned with specialty products or a handheld steam cleaner. Fabric doesn’t get scratched like leather does, so it tends to withstand pet’s claws and kid’s homework binders better than leather.
- Color & Pattern Choices: Leather can come in a variety of colors, but fabrics are unlimited in their color and pattern choices, so you will have a better chance of matching existing decor or getting a color that you want.
- Budget: You can usually get more bang for your buck if you go with a fabric sofa. Quality fabric and framing are expensive, but the same sofa in leather will always cost more.
The Benefits of Leather Sofas
- Hypoallergenic: Allergy sufferers often do better with leather sofas because leather doesn’t harbor dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens as easily as the fabric does.
- Appearance: A leather sofa can lend a certain elegance to a room that is hard to duplicate in a fabric. Leather Chesterfield-style sofas are very traditional, but as a rule, leather sofas are typically more trendy than their fabric counterparts. If you like a contemporary or modern look, leather sofas tend to appear sleeker and high end in a space than fabric does.
- Care: No, this isn't a typo. I also listed care as an advantage to leather sofas, because really, the care involved in each sofa depends upon your household. The leather is very easy to clean - usually requiring a light dusting or rub down a couple of times a year - where fabric needs to be vacuumed and cleaned regularly. However, both leather and fabric are easy to clean and care for if your lifestyle is suited to the finish.