THE ETERNAL SHOWDOWN: LEATHER SOFA VS. FABRIC
Picking a sofa material is a bit like choosing a breed of dog. Considerations include your lifestyle, your budget, and the time invested into this couch. A fabric vs. a leather sofa will be determined by how you live now, and how your life is going to change over the next few years. While you can’t know everything about the future, you can prepare yourself by educating yourself… about your optimal sofa-materials choice.
First things first: the higher the quality of your materials, the longer they will last. It is so tempting to dive in after something cheap and trendy, but without the foundation of great materials, you’re looking at a sunk cost (editor’s note: I’ve bought $40 sunglasses off Instagram… they did not live up to the photos). Regardless of a fabric vs. leather sofa, look for durable materials.
For fabric: linen, cotton, and wool are great options. When mixed with some synthetics, these fabrics offer a one-two punch of being breathable and easier to clean. Maintaining your couch is as easy as vacuuming the fabric regularly. By lifting excess debris from the weave, you prolong the even coloring of your fabric sofa. Fabric couches can pill and wear thin with high use, but choosing a high-quality model can mitigate that risk. Look for couches with a Martindale rub-test of 25,000 rubs or more (humblebrag: Greyhammer sofas are typically Martindale tested to withstand up to 100,000 rubs.
For leather: the type of leather determines the long-term look of your couch. Greyhammer deals in a number of different types of leather. Each treatment lends a particular “finish” and wear to the leather and that treatment dictates how the leather needs to be treated once in couch-form. While leather doesn’t pill like a fabric sofa does, the quality dictates how a leather will wear long term. Cheaper or imitation leathers are likely to crack or fade — even with excellent care. To mitigate the risk of this happening, look for leathers that are marked full-grain, aniline, or semi-aniline. Avoid “Faux leather, Rebond leather” which is typically just layers of cheap leather bonded together with glue.
Spills are the inevitable. You’re enjoying a nice pasta bolognese when all the sudden your sofa is too. Treating stains on fabric vs. leather sofas have different procedural steps, but both start the same way: soak it up. Regardless of your spill-type, blotting the spill with a soft cloth is the first step towards rehabbing your sofa.
Once you’ve blotted, the divergence begins. For fabric, you’ll need to check the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on your sofa’s fabric makeup and post-manufacturing treatment, certain cleaning methods will work better than others. Some might even further stain or discolor your couch. As with anything, quality determines longevity.
Leather is slightly more forgiving. Because leather is considerably less porous than open-weave fabrics, gently mopping the spill goes a long way towards treating it. Taking good pre-emptive care of your leather will also go a long way towards ease of treating spills. When your leather is buffed, spills are less likely to get soaked into the pores. Additionally, different kinds of leather will take on different patinas over time.
Arguably, the most important quality in a sofa. The fabric vs. leather sofa question doesn’t determine whether a sofa is sinkable, lounge-worthy, or for straight-sitters only. The comfort factor here is more subjective, and therefore a little easier: which one feels better on your body? Boom. That’s what wins this category. Comfort tends to be tied to appearance as well. No matter how cushy your couch, if you don’t like the style you’re not going to feel good on it.
Your sofa will be a long-term companion that needs to reflect your changing style and manage your relaxation needs. Though choosing a fabric vs. a leather sofa (or vice versa) may seem an aesthetic choice, it will influence the longevity of a piece in your home. Good thing we have so much choice on hand.