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Leather vs Fabric Sofas – Which is right for me?

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Samuel Hurley
Leather vs Fabric Sofas – Which is right for me?

It’s where you’ll unwind after a stressful day, or snuggle up with the kids on a weekend. 

It’s where friends will gather to gossip and laugh, or celebrate those special occasions. 

It’s where you’ll sit and cry at TV ads, soppy films and emotional books –  - only to deny it ever happened when asked (we get it, it’s just poorly-time allergies…)! 

Yep, the sofa is your space to relax, socialize and get cosy. Which is why deciding on the material of your sofa is so important. 

You wouldn’t want a car made of paper, or a raincoat made of silk. And you wouldn’t want a sofa in a material that didn’t suit your lifestyle. 

When investing in a sofa, you want to make sure you’ve considered practicalities, comfort and style without going over budget. 

Sofas are typically upholstered with fabric or leather, but if you’re struggling to choose between the two, we’re here to help. We’re breaking down the differences, and advantages of fabric and leather sofas, so you can make the right decision for your home and your family.

The difference between leather and fabric sofas

There are endless differences between leather and fabric sofas. 

Leather sofas, for example, are naturally stain-resistant and great for anyone who suffers from allergies to dust or fur. They can easily be wiped down if something does spill, and they can look as good as new for years. 

On the other hand, there’s a lot more creativity to be had with fabric sofas. There are so many fabric types to choose from, all available in a library of colours and patterns. 

If you’re looking to create a bold statement with your sofa, while the rest of the room is plain and neutral, a bright and boisterous floral pattern can be added. Even simply choosing a not-so-neutral block coloured plush velvet, can do wonders for really brightening up your space. 

With leather sofas, there tends to be fewer colours and patterns available. They can sometimes have a more clinical, or occasional use feel too, as opposed to the inviting softness of their fabric counterparts. 

However,  to really understand which sofa is right for your lifestyle, there are 6 major criteria to consider. Each is broken down below to help you get a real understanding of these two styles. 

1. Durability

The first thing to consider is durability: how long should a sofa last? 

You want to make sure that your sofa can stand the tests of time, while also enduring day-to-day usage. Because nobody wants to have to replace their sofa every year. 

When choosing whether fabric or leather sofas are best, it’s really about which will look good as new for the longest? 

In general, leather is more durable than fabric. It’s a thick, resistant material that –  - when properly maintained –  - can last decades. Even when the leather starts to crease or crack, this can often add character to the furniture, rather than make it look old and overused. 

Fabric sofas on the other hand, usually require an additional stain-resistance to be added. Otherwise, you may find colours fade over time and enhance any staining that’s occurred. What’s more, linen fabric sofas can incur bobbling through constant use. This bobbling can usually be shaved or cut off, but when left, it can make the sofa look a little worse for wear.

2. Cleaning

While you might not think to clean your sofa in the same way you would a coffee table or carpet, upkeep is definitely something you need to consider when investing in a sofa. 

By nature, leather can be wiped down pretty easily. Stains can’t penetrate the material, meaning your sofa will look as good as new for longer. However, with our stain-resistant and easy-clean sofa fabrics guide, you can also find the perfect linen or velvet sofa that’s just as repellent to staining. 

Fabric sofas may require more thorough cleaning in comparison to wipeable leather. Steam cleaners can help to clean deep into the fibres to ensure your sofa looks bright and feels fresh for as long as possible.  

If you have allergies, dust, pet fur and other triggers can lurk in the weave of fabric sofas, so it is a good idea to regularly vacuum or brush materials like velvet and linen.

You can also check out this post for how to clean and remove stains from a fabric or leather sofa at home.

3. Comfort

Of course, stuffing, framework and springs all factor into the comfort of a sofa, but the material also plays an integral part. 

Sumptuous fabrics are the perfect foundation for a relaxing evening at home, and generally feel warmer and cosier than leather. 

Leather can often feel too cold and uncomfortable in the winter, and too hot or sticky in the summer if exposed to the sunlight. That means you have to think carefully about where to place a leather sofa to ensure it’s a comfortable temperature at any time of year. Unlike leather sofas, fabric alternatives can be placed just about anywhere and are the perfect temperature to use in any season. 

Sofas made with leather can also be quite slippery – making getting comfortable that little bit more difficult. 

4. Style

Even with all the practicalities in the world, choosing the right sofa for you is still heavily dependent on style and preference. Your sofa can be used to make a bold statement in your home, or seamlessly fit like a glove into the surroundings. It just depends on your personal tastes. 

Leather sofas often have a more modern feel, which works perfectly in urban apartments. That said, with a chunky leather sofa, or Chesterfield armchair,  you can also create a wholesome country-cottage style. 

Leather also has a slight sheen to it, which is something that not everyone will like. Sofas are typically only made in white, brown or black leathers, too, meaning you can’t use them to add a pop of colour to your home. 

Alternatively, fabric sofas like the Swyft Model 02 ooze sophistication, and sit perfectly within both a traditional or contemporary setting.

You also have the advantage of a wider range of colours and pattern types available – meaning you may find it easier to create the perfect sofa for your interior. 

5. Pricing

Which sofa is more costly, leather or fabric? 

Just like you’d expect to pay less for a paper car, the quality of the material used on your sofa will determine the price. 

However, depending on your personal budget, finding a sofa to fit your price range could be more important than focussing on finding the perfect style. Premium velvet and other fabric sofas can cost a pretty penny, but real leather is often a more expensive choice. 

That said, when thinking about price, you also need to consider durability. If a leather sofa costs a little more, but lasts longer, this might be better value for money. Similarly, if a fabric sofa is cheaper, but doesn’t have stain resistant features, you may want to opt for a more expensive finish to ensure its longevity.

6. Pets and Kids

Last, - but certainly not least,who will be using the sofa? 

Children and furry friends alike are not particularly aware of their surroundings. In other words, the dog doesn’t know not to put his favourite, slobbery toy on your brand new velvet sofa, and your child may think it’s the perfect place to get creative with paints. 

Our feline friends love to scratch the corners of furniture, too –  - which can leave fabric sofas looking a little tatty around the edges. Their sharp claws can do just as much damage to leather –  - often leaving scratch marks and dents in the framework.

If you eat meals in the lounge, you need to make sure the material is stain-resistant, too. Because spills are inevitable with kids (and big kids may spill a drop of wine from time to time too…).

And it’s not just spills or stains you need to think about. Toilet accidents while puppy, or potty training can leave a lingering smell that is hard to get out of fabric. If not properly cleaned, cats will revisit areas in which they can smell their scent and continue to use your new sofa as their own personal bathroom. For smoking households, the smell can permeate into fabric sofas, which is why leather may be a better alternative for anyone sensitive to odors.

Finding the perfect sofa for your home and your family really comes down to personal choice. But there are certainly factors to take into consideration when making your final decision. If you think you’re ready to choose a fabric sofa, you can discover all our velvet sofas and linen sofas, or claim your free sofa fabric swatches to see how each feels within your home.

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