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What Material Do You Prefer For Your Couches and Chairs?

By Jeff Frank

High quality top and full grain leathers are unbeatable for comfort and durability.

  • If you can afford the high cost and
  • If you are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to clean and maintain the leather on a regular basis.

Unfortunately most leathers actually sold are:

  • Top grain “corrected” leathers, which have an artificial texture and grain pattern engraved into a low quality heavily dyed hide.
  • Problematic leather match (a combination of low quality corrected leathers and synthetic faux leathers.)
  • Horrendous bonded leathers which should not be purchased by anybody.

Microfiber fabrics have been used on furniture for several decades now. They have many advantages including:

  • High durability
  • Excellent stain resistance
  • Low cost

The problem with the microfiber fabrics is that there is relatively little variation in texture, look and feel.

  • Most microfibers have either a velvet or suede texture.
  • They cannot be used for intricate patterns or multiple colors.
  • Microfibers are always solid, plain single color fabrics.

More recently, there has been a new development in fabric technology. This is the emergence of “high performance” fabrics.

  • High Performance fabrics are growing rapidly in the marketplace and are rapidly overtaking microfibers as the #1 type of fabric found in upholstered furniture.
    • HP fabrics are now used by upholstered furniture manufacturers at all quality levels.

High performance fabrics started as a highly stain resistant fabric alternative for outdoor use (Sunbrella) and heavy duty commercial or institutional use (Crypton.)

  • Initially, these high performance fabrics were considerably more expensive than the microfibers.

Over the past few years several different mills have brought out lower cost residential grade high performance fabrics.

  • Although these are not quite as stain resistant as the outdoor or institutional versions, the residential versions do equal or exceed the stain resistance of the microfibers.
    • Residential HP fabrics are also softer and less stiff than the commercial versions.
  • High performance fabrics are now available in an almost unlimited variety of textures, colors and patterns.
  • They are also available in a wide range of prices.
    • At the lower end, STI’s Revolution and Culp’s LiveSmart lines compete directly against the low cost microfibers.
    • At the upper end, Crypton, Sunbrella, Bella-Dura and others compete for the designer fabric trade.

High performance fabrics are made using a wide variety of different fibers and technologies.

  • Crypton’s HP fabrics are primarily polyesters and polyester blends. Culp’s lower cost LiveSmart line is also a polyester blend.
  • Low cost Revolution HP fabrics by STI and high end Bella-Dura HP fabrics are both made using polypropylene (olefin) fibers.
  • Sunbrella’s HP fabrics are acrylic based.
  • There are other high performance fabric brands also available.

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