I am shopping online for a leather sofa.
I’ve narrowed it down to the Article Sven or the Poly and Bark Nappa sofas.
Which one is better?
Both sofas are made with full-grain pure aniline Italian leather, which is supposed to be the best quality.
The Article Sven and Poly & Bark sofas are short term seating.
Reviews I have seen indicate that most people who have purchased both of these sofas are happy with them after one year.
I expect fewer of these customers to be happy after 3 years, and even fewer after 5 years.
These “Full-grain, Pure Aniline Leather Sofas” are not the “top quality” furniture many shoppers think they are getting.
The Poly & Bark Nappa and Article Sven sofas are virtually identical.
The sofas are the same length, width and height.
They are both available in the same Cognac Tan leather.
Both have round arm bolsters.
Neither Article nor Poly & Bark are manufacturers.
Both brands market furniture made in various Asian factories located in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and India.
The Nappa and Sven sofas both appear to be manufactured in the same factory.
Furniture terminology can be confusing or contradictory.
The online marketing materials for these two sofas are intentionally deceptive.
The product description sounds as though the furniture was designed by marketing specialists whose assignment was to make cheap furniture appear to be high quality.
According to many reviews, shoppers who purchase the Article Sven and Poly & Bark sofas believe they are purchasing “high quality” furniture that will last a lifetime.
These sofas should provide comfortable seating for 3 -5 years, depending on how much you weigh and how frequently you use the sofa.
If you replace the cushion cores when the original seats wear out, you will get an additional 3 – 5 years of use.
But you should not expect these sofas to last 20+ years like true high end leather seating.
Websites for both brands emphasize features typically found in high-quality sofas.
These “high-quality” features include:
Full-grain pure-aniline Italian tanned leather upholstery
Corner blocked kiln-dried solid wood frame
High-density foam with polyester filling.
Feather down topper on seating surfaces.
Feather down and fiber blend seat-back cushions and bolsters
Loose, non-reversible seat and back cushions
Solid wood legs in a walnut finish
But there are ways to cheat on all of these specifications.
And these sofas use just about every “cheat” possible.
These deceptions do not make these sofas “bad quality” furniture.
But they are definitely not “high-quality” either.
Here is the list of features again – this time with my notes italicized in Green:
Full-grain pure aniline leather.
Full-grain, pure aniline leather is touted by many salespeople and interior design professionals as being the “best of the best.”
Many customer reviews cite the “top quality leather” as the primary reason for their purchasing decision.
It is not unusual to see articles written by experienced furniture professionals stating that full-grain pure aniline leather is the most expensive (and best) type of leather available.
The full-grain leather used on these sofas is different.
It’s very cheap leather, not the best of the best.
The type of leather used in these sofas is below the minimum quality level used by most upholstered furniture manufacturers.
This leather starts off with low quality (full-grain) hides with massive imperfections.
Cutters remove the worst flaws, slicing and dicing the remaining portion of the hides into small pieces.
Each of these 88″ sofas is upholstered from 44 separate small leather segments.
The cost of the leather hides used here is minimal.
A large percentage of the leather’s total cost is in the extensive sewing needed to piece the small hide pieces together.
Sewing 44 pieces of thick hides together for each sofa requires a low-cost Asian (or Mexican) labor force.
The leather is minimally processed.
Like high-quality full-grain leathers, it scratches and stains easily..
Over time, the patch-work leather will soften and acquire a patina.like high-quality leathers.
This is not the top quality leather many people think they are getting.
But it does provide some of the same characteristics at a lower price.
Corner blocked kiln-dried solid wood frame.
There is one critical word missing from this frame description: “Hardwood.”
High-quality frames are built with high-density solid hardwoods.
They probably made these frames using softwoods.
Softwood frames are less durable than well-made plywood frames.
The corner blocks are probably hardwood. Softwood corner blocks would split far too easily.
The frames may still hold up for 10 years or more, but they are not high-quality frames.
Pirelli webbing foundation
High-quality “non-stretchable” Pirelli webbing is sometimes used in high-end modern sofas.
It can also be found in older sofa styles with low profiles that cannot fit an 8 way hand tied foundation.
The Pirelli webbing used here is almost certainly the less costly “stretchable” seat support webbing.
A YouTube video review of a 2-year-old Article Sven sofa reports that the seat cushions sagged after a year and a half. The cushions were replaced, but sagged again within a few months.
Sagging cushions that cannot be fixed by replacing them are a definite indication that the stretchable webbing foundation is sagging (or broken.)
Stretchable webbing, when stapled into a softwood frame, is especially prone to stretching (and sagging.)
High-density foam with polyester filling.
The “high-density” foam description without a number indicates the seat cushions are filled with 1.8 density polyurethane foam.
On a standard three seat sofa, with three separate seat cushions, the average cushion lifespan would be about 5 years.
But larger cushions (like the ones on these sofas) should hold up longer.
The single large cushion should hold up longer than 5 years (unless the Pirelli webbing foundation is sagging.)
“Feather-down” filling in the seat and back cushions.
Feathers and down are a common high-end feature, found in “top quality” sofas.
But what makes down and feather cushions so comfortable is actually the percentage of down in the filling.
Down is far more expensive than feathers.
High quality down/feather seat cushions may have 25% or even 50% down.
Cheaper down/feather cushions may have as little as 5% down.
A cushion with 25% down can cost hundreds of dollars more than the same cushion with only 5% down.
Feathers alone aren’t much more expensive than polyester fiber.
By themselves, feathers do not significantly improve the comfort compared with polyester fiber.
There are no standards that require a minimum percentage of down.
The Article website includes “feathers” on the Materials list for the Sven sofa, but does not include “down.”
Using only feathers would have very little effect on the durability, comfort or cost of the cushions.
Other construction details:
Tufting is frequently found on traditional style high end seating.
When constructed correctly by a highly skilled upholsterer, tufting can be a great addition to a sofa.
But on lower priced, mass produced sofas, tufting can be a weak point.
The legs have an 8″ height.
Once legs get above 6″ they lose stability and are more likely to break, especially thin legs.
Sofas with high, thin legs often add a 5th leg for added stability.
A complimentary YouTube video for the Poly & Bark sofa is shown below.
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