I’m looking for a good solid wood frame leather reclining sofa that is not too expensive. Can you suggest a brand and store to purchase? I live in Ventura Country near Los Angeles.
July 14, 2021
Unfortunately the words “leather” and “not too expensive” are not a good combination.
- Good leather can last 50 years. When you pair it with a sofa that would have cost $1000 or less in an inexpensive fabric, you get a piece of furniture that costs $2000 but lasts only 5 years.
- Adding a reclining mechanism increases the price and further reduces the expected lifespan.
One potential problem you may run into is that many product descriptions that claim to include “solid wood” have only minimal amounts of solid wood, such as corner blocks.
- Some manufacturers use “solid softwoods.” Those are technically “solid wood,” but are far less durable than solid hardwoods.
- Also, not all hardwoods are the same. For example, Poplar and Aspen are hardwoods, but are softer and less durable than the Maple and Oak used in higher quality frames.
Solid hardwood frames are quickly disappearing in even better quality sofas. Not long ago, a sofa could not be considered “high end” furniture without a good solid hardwood frame. That is no longer the case. More and more companies, at all quality levels, are converting to plywood.
- Top quality solid wood frames, built to last 50+ years, now cost $300 – $400 at the manufacturing level (which translates to $800 – $1000 at the retail level.).
- In contrast, high quality plywood frames, which should last 20+ years, can be made for less than $100.
Several reclining furniture brands, usually made in Asia or Mexico, use frames made from solid softwoods and/or low cost engineered woods made from compressed sawdust or wood chips.
- These low cost frames are often used for low cost leather furniture, but can also be found in a surprising number of higher priced products.
- Natuzzi and Palliser are two examples of well known brands that combine top quality leathers with low cost engineered wood frames.
The furniture industry recognizes the widespread desire for low cost leather furniture. A wide range of faux leathers, bonded leathers and leather match options are offered for these customers.
- Some of these faux leather options, such as polyurethanes and vinyls can be very durable and easy to clean.
- Others, such as bonded leather, can be a disaster.
“Real” Leather comes in a huge assortment of types, qualities and prices. It is possible to buy leather hides that cost $2 per square foot up to $20 per square foot. A typical all leather sofa may use 200 – 250 square feet of leather. That represents at least $400 for just the sofa’s leather up to several thousand dollars.
- This $400 minimum leather cost is at the manufacturer’s level, before adding for profit and overhead and before the retailer doubles the price to their customers.
- As a result, manufacturers of “not too expensive” leather furniture look for any way possible to reduce the cost.
The most common solution (especially for reclining furniture) is to use non-removable cushions.
- This reduces the amount of leather needed on a sofa by at least 50 sq. ft.
- Another 75 – 100 sq. ft. can be eliminated by using “leather match”, where the costly “real” leather is used only on the parts that are touched (seat and back, inside arms) and cheap vinyl or other faux leathers on the outer arms, backs and bases that are not touched.
The vast majority of leather hides used for “not too expensive” leather furniture are in a category known as “protected” top grain leather. These are inexpensive hides (in the $2 – $4 per sq. ft. price level) with numerous flaws, such as bug bites, barbed wire scratches, branding marks, etc.
- The flaws are removed by sanding off the top hide layers (which are the strongest part of the hide.)
- An artificial grain pattern is then embossed onto the hide.
- The sanded hide surface is then covered with a heavy opaque dye and a clear protective polyurethane coating is added to that.
Protected top grain leather is real leather, but it is stiffer and less plush than the more expensive full or natural grain aniline leathers. It does not improve with age (getting softer and acquiring an attractive patina finish) like the more expensive natural leathers do.
If you read my article Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa Manufacturers there are several companies that make reclining furniture at a quality level that is above the big mass manufacturers such as LaZBoy and Flexsteel, but less expensive than the top tier leather specialists.
Here are three manufacturers in that middle range. If you check the websites, each should have links to the nearest authorized retail seller. Most of the products sold by these brands are real leather, but all have lower cost high performance fabrics available.
- Omnia Leather
- Smith Brothers
- Bassett BenchMade Motion (This is better quality than Bassett’s mass produced Club Level reclining furniture line.)
- Comfort Design
If you like modern styling, Ekornes Stressless is a top quality Norwegian reclining furniture brand. Fjords is another Norwegian brand, priced below Stressless. Both brands are widely available through U.S. furniture stores.
Manufacturers’ websites will usually list authorized dealers located nearest to you.
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