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Why Are People Afraid to Buy Leather Sofas? Isn’t Leather Supposed to be Good?

By Jeff Frank

There are two primary reasons why shoppers are afraid to buy leather sofas:
1) High quality leathers are expensive. Leather can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the cost of a sofa.

  • Better quality top and full grain leathers allow you to see and feel the original hide grain and texture.
    • They are usually softer and more comfortable than lower quality leathers.
    • If properly cared a high quality natural leather sofa will last 50 years or more, improving with age.

    Shown above – Ashton 82″ top grain leather sofa by Simplicity Sofas

    2) There is a tremendous amount of confusion surrounding lower cost “leather” furniture.
    There are three distinct categories of “leather” at the lower end of the price scale. In addition there are “faux” leathers which are synthetic materials mimicking the look and feel of genuine leathers.

    • Corrected leathers are the cheapest type of genuine top grain leather available.
      • Low quality hides are coated with opaque dyes to remove all blemishes and flaws. This removes all natural graining patterns and texture.
        • The “corrected” hides are then mechanically engraved with an artificial grain pattern.
        • A protective clear polyurethane coating is added to the top. This makes protected leathers less likely to stain and easier to clean than “natural” leathers.
        • If a corrected leather is deeply scratched all the way through the protective coating, it is more difficult to repair than natural leathers.
      • Leather match is a combination of “corrected” top grain leathers on the parts of the seating that are touched (seats, backs, inside arms) and a matching synthetic faux leather on the parts that are not touched (backs, bases, outside arms.)
        • Although not as cheap as bonded leather, leather match allows furniture companies to offer “leather” furniture at a lower price than if the entire piece was made completely from “corrected” top grain leathers and at a much lower price than if the entire piece was made from “uncorrected” top grain leathers.
        • Leather match will not peel the way bonded leather does, but there are some long term concerns to be aware of.
          • When new, the corrected leather and the synthetic faux leather parts of the furniture will look identical.
          • As the furniture ages, however, the real leather and the synthetic will expand or contract differently. This can lead to open seams where the two materials are joined.
          • Real leather sofas and faux leather couches also age differently. The perfect color match when the furniture is new may not be as perfect a few years later.
        • Bonded leather is the least expensive type of “leather” furniture sold in stores. It is a flawed product that should be avoided.
          • Bonded leather is the result of a synthetic faux leather facing material bonded to a backing made up of crushed leather particles.
            • The backing is made from left-over hide scraps. These are mixed with adhesives, rolled flat and bonded to the synthetic facing.
          • Salespeople will often point out that bonded leather is 15 or 20% “real” leather. They imply this makes the material better than faux leathers that are 100% synthetic. That is not true.
            • Good quality 100% synthetic faux leathers will feel just as comfortable and last far longer.They will not peel.
            • Do not buy bonded leather from any furniture company. It is a flawed product that has generated thousands of complaints from consumers over the past decade.
            • When you read reviews complaining about “peeling” leather that furniture was made with bonded leather.“Real” leather made from hides does not peel.

          A more detailed explanation of the difference between 100% synthetic (faux) leathers and bonded leather can be found at the Simplicity Sofas Insider’s Guide to Furniture & the Home Furnishings Industry

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