The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Leather Sofa

buying-leather-sofa-guide

Buying a new leather sofa could be one of the most complicated shopping experiences I've ever encountered. 

The majority of the population is not well versed in different types of leathers or the varying types of sofa frame materials or construction.

Even some of the most grizzled veterans I’ve spoken to in the furniture industry still have some confusion understanding some of the varying terms used by many of today’s furniture brands.

Thus, I set out to create a guide for anyone shopping for a new leather couch, one that walks you through every step of the buying process, from evaluating leather types to evaluating quality sofa frame construction.

Along the way, I’ve spoken to different furniture experts to get a deeper understanding of what to look out for when shopping for new leather furniture.

I hope this guide will be helpful for you when committing to purchase a new leather sofa. Let’s face it, leather furniture isn’t exactly ‘cheap,’ so I want you to get it right the first time around, so you can find the perfect leather sofa.

Choosing A Type Of Sofa 

Selecting the type of sofa you want is typically the easiest part of the furniture buying process. Most consumers have a general idea of the "type" of leather sofa they want. Usually, we buy furniture to replace an existing piece or furnish an existing space, in maybe a new home or office.

In addition, we must consider how a particular sofa will fit in with the couch we choose to purchase. A bigger family might opt for a sectional sofa, whereas a family with no children might opt for a standard leather sofa.

Settling on a type of sofa is probably the easiest choice in the entire sofa buying process. There are only four basic choices, as shown below. Note that some homeowners also opt for modular couches, but this isn't all that common for leather sofas.

Standard Size Sofa

The 'norm' in the furniture industry, THE piece of furniture you'll encounter during your shopping adventures. A standard size leather sofa averages roughly 84 inches in width; however, the length (and width, height) can vary significantly based on the design chosen. 

standard sofa

A standard size sofa averages 84 inches in length, but can vary based on the style of sofa chosen

Loveseat 

The main difference between a standard sofa and a loveseat is the actual size of the sofa, typically measured in overall length. Whereas the average standard sofa width is 84 inches, a loveseat on average is much smaller, measuring 60 inches in width. Notably, a loveseat typically only has two seat cushions instead of three, but that's not always the case, depending on the sofa style.

loveseat

A loveseat is typically a smaller sized sofa that is good for smaller spaces or for families that want a piece that won't get a lot of seating traffic

Apartment Sofa

Designed to fit in smaller spaces, hence the 'Apartment' name, the Apartment Sofa type is typically larger than a loveseat, averaging 68 inches in width, making it about 8 inches longer than a loveseat, but also 16 inches shorter on average than a standard size sofa. Note that the actual length will vary wildly depending on the style and manufacturer. 

apt2blawsonapartment

An Apartment Size sofa from Apt2B. Consumers like this type of sofa to fit in smaller spaces.

Sectional

A sectional is popular because of its size and comfort, designed for large families or those looking to fill large-sized living room areas. The angle of the sofa can make it a tight fit for some doorways, so be sure to take the exact measurements, especially if transporting yourself.

apt2bsectional

A Toronado Leather Sectional sofa from Apt2B. Sectional sofas are good options for larger families, and those trying to add some comfort to their sofa setup.

Sleeper Sofa

While some sleeper sofas are a good option for some circumstances, I don't really like sleeper sofas all that much. Ultimately, the construction of the sofa itself can be lacking because they need to squeeze an entire mattress into the cavity of the couch.

hancock-sleeper

Sleeper sofas are great options for consumers that need a sofa that serves more than one purpose. Get some relaxing time in, and then some Z's.

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Picking A Leather Sofa Design

If you've decided on the type of leather sofa you want to purchase, you next have to decide on what sort of style or design you are looking for. You don't need to have the exact style name in mind, but it helps to have a general idea of the design you would like for your home décor.

Mid-Century Modern

The majority of leather sofas available on the marketplace today use what is known as Mid-Century Modern design. Sleek, square edges complemented by soft rounded cushions and pillows. This is my favorite overall design and easily the most popular choice among consumers shopping for new leather sofas. 

napa-poly-bark

A Poly & Bark Napa Leather Sofa which also is based on a mid-century modern like design.

Chesterfield

If you're in the market for a new sofa, you may be considering a chesterfield. This style of sofa has been around for centuries and is still quite popular today.

chesterfield-hancock-moore

A classic Chesterfield Leather sofa from Hancock and Moore

Some furniture designers use a vintage chesterfield design. In contrast, others have created more modern Chesterfield looks, such as with this West Elm option below, which uses a Tuxedo style, which I'd almost call a Mid-Century Chesterfield.

westelmchesterfield

- sort of a blend of chesterfield with tuxedo style, which uses a genuine top grain leather surface. A nice modern, sleek option for a living room area.

Lawson

This is what I consider a 'traditional style' sofa, a Lawson is known for comfort first and foremost, with three seat and three back cushions and either rolled or flat arms. The style was created for businessman Thomas Lawson at the turn of the 20th century. 

hancock and moore meadows

Hancock & Moore Meadows sofa which is built on the foundations of a Lawson style

Camelback

Named for the curved hump in the middle back of the sofa, the camelback style provides an old-school vintage feel. The camelback is sleek in nature and does not feature a back cushion. 

camel-back-ethan-allen

A Camelback leather sofa style from Ethan Allen

English Roll Arm

Sleek and stylish, the English Roll Arm is a popular choice for those who want a sophisticated look in their home. Its simple lines and understated elegance make it a versatile piece that can be used in any room. Known for its low and understated roll arms, some might not like sofas that have too low of an arm if they like resting their head on the arm of a sofa while watching TV.

english-roll-arm

An English Roll Arm style leather sofa from Restoration Hardware

Tuxedo

Tuxedo sofas are known for their high straight arms that are in line with the back of the sofa. Tuxedo sofas also do not have any back cushions generally. Good for those seeking a modern leather sofa. Note that as shown above a Tuxedo styled Chesterfield is also a popular style today. 

tuxedo-leather

A Tuxedo style leather sofa from Perigold. Tuxedo styles are known for the high arms that are in line with the back of the sofa. 

Key Sofa Measurements To Be Aware Of

There are a series of measurements you should be familiar with to ensure that a sofa you choose will fit into your space (and your doorway). 

Here are the key measurements to be aware of using a diagram and example from American Leather


Overall Sofa Height - measured from the bottom leg to the top cushion (30" as shown above)

Overall Sofa Width - measured from sofa end to end (95" as shown above)

Overall Depth Of The Sofa - measured from sofa front to back (38" as shown above)

Inside Width Of The Sofa - measured from the inside of each arm across width of the sofa (83" as shown above)

Seat Depth Of The Sofa - measured from the front of the sofa to the start of the back cushions (23" as shown above)

Seat Height Of The Sofa - measured from bottom of the couch to the top of the seat cushion (19" as shown above)

Arm Height Of The Sofa - measured from the bottom of sofa to the top of the seat arm on the couch (23" as shown above)

What's My Sofa Budget?

A leather sofa can be an excellent investment for your home. They are comfortable and add a touch of luxury, but they can be expensive. So, how much should you expect to pay for a leather sofa? And what are the factors that will affect the cost? 

Typically, a good leather sofa made from at the very least Top Grain leather, with a frame made from quality materials will run a minimum of $3000. You can cut some corners and opt for one of the online retailers that source from China, but fully understand that the quality may be inferior to some of the USA made leather sofas.

jeff-frank

If you have paid over $4000 for your leather couch, you probably have a well made piece of furniture that can last for many years.

Jeff Frank ‧ Furniture Expert and Founder of Simplicity Sofas

If you're starting with less than $4000, understand that you can certainly buy a leather sofa made with Top Grain leathers, but there might be some degradation in terms of overall quality. 

Higher priced retailers (such as a Restoration Hardware) will undoubtedly be happy to take more of your budget for one of their sofas, and as you climb the ladder to premium leathers - notably Full Grain pure anilines, the costs march higher. 

There are a lot of factors that go into price, and leather is certainly one, as is the actual materials used in the construction of the frame (plywood vs hardwoods etc). A lot of consumers are willing to pay a premium for a brand name, when in many cases the premium is not worth it. 

Evaluating Sofa Frame Construction Quality

While many focus on the leather on a new sofa, the frame materials and quality of construction are just as important. If quality materials are not used, then a sofa isn't going to last very long, even if it uses the highest quality leather. 

When choosing a new leather sofa, the most important things to focus on are as follows:

Sofa Frame 

Higher quality sofa companies use hardwoods, such as oak or maple, but most manufacturers have turned to plywood for its lower costs and ease of use in building the sofa.

Sofa Suspension System

Higher quality sofa companies use hardwoods, such as oak or maple, but most manufacturers have turned to plywood for its lower costs and ease of use in building the sofa.

Sofa Cushions

Well constructed cushions are very important in identifying a high quality sofa. The most important characteristic in determining a good cushion, is the density of the foam. Most sofa companies use 1.8 density, but that isn't the best option, and if looking for a sofa that will hold it's firmness over time, a consumer should look for cushions with a 2.5 density foam.

Choosing A Leather Type For New Sofa

When buying a new leather sofa, one of the most important things to consider is the type of leather used for the couch. Some manufacturers will cut corners and either source inferior leathers or use a combination of cheaper materials on the sides or the backs of the couch.  

So what is the best leather for a sofa?

Full Top Grain leather is the best type of leather for a sofa. However, this comes at a price, as full top-grain leather sofas are the most expensive. It also depends on your living situation as different leathers are more appropriate for families with small children. Aside from leather types, it is essential to be familiar with the kinds of protectants and dyes used in creating the leather.

Note that you might see the term 'Genuine Leather' when shopping for a new sofa, which basically just means that the sofa is made from real leather used from a cowhide. It doesn't say anything about the type of leather used to make the sofa.

bonded-flex

Typically if you see anything that says leather/vinyl such as on this Flexsteel sofa description, there's a high likelihood they are using bonded leather, bicast leather or some sort of leather match (pu leather) where they use leather on the seating areas and vinyl on the back of the sofa and any non-seating areas.

Avoid any faux leather or bonded leather sofas. Some of these will fall into what is known as 'vegan leather', which ultimately might be the only choice for those making furniture buying decisions based on personal beliefs. 

What Leather Is Right For My Family?

When choosing a new leather sofa, a big part of the buying decision is the exact fit with your lifestyle. For those without children, an unprotected leather sofa might be a good choice since there aren't little kids running around that might dump a glass of grape juice all over your new leather couch.

However, a full-grain, semi-aniline leather sofa is the best choice for those with children. Semi-aniline refers to the dyeing process in which some corrections are made to the hide to fix surface markings, adding pigments and extra protection.

It has a stiffer feel but better stain protection and requires lower maintenance. Not only are these couches good for kids, but also for pets that like to lounge on the furniture.

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Best Leather Sofa Brands

We've spent countless hours researching leather furniture manufacturers and spoken to hundreds of furniture dealers to get their input into the best leather sofa brands.  This guide should help provide everything you need to know in making an informed decision when buying your new leather sofa. 

Based on our research, that award goes to Hancock & Moore , the only real leather sofa manufacturer that scored 4.5 Stars out of 5, based on a combination of high-quality craftsmanship, solid overall value, and impeccable customer satisfaction.

hancock-moore

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Leather Sofa Buying Checklist

When shopping for a new leather sofa, these are the most important things to consider. Be sure to ask this salesperson these questions, if shopping in person, or sometimes you can ask these questions via chat online. 

  • What material was used to build the sofa frame? The most common are either solid hardwood, plywood, or engineered wood and often a combination of one or the other. Generally, a solid hardwood frame is the best overall option.
  • What type of leather is used for the sofa? Most online stores use Top Grain leather imported from China. A Full Grain leather will be much more expensive than most Top Grain leathers.  Make sure you do not buy any leather sofa that uses bonded leather. 
  • Has the leather been protected (sometimes known as corrected leather)? This is typically a good choice for families with children or pet owners. 
  • Is the leather sofa using vinyl leather match in non seating areas?  I would tend to avoid any 'leather match' products as the sofa can start to degrade over time.  
  • What sort of suspension system does the sofa use?  Eight-way hand tied is the gold standard among high quality furniture manufacturers, but cheaper options typically work well over time.   
  • What density foam is used to make the sofa cushions? A 1.8 density foam is quite common, but will lose its firmness, typically within five years.

About the author Tom

When I started shopping for a leather couch two years ago, I was confused and overwhelmed by the information available to me. I decided to launch Best Leather Couches in order to create the best resource for shoppers looking for a new leather couch. I hope you enjoy the site. Feel free to drop me a line anytime at tom@best@leathercouches.com

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