How To Make Sure You Pick The Best Leather Sofa?


When you’re about to accept a hefty price tag for a perfect leather sofa, it’s important that you understand a couple of basic terms. 

Unfortunately, a lot of people are misled by clever marketing terms and end up spending a lot of money on lower-quality leather, frames, and seating foam. 

So, we’ve put this guide together to give you all the details to help you find the perfect sofa for your living space. 

And when you’re looking for the best leather sofas, it all starts with the leather quality. 

Let me explain. 

Top Grain Full Grain Leather Sofas

Different Types And Quality Leather

Leather furniture comes in all different shapes, sizes, and functions. But the most important place to start is with the different leather options.

What we’ve picked out for this section are the most commonly used materials. And as you can see from the names alone, it’s not really clear which ones are better or worse. 

Full Grain 

This is the absolute top-of-the-range quality you can buy. What the term refers to is that all the layers of the animal hide remain intact.

This is especially important for the upper grain, which has the toughest fibers and provides a unique and natural look. 

Despite the tough fibers, you’ll still get that soft leather feel that comes with well-executed tanning and drying processes. 

As a result, you’ll have a leather material that can last for decades without wearing down, even in busy family homes. If anything, the more you use a full grain sofa, the more you will improve the polished look of rich patina. 

Top Grain 

This is the second-best option, but it’s a bit different from full grain. 

What happens here is that the preparation process removes the tough upper grain layer. This makes the tanning process a lot faster, and the final material is easier to work with. 

This might sound like it’s a downside, but it allows manufacturers to then apply a highly durable protective layer. 

It’s perfectly suitable for living room furniture, especially in homes with large families and children. 

Classic Leather Sofa Made USA

Genuine Leather

I’ll come out and say right away that this isn’t great leather for furniture. 

The way you should interpret this clever marketing name is that “it’s just about still genuine leather.”

It’s often marketed as super soft, but all it means is that you’re only getting the softest lower layers. These wear down very quickly and can even tear under normal use. 

It’s definitely not what you would associate with the best leather sofas

Faux Leather

The only reason I’m listing this here is that some people think that a fancy name like that might still mean that it’s a real leather sofa.

But I’ll let you in on the marketing behind it. 

Faux is French for fake or false. And who would buy something advertised as fake?

You won’t find much furniture made of faux leather, but some companies use it to sell products with vegan leather. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s anywhere near as long-lasting as the real deal. 

Different Styles Of Leather Sofas

So, once you’re clear on the quality you want, it’s time to look at different styles of leather couches. 

Within each style, there are hundreds of different designs, but this should give you an idea of what you might want to take a closer look at. 

Leathercraft Claridge Sofa 1280

Reclining Sofa

If you want the most comfortable sofa for taking a nap, enjoying a movie, or just relaxing with a book, then recliners are the way to go. 

For a long time, you could only get these recliners as single-seat armchairs, but the furniture industry has caught up with people’s wishes. 

Most of these will be a three-seater leather sofa with a reclining section at each end. You’ll want to look out for multiple recline positions so that you can adjust all the way back into almost a lay-flat position. 

Sleeper Sofa

A sleeper sofa is a great way to be prepared for guests arriving and turning your living room into a guest bedroom. 

The most basic types will simply allow you to detach the side and back cushions, so you end up with a larger flat surface. But they are often limited to converting into a single bed.

Another option for a leather sleeper is one where the back cushions fold down so that you end up with a comfortable double bed. 

Just keep in mind that sleeper sofas tend to focus more on function, which may limit the visual design features a bit. 

Sectional Sofa

If you have a large living space to fill, then you might want to consider upping your budget for a grand sofa. These usually have a corner design and can comfortably seat seven or more people. 

They are a real statement piece of furniture that is ideal for open-plan living areas. 

Sectional sofas come in every possible design, from ultra-modern to a more classic style. And you’ll even get some that have two recliners built in for even more comfort. 

Tufted Sofa

This is a classic leather sofa look that has grown hugely in popularity again. 

It’s a process that creates a deep pleated design on the surface of the sofa with a pattern of indentations. It’s a highly effective and elegant look for the right living space. 

You will see different levels and patterns on tufted sofas, with some of them opting for a tufted seat and back and others leaving the seat flat and smooth.

It’s really down to a personal visual preference. 

Mid-Century Sofa

The mid-century modern style is something you’ll see offered a lot more often by leather sofa manufacturers. 

This classic sofa design combines clean lines that are well defined and lead to consistent geometric shapes. 

Think of it as a cleverly thought out symmetrical design with consistently repeating patterns. 

Many modern home and holiday home designs now incorporate the mid-century style, and with some nicely designed leg finishes, such a piece of furniture will really stand out as a centerpiece. 

Contemporary Sofa

Contemporary sofas pretty much incorporate the most modern design ideas, and they can work exceptionally well.

You will need to pay careful attention to the layout and decor of the remaining living room, as mixing contemporary with other interior design styles doesn’t usually work out so well. 

Some people think that this type of design looks to only impress visually, but you’ll be surprised about the comfortable seating it can provide. 

Classic Leather Chelsea Sofa 8628-T

Other Factors You Need To Consider

So far, we have covered the types of leather and the most sought-after design types. 

But we’re not done yet.

Here are four more areas that you have to pay attention to, especially those that are not immediately visible. 

Frame Design

I’m not referring to the visual design; this is much more about the structure and materials that make up the frame of the couch. 

In some cases, you’ll find leather sofa manufacturers use a steel frame, but that adds a lot of weight and costs that really aren’t necessary for furniture. 

Instead, look for a solid wood frame constructed with kiln-dried hardwood. You don’t want to invest in a couch or armchair that uses cheaper types of pine wood or MDF.

Those can come with two problems. 

First of all, they are a lot more prone to heat and cold expansion through the seasons, which can lead to creaking and even slight deformation.

But you’ll also find that such a frame won’t last the test of time. You could end up spending a lot of money on top-quality leather that will last for decades, only for the frame to let you down. 

Types Of Foam

The next thing that you can feel but not see on a leather couch is the type of foam. 

It’s not enough to look for thick cushions to sit on and nice down-filled cushions for back support. You have to look at the specific type of foam being used. 

If you want your leather sofa to last for decades, then you need to spend extra on high density foam. 

That doesn’t mean that the foam is hard and uncomfortable to sit on. What it means is that the structure of the foam won’t collapse after just a few years of sitting on it. 

The higher quality the foam is, the less likely you are to end up with a visible imprint of your backside. 

Supports And Springs

The structural supports are just as important as the springs that add more comfort. 

Whether you pick a leather sofa with track arms or rolled arms, if there are not enough support structures in place, then a couch can start to lose its shape. 

And low-quality springs can result in a sagging couch that ends up feeling like you’re just sitting on a cushion on the floor. 

Not only is that uncomfortable, but it can be a real pain to get back up again. 

Finishing Touches

This is where you want to check out how the manufacturers use dye to achieve the different color options for their leather samples. 

The fastest and cheapest way is to spray on the different choices of color. When done right, this will provide a long-lasting finish. 

But there is a downside. 

Spraying leather often results in a very uniform finish with a lot of the natural patterns and imperfections lost. 

The better alternative is to look for full-aniline leather or semi-aniline leather. These involve techniques that use soluble dyes, and the result is that you get those beautiful, natural patterns on the surface that fully show off the grain. 

Are Leather Sofas More Comfortable?

This is very much a personal preference. A well-made fabric and leather couch will both be comfortable for sitting and relaxing. 

The question is more about what type of feeling you prefer when it comes to comfort. 

However, there is one comfort killer that you should be aware of. If you have young kids and are constantly worried about spills and dirty hands, then leather might be the perfect sofa to sit back and relax.

Leather Comfort

Do Leather Sofas Last Longer? 

Yes, good-quality leather sofas will last longer than any kind of fabric sofa. This is especially the case when it comes to full grain or top grain leather. 

The upper layers of real leather consist of very tough fibers that can withstand decades of regular use. 

Top-grain leather also has the advantage of having a protective layer applied that makes it a lot easier to maintain and keep clean. 

The only exception I would highlight here is buying a bonded or recycled leather sofa. Those materials are not made to last, and they will be unlikely to outlast a good fabric. 

How Do You Care For A Leather Sofa?

Whether there are some stains to take care of or you just want to make sure it looks its best and lasts for many years, there are three things you need to keep in mind with leather care. 

1. Use A Gentle Soap For Cleaning

The best option here is not to use household cleaning solutions but a pH-neutral, gentle soap. Baby soap is often the best option as it won’t attack and deteriorate the leather fibers. 

Make sure you use just a little bit of warm water and soap, and then gently rub it into the stained area. 

Wipe away any excess soap with a separate damp cloth. 

2. Regularly Apply Conditioner

Even if there are no stains to get rid of, your leather sofa will need regular care in the form of a conditioner. This will ensure that the leather doesn’t dry out and become brittle. 

It’s most important for the areas of highest wear like the seat cushions and armrests. 

3. Be Careful With Drying

Finally, don’t be tempted to dry the leather out quickly after cleaning it. That means avoiding direct sunlight and definitely not using a hairdryer, which can cause significant damage. 

The best thing you can do is to clean and treat your sofa in the evening and allow it to dry slowly during the night. 

How Is Upholstery Leather Made? 

For this section, we’re only going to focus on the techniques used for top and full grain as everything else would not be recommended for furniture that would get any kind of regular use. 

Classic Leather Harrison Power Reclining Chair 9171-MR

Preparing Leather

The initial step involves the removal of hair and potentially the uppermost grain. This would be mainly the case for top grain leather, which then gets a protective layer that is spill and stain-resistant. 

Full grain, however, maintains that top layer to give it more of the natural look and feel of real leather. 

Leather Tanning

This step involves a process of using chemicals to remove fats and protein from the hide. It’s possibly the most important step to ensure that the hide doesn’t further disintegrate with time.

Tanning also gradually raises the pH of the leather and softens it in a way that makes it easier to work with and, of course, soft to touch and sit on. 

Finishing Touches

The final stage involves applying a dye and possibly a protective layer as well. If you want a leather sofa that retains the natural grain look with all the imperfections, then a dyed full grain is the way to go. 

Top grain would usually have a protective layer sprayed or rolled on, which makes it less prone to absorbing spills and stains.  


How can you tell if a leather sofa is good quality?

You can tell if a leather sofa is good quality by the smell and feel. It should be soft and warm to touch and give you that distinct leather smell. Low-grade and fake leather tend to smell more of chemicals. 

How long should a leather sofa last?

A top and full grain leather sofa should last at least 25 years, even with heavy family use. If you look after it carefully with regular care, then it wouldn’t be uncommon to last over 40 years. 

What is the highest quality leather for furniture?

The highest quality real leather for furniture is called full grain. It maintains the toughest outer layer of the hide, but a high-quality top grain with a protective layer can last just as long. 

Do leather sofas stain easily?

No, leather sofas don’t stain easily, and they are much easier to keep clean than fabric. You might find that spills become more visible on a light color leather, but a black leather couch will show almost no stains. 

Are You Ready To Find The Right Couch For Your Living Room?

Choosing the best leather sofas involves a lot more than just finding something that looks good. By understanding all the hidden details and knowing what to look for, you should be able to get the perfect couch. 

Your key takeaways are that you should look for a couch that uses full grain or top grain American leather, a kiln-dried hardwood frame, and dense foam. 

Yes, those things will drive up the price, but you’ll still be using the couch in decades to come.