Tips for Choosing Between Fabric and Leather Upholstery

Tips for Choosing Between Fabric and Leather Upholstery

Plenty of considerations come into play when you’re shopping for a new sofa or chair. Among the many stylistic decisions you have to make, there’s the potentially tricky issue of choosing between fabric and leather upholstery.

Each option has its pros and cons, of course. Nobody can make a definitive proclamation that one is better than the other. Well, nobody should; surely some people have. But there’s no one-size-fits-all right answer. Making the selection is about figuring out whether fabric or leather is better suited to your personal situation and preferences.

Whichever route you go, buying a high-quality piece of upholstered furniture is a serious investment in the look, feel, and comfort level of where you live. So, as part of our never-ending quest to help you furnish your home to your utmost delight, let’s take a look at some of the key factors to consider when choosing between fabric and leather upholstery for your couches, chairs, and ottomans.

Comparing and Contrasting Leather and Fabric Upholstery

  • Your budget may help you make the call, as leather upholstery is generally more expensive than many fabrics.
  • Do you have pets? Dog and cat hair and dander stick to fabrics, but not to leather.
  • Does someone in your home suffer from allergies? As with pet hair and dander, fabrics also harbor dust, dust mites, pollen that’s tracked in, and other allergens much more than leather.
  • Consider the regular maintenance. Cleaning leather upholstery usually just requires a quick wipe with a cloth, while fabrics benefit from a vacuuming.
  • Leather upholstery should be conditioned periodically to prevent cracks, which is an extra care step that you don’t have with fabric.
  • Spills can be quickly and easily wiped up off of leather, while they can soak into fabrics more stubbornly.
  • What are you going for stylistically, and what will best match the room? Leather has a more luxurious and classically elegant feel; also, leather appearance options are relatively limited compared to fabrics, which offer a practically limitless selection of colors and patterns.
  • Fabrics looks cozier and are generally softer, warmer, and more comfy than leather.
  • Leather seating can take on the atmospheric conditions, becoming cold in the winter or hot and sticky in the summer.
  • Fabric upholstery is less durable and will show signs of wear, tear, and aging over time (but keep in mind that fabric quality and durability varies widely); leather, however, is quite resilient and typically considered more attractive as it ages.
  • Leather is at risk of scratches, though, which can particularly be a concern in homes with pets or children.
  • Will the piece of furniture take a lot of abuse from kids, pets, or heavy use? If so, think about the above bullet point when making a decision.
  • What do you like better? Even if you’re approaching the choice scientifically, carefully weighing all the pros and cons, don’t forget that your taste is just as important as anything else when you’re picking out home furnishings and crafting your décor.

Upholstery Care Tips

Whether you choose leather or fabric upholstery, here’s some additional information for you:

Looking for beautiful upholstered furniture?

Check out our elegant, solid wood, mid-century modern sofas, chairs, and ottomans, for which we offer an extensive selection of upholstery options.



Leonard Riforgiato is a successful furniture manufacturing entrepreneur, a Miami resident, and co-owner of legacy furniture company Heywood-Wakefield.

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