How To Choose and Care for Leather Furniture
MEET THE MATERIAL.
Famous for its buttery feel, durability, easy maintenance, it’s no wonder leather is one of the most popular upholstery options for furniture.
With so many great options it can be a tough choice deciding what is the best for you.
Luckily, Article’s got a huge variety of grain, texture, and colors to suit your leather needs. All beautiful, but all different. To determine which leather is best for your home, lifestyle, and taste, we’ve written this comprehensive guide to dig deep on favorite textile.
FIRST: WHAT IS LEATHER?
Leather is made from the cured, tanned hides of cattle. Tanning practices vary around the world, but we only work with the best — which is why our hides are tanned and finished in Italy.
A natural material, leather will often have wrinkles, scars, creases, and color variations. We find that these represent leather’s unique character and appeal — however, rustic isn’t everyone’s look. Article works with leathers that offer a more modern, consistent look too — we’ll get into those later.
Our sofas are for casual lounging with deep sprung seats and feather-fibre mix cushioning. Not overstuffed, many styles develop a well-loved, vintage appearance. We’ll get into which types of leather produce that look a little later on.
WHY REAL LEATHER?
Authenticity is important to us. We believe in using real, natural materials that we carefully select to build an pieces that will perform for and delight our customers. But we also believe in being better — it’s one of our core values. That’s why our leather is sourced from South America only as a byproduct of food production.
We respect those who oppose our views regarding the use of natural materials, but strongly believe they deliver the best performance in the long run for your home. We’re also delighted to offer non-animal-based upholstery options as well as styles that are down-free.
COOL. SO WHAT ABOUT YOUR LEATHER?
There’s a lot of confusion about what the different types of leather are (I.E.: what does aniline mean? Leather has a grain?) and what that means for your life (what will my toddler not destroy once naptime is over? What if I want a really distressed look?). Here, we break it down.
We don’t mean barley. We’re talking about layers of the hide in a leather product.
A full-grain hide is the top layer that contains all the beautiful, natural variations in tone. Full-grain leather has unique markings that are as individual as your fingerprints. Markings can include insect bites, wrinkles, sun spots, and stretch marks that were developed over the course of that animal’s life. Through age and use, this leather will develop a warm sheen known as “patina”. It’s that patina that gives a sofa that comforting, vintage look.
In contrast, a top-grain hide goes through a sanding process that buffs out all those natural variations to create a leather that is less varied, but still strong and durable.
Aniline refers to the dying process a hide goes through once it has been tanned. We feature two different types of aniline in our collection: full-aniline and semi-aniline.
A full-aniline hide has been carefully dyed so that it retains all the beautiful, natural markings and color variation that is inherent in the hide. Remember the full-grain leather we were talking about before? Anytime you see one of these two terms, just know it means all the touchable goodness of a leather hide with all the color variation that goes with it.
Conversely, a semi-aniline hide has a thin layer of wax applied just before the dying process. The wax ensures that the dye is more uniformly absorbed. Top-grain and semi-aniline go hand in hand. Together, they produce a leather that is more consistent in color and look.
NOW THAT YOU’RE A LEATHER EXPERT…
Let’s break it down a little further. You’re ready.
This is where your lifestyle and sense of style comes into play. Think about how you plan to use your furniture and the environment it will live in.
Will your article be styled alongside mid-century modern accessories? Or with industrial accents and exposed piping? Or maybe a cowhide rug and decorative antlers? Will it live in a formal, seldom-used living room? Or will it be in a bustling family room and needs to act as home office, Netflix central, and guest bed/occasional napping surface?
These kinds of questions can determine the furniture that is most uniquely suited to your home. Though there is no “pet-proof,” “child-proof,” or “life-proof” furniture, there are materials that are better suited for different lifestyles.
This is a great option in a home where you know a clumsy moment is inevitable. Imagine slowly watching a dinner plate topple, food first onto your brand new leather couch. With Oxford leather, that extra layer of protective wax is akin to stain insurance. With it, you’ll have a few more precious seconds to grab a dishrag (or your shirt, we don’t judge) to wipe up that stain. Phew.
Our most popular, and most misunderstood leather. Charme is a full-grain, full-aniline leather that is highly variable in tone, texture, and natural markings. This leather patinas quickly, giving it a beautifully unique finish — but always be aware that every hide, and therefore every sofa, is totally unique, and therefore will look different than the product photo.
We recommend Charme to pet parents or young families. Since it is already perfectly imperfect, any additional scratches from claws, paws, or fingernails simply add to its character.
For the cow-boy/girl/man/woman/child in us all. Dakota is a semi-aniline, top-grain leather, and is our most distressed and most matte option. The natural markings on the hide are more pronounced for a truly varied and vintage appearance. Its beautiful layered coloring is thanks to two dying processes. A good sanding provides a wonderfully worn effect.
Despite its aged appearance, it’s one of our most durable and hardworking leathers because of its top-grain status (remember: that means it’s been wax sealed). Which means it’s great if you’re after a rustic-chic look. Playtime and a bit of sofa cushion rough-housing? It’s not Dakota’s first rodeo (SORRY).
Rawhide is a thick, full-grain, full-aniline leather that has us nostalgic for worn-in baseball gloves. This particular leather is finished with a paraffin wax, which is how leather used to be finished 50 years ago. Ah, the good old days. Paraffin-finished leather produces an extremely rich finish and a soft surface.
This deep brown leather is so sumptuous that it’s easily marked with a fingernail. We find that the scuffs and marks create a wonderful patina in a short amount of time. So for busy families, it’s what you want everyone to be playing with and sitting on to create those beautiful markings even faster.
Similar in look and feel to Rawhide, Taos is another rich, full-grain, full-aniline leather. Subtle character markings are present here for those lusting for that varied, well-loved look. For those who love Oxford’s color consistency, but Charme’s character — Taos is an excellent compromise between the two. Like Rawhide, Taos has a higher-than-usual fat content seal to create a soft surface that will age and patina over time.
Taos’ is best seen in our Mello collection, a modular sectional with endless customizable configurations. Great for rooms with tricky layouts, if you have a lot of square footage to cover, or need furniture with maximum seating options. With its standout color and comfort, Taos is a great way to make a comfortable statement.
Sedona, a full-grain, full-aniline leather, is best for those looking for seating with an opulent feel. This style is made from European bull hides, unlike the South American cowhides in our other leathers. Bull hide has a thicker, fuller finish and closer grain structure for that super-luxe look and feel.
Durable and beautiful, the Sedona would work well in any room, but its inherent sophistication make it really shine in a more formal space.
Pro Tip: If you need to get a feel for these leathers in person, get in touch. We’ll send you complimentary swatches to help you in the decision-making process.
LEATHER CARE AND MAINTENANCE.
You now have your PhD in leather knowledge. But mastery without maintenance is useless. Useless! To help keep things in tip-top shape, we’ve compiled some quick-tips for leather care.
Good leather care starts at day one. Once unboxed, you might notice a gray film on the surface. Remember all that wax and protectants we talked about? That would be it. So don’t worry — the wax will absorb, scuff, and soften into that rich patina.
To keep your leather looking its best, we recommend a wipe-down with a leather conditioner for hydration and shine. We like Otterwax. Apply once you’ve received and set up your sofa, and then again each month to keep it in tip-top shape.
We recommend that you avoid chemical cleaners, polishes, and detergents. On a weekly basis, simply use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away noticeable stains and use a vacuum attachment to clear up debris and crumbs.
Now you’re armed with everything you need to choose what furniture is right for you — and keep it looking good for years to come.
So what are you waiting for? Shop the leather article of your dreams.