Sofa Styling: Leather or Fabric?

harper combo

The focus of any living room is, arguably, the sofa. It’s where we rest at the end of a long day and relax with friends & family. But there’s two competing sides for the ultimate sofa style: leather and fabric. So let’s break it down a bit so you know what type of sofa is best for you!

Header image features the Harper 3 Seater sofa in charcoal fabric and tan leather from Life Interiors and styled by Citizens of Style.

Choosing the right one for you can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be, so let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each.

Leather Sofas

Pros:

  • Luxury. Leather is all about that glam. Leather is a statement material that refuses to be ignored in any space.
  • Class. Leather is a classic material that is perfect for more vintage-mod styled homes that are re-capturing the appeal of Mad Men-esque styling. This makes it perfect for interior spaces like a home office or study as well as the living room.
  • Durable. As a general rule, leather upholstery is more long-lasting than a lot of fabric upholstery. In addition to this, a lot of darker leather can be easily wiped clean when you accidentally spill something on it. Of course, all material will last longer if you take proper care of it and use the appropriate upholstery care kits.
  • Hypoallergenic. Leather doesn’t hold dust mites, pet dander, or other allergens. This can make is perfect for households with younger family members, especially as they still try to figure out what their allergies are.

Harper 3 Seater Leather Sofa, Black Vintage,

Cons:

  • Sticky in summer. This a plight almost exclusive to the Australian who owns a leather sofa. There’s nothing worse than sitting down, watching telly or just hanging out with friends, and then attempting to stand up and finding yourself stuck to the leather. You find yourself at a crossroads: either accept your life trapped exactly how you are or face the pain of standing and separating yourself from the leather. If you live in a colder environment this may never be an issue for you, of course.
  • Markings. As mentioned above darker leathers can be a very good option if you’re prone to spilling things. However, white leather does not play by the same rules. White leather can show more markings than darker leathers and even more than some fabrics.
  • Vintage. A little… too vintage. If your home isn’t reflecting a classic, vintage style then a leather sofa may not work for you. In a Scandi-inspired home a tan, leather sofa will stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Price. Unfortunately a lot of leather sofas can cost more than their fabric alternatives. You could argue that the cost is worth it in the long-run as leather can be more long-lasting than fabric, but there’s often still an initially higher price point.

Fabric Sofas

Pros:

  • Comfort. Unlike leather sofas, fabric sofas are always soft and comfortable. If you live in a climate that tends to run a little hot and cold, fabric may be the answer to your prayers.
  • Enduring versatility. Vintage will always be in style, even when it’s out of style, but there’s something to be said for the no-nonsense versatile look that transcends trends. A good fabric sofa won’t speak for itself like a leather one might. But rather, it will let you do the talking. Style it with in-trend cushions and throws and re-update your look as frequently as you like with ease. It’s easy to create totally separate looks with one fabric sofa.
  • Colour. When it comes to colourful sofas the sky is the limit. You could try a blue, greenyellow, even a pink sofa in your space. These colours are hard to find in leather sofas but can be easy to find if you’re a fan of fabric.
  • Animal-friendly. This is a big one in the pros column for fabric. While a lot of leather is sourced from beef farms to minimise waste and avoid unethical sourcing, some people may still prefer leather-free homes which makes fabric the perfect alternative as most fabrics come from plants.
Mult

You can even have a little of every colour of the rainbow, if you, like with a fabric sofa.

Cons:

  • High-maintenance. Fabric sofas may be harder to clean than leather sofas. Of course, fabric care kits are available to make this task a little easier, but if you live a busy life and don’t have a lot of time to be cleaning sofas, fabric may prove to be an inconvenience for you.
  • Wrinkles. As much as hate wrinkles on our faces, we hate them on our sofas too. Unlike the almost-stiff leather, some fabrics can wrinkle and may even need steaming to get them even again.
  • Stains. If your home has any clumsy members, don’t let them onto a fabric sofa with a coloured drink. Fabric absorbs liquid and can stain easily. Again there are cleaning kits to help with this, but this aspect may still deter you from a fabric sofa purchase.
  • Fading. As much as we love our colours, there’s always the possibility that colours will fade, especially when left in direct sunlight. If you take care of your sofa you may be able to avoid this, and some fabrics are more resistant to fading than others.

There are plenty more aspects of a sofa that may sway you one way or the other. For example some—but not all—fabric sofas have removable covers which can make washing easier. Then again, a cover that isn’t fixed may move about and become an inconvenience. Your sofa has to work for you, your lifestyle, and your family & household.

Paige Riddiford is a writer and editor from Sydney, NSW with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong. When not writing, Paige is often found reading, baking, playing video games, or binge-watching whatever's new on Netflix.