How To Choose and Care for Leather Furniture

MEET THE MATERIAL.

Famous for its buttery feel, amazing durability, easy maintenance, and sticking to your legs in the summer, 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, we’ve got every grain, texture, and color you can possibly think of (and some you can’t). All beautiful, but all different. To determine what furniture is right for your home, lifestyle, and taste, this is a comprehensive guide that gets up close and personal with one of our favorite materials.

LET’S START FROM THE START: WHAT’S LEATHER?

Leather is made from the cured (read: 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.

As a natural material, leather will often have wrinkles, scars, creases, and color variations. We find that these represent leather’s unique character and appeal — but we also offer options for those who don’t feel the same. We’ll get into those later.

Our articles are for casual lounging with deep, sprung seats and feather-fibre mix cushioning. Not overstuffed, many styles develop a well-loved, vintage appearance. Again, stick with us, we’ll talk all about those too.

WHY REAL LEATHER?

We are endlessly inspired by nature and the adventures that await us in it. You can tell by the names we give our products (we love oceans, and trees, and rocks, oh and clouds — a lot) and the materials we make them with. Authenticity is important to us as we strive to make the world a more comfortable and beautiful place. As a result, we believe in using real, natural materials that we carefully select to build an article that will deliver remarkable furniture experiences.

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. Because everyone deserves beautiful furniture, no matter what.

COOL. SO WHAT ABOUT YOUR LEATHER?

Sven Charme Tan leather sofa with a family sitting on it

Sven Charme Tan sofa Photo: Barefoot Blonde

There’s a lot of confusion about different types of leather (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?).

Don’t worry, we’ve got all the information you need.

GRAIN.

Nirvana Dakota Tan leather sofa

Nirvana Dakota Tan sofa Photo: How Do You Wear That

And we don’t mean barley or rice. We’re talking about the layers of the hide in our articles.

A full-grain hide is the top layer of a hide that contains all the beautiful, natural variations in tone that real leather is known for. It has unique markings as individual as fingerprints. This includes insect marks, wrinkles, spots, and stretch marks that were developed over the course of that animal’s life. Through age and use, this leather will develop a stunning, warm sheen known as patina. It’s what gives a sofa that comforting, vintage look everyone is after.

Top-grain hides, by contrast, go through a sanding process that buffs out all those natural variations to create a leather that is less varied, but is strong and durable.

ANILINE.

Chocolate Brown leather sectional sofa with pink velvet pillow

Charme leather, as seen here in a stunning Chocolat color, is full-aniline leather.

Aniline simply 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? Full-grain and full-aniline are mutually exclusive terms — a fancy way of saying that you can’t have one without the other. 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. This is done to make the color more uniformly absorbed. Remember when we talked about top-grain? Top-grain and semi-aniline go hand in hand. Together, they produce a leather that is more consistent and hardy.

NOW THAT YOU’RE A LEATHER EXPERT.

Let’s break it down a little further. You’re ready for it.

In addition to a rainbow of colors like Tan, Black, Chocolat, Oxblood, Blue, Gray, and beyond, we also have distinct leather types.

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.

Tan leather sofa in an airy living room with a shag rug and mid-century lighting.

Is your style mid-century? Industrial? Boho? Great. There’s a leather that’s right for you.

Will your article be styled alongside mid-century modern accessories that Don Draper would approve of? Or with industrial accents and exposed piping? Or even a cowhide rug and decorative antlers?

Will it live in a formal living room that’s only for when company calls? Or will it be in a bustling family room and needs to act as home office, Netflix Central, and guest bed/occasional napping surface all at once?

A woman and her cat sitting on her Sven Charme Tan Leather Sofa

Sven Charme Tan sofa Photo: Style by Emily Henderson

These kinds of questions can determine the furniture that is most uniquely suited to your home. Though there is no “pet-proof” or “child-proof” or even “life-proof” furniture, there are materials that are better suited for different lifestyles.

Let’s learn more about them.

OXFORD LEATHER.

Oxford is a top-grain, semi-aniline leather with a slightly mottled effect to the finish. The wrinkles and texture of the hide are visible and the texture is semi-matte. If you were taking notes while reading this, check your glossary for “top-grain” and “semi-aniline.”

More resistant to stains thanks to its wax coating, Menswear Dog gives Oxford leather, like on the Alcott sofa, its paw seal of approval. Photo: Menswear Dog

This is a great option in a home where you know a clumsy moment is inevitable. Imagine slowly watching a dinner plate topple or a drinking glass fall. With Oxford leather, Enrique’s “Hero” will be playing in the background because that extra layer of protective wax will be the savior you need. 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.

Shop Oxford leather.

CHARME LEATHER.

Sven Charme Tan Sofa in a library

Sven Charme Tan sofa Photo: Little Green Notebook

This one is popular — and for good reason. Charme is a full-grain, full-aniline leather that is highly variable in tone, texture, and natural markings. You’ll find markings as individual as fingerprints, including insect marks, wrinkles, spots, and stretch marks. This leather patinas rather quickly, giving it a beautifully unique finish.

Sven Oxford Black sofa. Photo: Ro Birkey

We recommend Charme to pet parents or young families since it is already perfectly imperfect — so any additional scratches from claws or paws or small (but strong) fingernails simply add to the existing character of the hide.

Shop Charme leather.

DAKOTA LEATHER.

For the cowboy/girl/man/woman/child in us all. Dakota is a semi-aniline, top-grain leather and is our most distressed and matte option. The natural markings on the hide are more pronounced than any other leather we offer for a truly varied and vintage appearance. Its beautiful layered coloring is thanks to two dying processes and a good sanding that provides a wonderfully worn effect.

Nirvana Dakota Tan sofa with pillows

Nirvana Dakota Tan sofa Photo: How Do You Wear That

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.

Shop Dakota leather.

RAWHIDE LEATHER.

Rawhide is a thick, full-grain, full-aniline leather (need a vocab refresher yet?) that has us nostalgic for worn-in baseball gloves and the traditional methods of leather production from yore. If you’re only familiar with the first one, we’ll forgive you and can help fill in the blanks. This leather is finished with a paraffin wax, which is how leather used to be finished 50 years ago. It produces an extremely rich finish and a touchably 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.

Shop Rawhide leather.

TAOS LEATHER.

Similar in look and feel to Rawhide, Taos is yet 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.

Photo: Wit & Delight

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.

Shop Taos leather.

SEDONA LEATHER.

Sedona, a full-grain, full-aniline leather, is for those looking for a more luxurious sofa 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 — creating a truly luxe look.

Durable and beautiful, the Sedona would work well in any space but with its elegant nature and sophistication, it would look most at home in a formal living room.

Shop Sedona leather.

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.

Lounge setup with Triplo Taos Brown sofa and Nimbus White Coffee Table

Triplo Taos Brown sofas with a Nimbus White coffee table Photo: Vintage Revivals

Alright, so you think you’re a leather mastermind now. But you and your guests (and Shania Twain) won’t be impressed very much if you can’t care for your articles for the long haul.

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 we also mentioned a few times.

Leather maintenance starts from day one. Keep your routine simple, and keep it consistent. To keep it looking its best, we recommend vacuuming weekly for lint and debris and a wipedown with a clean, damp cloth. Photo: Sabrina Fenster

To keep your leather looking its best, we recommend a wipedown with a conditioner like Otterwax for hydration and shine. Apply once received, and as frequently as you would like afterwards — monthly will more than suffice.

Simple is the key to a cleaning routine you’ll actually stick to. So 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.

NAILED IT.

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.

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