What to look for when buying a high quality leather sofa

March 3, 2016

Guide to buying a high quality leather sofa - what to look for:

To many people, it is difficult to know the quality of the sofa simply by looking at it, feeling it, sitting on it, smelling it. The aesthetic design can often blind us to whether or not the sofa we're actually buying just looks good or is actually made well too. With the interiors disguised by a choice of leather or fabric covering it is difficult for inexperienced furniture buyers to know what they are buying. This article will help you shop around and determine which are the best sofas out there. We will teach you how to test if there are good ingredients inside the sofa frame and cushions, and how to look for the best leather quality.
I too often hear that items bought on the shop floor looked great at the time, but have a short shelf life. Let's make the right buying decisions and see your furniture last you a lifetime and be a piece of your collection for years, rather than selling it off if you're leaving Dubai.
Can you smell the leather?


If you have to put your nose up close to the sofa in order to distinguish if the leather is genuine or not, it is likely to be a very poor quality leather that has had the cheapest treatment in the tannery; it is a thin split leather; or it is faux leather. 
A high quality leather will have a strong smell and be a Full Grain or Top Grain leather. This means that top part of hide is used and it will also be thicker than other cheaper leathers. Unless the leather is pigmented, top grain leather will show you the natural characteristics of the hide such as scars, tick bites, barbed wire scars, stretch marks... basically the story of the animal's life is illustrated on the hide. Top grain leathers are very unlikely to rip or split throughout the life of the sofa through any kind of use. 
A split leather is the thinnest part of hide which is the layer of leather underneath the top grain. This type of leather is likely to split with wear and tear.
Faux leather may have a chemical smell to make it smell like leather, but if you smell it carefully you'll realise it's plastic. 
How can I tell if the leather hides are thick or thin?
The leather may or may not feel thin to your knowledge when you are testing the sofa. You can ask the sales personnel to show you the actual leather samples and colour ways of the actual leather used on the sofas. Generally you can tell by the look of the sofa it is thin or thick, but always ask if you're unsure. 
What kind of ingredients are used in the frames?
Run your finger alongside the outer edges of the arms and instantly notice if you can feel the hard wood frame, or if you can feel some soft padding. You can test this along the back frame of the of the sofa too. A quality sofa will have the sofa frames all wrapped in foam padding which makes the frames softer to touch.
The extra padding protects the leather over the years too so that the harsh edges of the frame do not cause indentations in the hide and it's a more sumptuous feeling as you rest your arms on the sofa arms.
Underneath the seat cushions, place your hand on the base of the sofa. Does your hand sink down too much? Can you feel if there are springs or webbing to support the seat cushions. A soft sit does not necessarily
mean that the quality is poor, this can also be due to comfort design. If you're unsure of the support mechanism, ask the sales personnel to tell you how the sofa is made.
Are the seat and back cushions good quality?
Generally most cheap sofas that are also mass produced, will have the seat and back cushions sewn together and stitched into the frame. Most people will tell you this is to do with the contemporary style of the sofa, however it really is because the sofa and fillings are cheap. A high quality leather sofa however will have removable seat and back cushions with genuine leather partly underneath or behind the cushions. Leather needs to breath so the under part of the cushions will mostly be covered in felt, which also prevents the cushions from sliding off the sofa.
Listen to the sound of the cushions as you sit on the sofa. If you tend to hear a slight squeaky sound when you sit down, this indicates that the fillings are not great quality, and neither is the leather for that matter. When you sit on a good quality sofa, the fillings should not make a sound and should feel substantial. Often I find the fillings and leather feel like paper. Feel free to unzip the cushions and take a peak at what type of fillings are being used. Ask if there is an option to change the fillings if the ones on offer are not to your liking?
Hardwood frames or softwood?
A good quality sofa with a long lifetime purpose, will use hardwood frames on the main weight supporting areas of the sofa. Using hardwood frames will support the longevity of the furniture which is very important if you have a busy family home and the sofa is not yet for decoration. Hardwood frames such as beach, birch, oak are commonly used for quality sofas. Ask the sales personnel for the answers to your questions.
Is this leather sofa value for money?
Is everything ticking the boxes but you're unsure of the price? Another way to determine if the sofa is overpriced to what you have seen in comparrison, is to look at the number of panels on the cushions in particular. Expensive sofas will mainly use one single piece of leather for each seat cushion as it is more costly to produce a larger panel without too many natural unsightly blemishes. Cheaper production methods will use patchwork style cushions, which may look pleasing, but if the sofa is the same price as a competitive model that you've come across, then question the price. 
Where is the sofa made?
If you want the best quality sofas with the strictest fire and safety regulation, look for countries producing within the EU, Northern America, Australia etc. Far east imports particularly from China have no fire and safety requirements. Build quality is much cheaper yet similar retail prices are charged to that of other imports. For quality leather products, you definitely want to buy within the regions listed above. So if the price of a non Chinese import is only a fraction more than what you would pay for a Chinese import, then go for the former. Not only are you extending the life of your sofa (resulting in greater value for money when you see how much longer it lasts) and having insurance and confidence that your furniture is made to strict health and safety guidelines, you are supporting economies outside China which can help boost growth in different regions.
And one last thing, don't be fooled by the weight of the sofa - if it's heavy doesn't mean it's good quality and vice versa. Like the most expensive bicycles, they are as light as a feather and the strongest. Do your homework and if you're still unsure, contact Boo-Burys for some more advice.