Deciding the best material for your sofa takes time and research.
It's worthwhile exploring the options because your sofa is the focal point of your living room, both in terms of function and appearance. And it is a significant investment.
At KING we’ve built our reputation over five decades as leaders in sofa design. Our in-house fabric experts design and develop fabrics exclusively for KING, and we choose to only partner with the world leading leather tanneries who also supply to Rolls Royce.
Whether you are naturally drawn to leather or feel fabric may be best, this article explores the pros and cons of each.
We will compare a leather vs fabric sofa in terms of style, care requirements, comfort and durability to ensure you have the knowledge needed to comfortably decide which is best.
Leather sofas bring a feeling of warmth to your living room. As a natural material, you will enjoy a sense of quality, character, and richness in colour tone. The organic nature of leather also brings a unique appeal, where no two pieces are identical.
Leather will develop a natural patina - which is a term used to describe the slow aging of the surface of the leather - and depending on your personal preferences, this creates a desirable texture and softness. The general aesthetic of leather is timeless and complements almost any style, making it a great choice for today and the future.
Fabric sofas offer a wide choice in terms of colour, texture, and weave. There is an endless range of options on the market. You can choose a made-to-order design and customise it in a unique way.
Whether you are looking for a tailored, casual, formal, patterned, or natural look, fabric options are unlimited.
The most important thing to note is that not all leather and fabrics are made equal. Material quality can vary, and it is worth understanding the specific material you are looking to have your sofa covered in before deciding.
KING leather for example, is sourced from quality hides in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The quality of the hides used for KING True Touch leather is so tightly controlled that they are sourced only from one small region in Germany.
There are many different grades of leather and each has different qualities you’ll need to consider for your lifestyle. We have broken down the terminology of the most common leather grades.
Full-grain leather – regarded as the highest quality leather, full-grain comes from the top layer of the hide and retains all of the natural grain. This means imperfections like scars and wrinkles are shown in the leather. As a result, only the highest quality hides are chosen for full-grain.
Aniline leather – prized for its authenticity, the aniline dye process brings out the leather's natural grain, including imperfections like scars or wrinkles, however aniline leather marks easily and can be challenging to maintain on an everyday basis.
Semi-aniline leather – ideal for furniture as the authentic beauty of aniline leather is retained, and a pigment is added that permeates the hide adding a light protective coating and achieving a rich deep colour without compromising that classic leather look.
Top-grain corrected grade leather – the outer layer of the hide is removed so the leather retains its natural feel but achieves a uniform and refined finish. With an added layer of protection, corrected leather is robust and easy to maintain.
Nubuck leather – produced from top-grain hides and has the grain side (outside) buffed back until it has a very small velvety nap. Nubuck is wonderfully smooth, but it is high maintenance and marks very easily.
Bonded Leather – made from layers of scrap leather that is ground up and mixed with a binding agent, and then embossed with a leather grain pattern. This is the least durable option and not used by KING.
When it comes to fabric, you will need to consider your lifestyle and how you will use your sofa.
If you have children or pets, or your sofa will be in a high-use area, opt for heavy domestic or commercial fabrics to ensure longevity. Selecting a fabric with total variation will also hide any stains better than a flat colour.
Pilling can be a concern with fabric. Pilling occurs when the fibres in the fabric rub together and the friction causes the fibres to become loose and ball up. It is important to note that pilling is not a fault in the fabric but the result of fabrics rubbing against each other.
As a general rule, the looser the weave, the more it may pill. To help lessen pilling, opt for natural materials or textiles made from longer fibres such as wool, linen or tightly woven microsuedes. There are also various tools available to help remove pilling from your furniture.
At KING, every fabric in our collection has been rigorously tested for seam strength, abrasion resistance, colour-fastness to light, cleaning and general wear and tear.
Every KING Showroom features a design studio where you can experience the textiles in person.
Leather is a natural product which features a protective coating that is resistant to many spills and soiling.
Because leather can be wiped clean or dusted with a dry cloth when needed, it is relatively low-maintenance in terms of cleaning.
However, leather does still require specific products to prolong its life. The main extra requirement for a leather sofa is regularly applying leather conditioner to ensure the leather remains soft and moisturised.
Fabric will generally require deeper cleaning than leather as you don’t have the option to wipe the fabric clean easily. In many cases, spills, stains and marks that are not cleaned immediately can become permanent.
We strongly suggest treating fabric with a suitable protective chemical spray. This will go a long way in helping maintain its appearance, protect against common spills, and assist when you need to spot clean any marks.
At KING we offer KingGuard+, an advanced protective fabric treatment that repels liquids and stains, making it easy for you to clean and keep your furniture fresher for longer. Many customers choose KingGuard+ on purchase and reapplication can also be done in your home as needed.
The most important thing to remember is to always use fabric or leather care that is designed for your particular product. At KING, we offer King Care® cleaning and conditioning products that are especially formulated for our leathers and fabrics. You can purchase a King Care® Leather Care Kit or Fabric Care Kit online, or from any KING Showroom.
Sculptural and distinctive, Fleur is pictured in Amalfi Blush fabric.
The temperature of the room and your body temperature have the most significant impact on how comfortable your sofa material is.
For leather sofas, if your room has a stable temperature, or is climate controlled, the changes in temperature that can affect leather will not be an issue. Leather may initially feel cool to touch on a cold day, however, it will warm up with your body temperature. As a natural product, leather breathes, regulating your temperature, offering year-round comfort no matter the season.
Fabric sofas will not vary much in terms of temperature. If your room has a large amount of direct sunlight, fabric can be a better option as it won’t heat up as much as leather. However, you will still need to keep in mind that sunlight can cause some materials to fade. The type of fabric you opt for will have the most direct impact on your personal comfort, which is why ordering fabric samples or touching the fabric in a Showroom will help make your choice easier.
There is no wrong answer when it comes to deciding between a leather or fabric sofa. The choice is simply what suits you best. The most important considerations are durability, care requirements, appearance, and comfort.
With a KING sofa, you will get the added benefit of being able to recover your sofa or remove the cover for professional cleaning when needed, thanks to our removable covers.