The charm of the Leather Sofa – What you need to know about leather

This morning we have a guest post from Maria of Rathwood Furniture who tells us all we need to know about leather furniture.  

A leather sofa is one of those all-time favourites, a truly classic piece of living room furniture that never goes out of fashion. Cosy and warm, traditional or vintage-inspired, trendy retro or informal, each leather sofa comes with its particular character, charm and personality. The leather sofa is a versatile piece, elegant and stylish, of course, but also a hardy and resistant companion.

Style and budget are usually top priorities for many looking to buy furniture but the main factor that will influence the price paid for a leather sofa (and the mileage you’ll get from it) is quality.

These are a few factors to keep in mind:

-Is it ‘real’ leather?

It might sound like an obvious question but many people do get tricked into thinking synthetic sofas, resembling leather, are the real thing. If it is ‘faux leather’, ‘vegan leather’  or any other ‘leather alternatives’ then your sofa will be synthetic, using a non-natural material that might trick the eye but will not have the qualities of leather. It might do the job if you are on a tight budget but will not last or give you the comfort of a sofa built in real leather.

-Understanding leather

The qualities that have made leather sofas attractive for so many years include not just the warm and inviting look of natural leather but also the fact that leather sofas are breathable and adapt to temperature better, the soft feel to the touch and their comfort.  Leather is a natural material but being porous and breathable also means that it will absorb liquids, so it needs some attention.

There are many types of leathers and leather finishes, and some will be more delicate than others. If your leather sofa is going to get a lot of use and be exposed to possible ‘accidents’, you should keep that in mind. It is important to know the leather used to build your sofa and also understand the fact that colour and shading can change overtime with its use, but isn’t that part of its beauty?

-What kind of leather?

Full Aniline

This is the most attractive and natural leather, prized for its soft natural feel. They are the most expensive leathers to produce because only the very best selection of hides can be used to produce full aniline leathers.  They have been dyed in a vat process with no colour coating added to the surface so the leather breathes more easily but will also be more absorbent – so you need to be careful with liquids.

Pull Up Aniline

This is a type of aniline leather that has an additional oil and/or wax treatment. These leathers are designed to become ‘distressed’ looking through time and use. Its properties are similar to full aniline.


Semi-Aniline dyed leathers have been dyed through and also have a thin finishing layer on the surface. They combine the softness and feel of full aniline leather with the protective benefits of a surface finish.


The leather may be buffed (corrected) to reduce heavy natural scarring and blemishes in the hides. It is then coloured with a coating containing opaque pigments and embossed with a grain pattern to ensure uniformity of colour and resistance to fading.

Nubuck (Chaps, Stonewashed or Suede)

These are aniline leathers where the surface has been brushed, to create a velvety texture. It shouldn’t be confused with suede leather: while suede is the flesh side of a piece of leather, nubuck is an effect that is done to the grain side. Nubuck is incredibly soft but this brushing also makes the leather more absorbent.

Bycast leathers or Coated Leather

This leather varies in quality. It is a technique that uses split leather, produced from the lower split by melting a type of glue on the surface, then rolling on a film of coloured polyurethane.

-What is in the frame?

Another factor you need to look at is the structure of your leather sofa, what sort of wood has been employed to build the frame: is it hardwood or is it softwood? Hardwoods are more expensive and resilient but will also influence the price of your sofa.


Some leather sofas are the fine result of many work hours and delicate craftsmanship, keep this in mind as this will reflect on the price but also in the uniqueness of your leather sofa. For example, it takes over 12 hours to hand polish one of the Halo leather sofas in our collection, they have a delicate seven-stage ageing process to achieve that vintage look, and each stud is applied by hand. Take for instance the Kensington three-seater sofa has 1700 nails, that is a lot of work hours put into each piece!

-Leather Loving Care

There are many creams and leather wipes specifically designed to help you keep your leather sofa clean and protected.  Leather sofas are incredibly durable and resilient but they do need a bit of tender loving care – all good furniture does!

About Rathwood

Rathwood is a shopping and activity destination centre located in Rath (Tullow to Shillelagh Road) on the Carlow/Wicklow border.  Rathwood has been selecting quality furniture at its showrooms for 20 years.  One of the most popular brands of leather sofas available in stock at Rathwood is Halo, known for its innovative designs created with the highest quality aniline leather.

About Karen

My name is Karen Hughes and I'm an Interior Designer from Dublin, Ireland. I’m passionate about design and I started this blog as a way to connect with others just as passionate as myself. I tend to ramble on about all sorts of things, projects I’m working on, people, places and things that inspire me (and some that don’t). So put the kettle on, get comfy and settle in. I hope you enjoy your visit and don't forget to say hello. Visit my website to find out more about my services and view my work.


  1. Michael Connolly

    Hi Karen,
    Great to see that someone is finally trying to explain about the various types of leather available & the hugh variance in qualities. Very informative for the non-furniture expert. I don’t agree that ‘Bycast’ can be classed as leather though. It is made from the byroducts of leather production & has none of the wear or durability characteristics of genuine leather. In fact, it is a misrepresentation to sell Bycast leather as Genuine leather

  2. There are a lot of benefits of using leather sofas and that’s
    why these are being used a lot throughout the world. There is a very nice information
    shared in this blog regarding leather sofas and it is showing the usefulness
    and benefits if leather sofas as well. As leather ages it becomes more supple and soft, so as
    time goes by, instead of looking worn and faded, a leather sofa acquires a
    whole new life. Leather moulds to fit your contours and so simply becomes more
    comfortable over time. It is tougher than material, in fact than any other
    natural fabric. If you want to save the planet, leather is a by-product of the
    meat industry, and some of it would otherwise be scrapped as waste, whereas
    material is made using other resources.
    Bamboo Sheets

  3. Leather Sofas are great , i love to class it up with a nice piece of artwork.Kechara Tibetan Thangkas are my personal favorite .

  4. I like leather, but there’s not a little outdated? Especially the brown. I like the orange and black. The brown seems to be from ’50 years…

  5. it is very important to improve your home design for the beauty

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