Match Leather Furniture with Your Style

Physician's Money Digest, November30 2003, Volume 10, Issue 22

What is it about leather furniture thatexemplifies the "good life"? Is it thesoft, supple texture? The aestheticappeal? Or is it the feeling you getwhen sinking into a fine piece of furniture—preferablyby a blazing fire with a good book in hand and abrandy snifter at arm's reach.

A Leather Boom

For all these reasons and more, leather furniture salesare growing. "Leather is a great choice for today's activelifestyle; it's durable, easy to care for, and looks betterwith age," say Ethan Allen (www.ethanallen.com)design consultants. "More people are realizing that thenatural beauty of leather, combined with its value(leather can last up to 7 times longer than fabric)makes it the perfect cover for a wide variety oflifestyles," concurs Cary Benson, an executive withDallas, Tex–based American Leather (www.americanleather.com), a supplier to Macy's and Crate & Barrel,among other national retail chains.

"Today," Benson says, "new tanning techniques allowfor any color, as well as a choice of different texturesand protection." According to Ethan Allen design consultants,colors range from rich cinnamon brown to deepreds, olive greens, and black. Popular textures includeanimal skins like crocodile and ostrich.

Leather is available on just about any type of furniture—from dining room chairs to oversized ottomansand sofas in a variety of styles.

Additionally, as the leather market has grown, so hasthe range of pricing. Benson comments, "Leather allowsconsumers to choose from an endless array of options."

Decisions, Decisions

While this is all good news, it can make the leatherfurniture selection process a bit daunting. Benson offersthe following recommendation: Shop for value, notprice. There are many differences in both the quality andtype of leather—from full aniline, the most supple andsumptuous leather, to semi-aniline, the most durableleather. (See sidebar for more details.)

For a physician's home or office, Benson considersfull aniline (natural leather) to be the best choice. "Thisleather has been dyed and sprayedwith a top coat to protect it from stains. It ismore expensive than heavily processed leather, yet itoffers a nice, soft touch, and will age gracefully, developinga rich luster over time."

Of course, maintaining a beautiful piece of leatherfurniture requires additional attention after leaving thestore. Leather is a natural product, and needs some careto maintain the beauty of the hide. American Leatherrecommends that you keep your furniture out of directsunlight, use a good leather conditioner every 6 to 12months, and wipe up any excess liquid immediatelywith a clean, absorbent cloth or sponge.