Should I get my couch reupholstered in synthetic leather?
January 13, 2015 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I have inherited a beautiful mid-century sectional couch, and it needs to be reupholstered. Since we have two dogs, I would prefer leather, but unfortunately it is going to take a whopping $6000 worth of real leather to complete the job (that's just the skins, not the foam or the labour). I am considering a synthetic option: bonded leather or vinyl or PVC of some type. Are there decent synthetic materials available now that will look like leather and stand up to ordinary wear and tear?

Our dogs are whippets, and they usually are on a blanket or pad on top of the couch, so the main issue is dog hair rather than scratching. They have been jumping around on our current IKEA leather sofa for ten years without causing a single scratch or tear, but it's covered in a very sturdy cowhide. I can't justify paying that much money to cover the new sectional in real leather, but fabric is just not practical.
posted by mysprocketisborked to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, there are. My best friend had a sofa and armchairs upholstered in a very high quality vinyl and it feels wonderful. I couldn't guess how much he spent, though, when I went along with him to see samples, he was going to very high end companies. But, yes, it's out there if you want it.
posted by janey47 at 3:26 PM on January 13, 2015

Best answer: I would make sure you do extensive research on fabrics when it comes to pets - maybe try upholstering a cushion of a dining room chair or something similar with the fabric you're thinking of using as a test. I know certain pleathers/fake leathers don't stand up as well to pet abuse and scratches as real leather. Best of luck!
posted by emily37 at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2015

Our couches are upholstered in some sort of microfiber that looks to me a lot like (sueded) leather, but is soft and made of fabric. I can't tell if what you want is something smooth or something durable, or what.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:44 PM on January 13, 2015

It would be a lot cheaper to get a leather shell you can remove to clean if needed to put over the couch then do the pillows in leather or another durable fabric.
posted by parmanparman at 5:33 PM on January 13, 2015

Vinyl is rife with health risks.
posted by parmanparman at 5:35 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Emily Henderson, of Design Star/Secrets of Stylist fame, had her vintage couch reupholstered in Sunbrella outdoor fabric as a durable and stain resistant option, after deciding leather was too expensive. This was for child-proofing it, but I suspect it may work well for pets too.

You can read about it and see pics here.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:35 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is Naugahyde still a thing?

And yes, I had a Nauga when I was a kid.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:14 PM on January 13, 2015

Best answer: We have a real leather couch that is cold, hard, scratched up by the dogs and basically everyone hates it and no one will sit on it. We also have a fake leather couch, which is way softer, warmer-feeling, seems resistant to any kind of stain, and is apparently impervious to damage from animals. The material looks like worn leather, and is super strong yet very pliable. So yeah.
posted by jabah at 8:39 PM on January 13, 2015

As an alternative to pseudoleather options, I'd like to suggest Crypton fabric. It's highly stain- and odor-resistant, which would be perfect for dog owners. Crypton is Greenguard certified, meaning that it's low-emissions, which most vinyl options will not be.
posted by workerant at 8:29 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your great suggestions and advice. We definitely want either leather or a synthetic leather substitute, as the main issue is dog hair. The colour will probably be a dark brown, and the whippets have very short, fine white hair which sticks to any kind of fabric and looks awful on darker colours. The only material which will be practical is something smooth that I can wipe with a damp cloth.

I am encouraged that several of you feel that synthetic leather can be a good option and not look cheesy, and I love emily37's idea of getting a test piece beforehand to see if it will stand up.
posted by mysprocketisborked at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2015

I just went through this with a chair my cat destroyed and was amazed at all the faux leather options (metallics, animal skin patterns, lots of color choices) and how non-cheesy they looked. The upholsterer told me that one thing about actual leather is that stains from the oils in your pet's skin/hair will stain leather but not vinyl. That was the deciding factor for me because I'd hate to spend all this money on leather and then have a dark spot where the cat likes to sleep.
posted by *s at 10:14 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Probably the best way you can go is with commercial grade vinyl. This is vinyl that has high abrasion resistance and will probably be the best thing for you. You will have to contact companies like Richloom fabrics or Valley Forge.
posted by Artemaximus at 11:07 AM on July 18, 2015

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