Is a bycast leather couch crap, or craptacular!?
May 20, 2008 9:29 PM   Subscribe

What can I expect from a leather couch that is made from "bycast leather" (also called "bicast" or PU leather). Any Kramfors owners out there? Also, if I buy a leather couch, will vegetarians hate me?

I'm looking for a leather loveseat with a modern look that's 66 inches long or less. I found this one at a local store for only $499. Aside from appearance, how can I tell if it's worth buying? It's made from bycast leather. I understand bycast isn't as good as top grain, but is it worth $500, and will it last at least 5 to 7 years-ish?

For the sake of comparison, Ikea's Kramfors is a bit longer than I'd like (70 inches) and a bit more expensive ($879). Is it a better couch? Ikea says it's "Leather: Dyed through, split leather with an embossed and pigmented surface". Doesn't that mean it's bycast leather?

Gah! This is all quite confusing. I want an affordable small apartment sofa that looks good and will last more than, say, 5 years. I'm interested in leather more for the look and feel than anything else. (it's worth noting that I've never owned leather furniture before)
posted by 2oh1 to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Some vegetarians will hate you, yes.
posted by pompomtom at 9:32 PM on May 20, 2008

Do you, or might you, have any pets? I'd worry about the chew-attractiveness of leather...

I think most good-quality sofas will last that long if they're not ravaged by cats or dogs. Or grape juice.
posted by amtho at 9:41 PM on May 20, 2008

If vegetarians give you crap about your couch, offer them the floor. No one is making them sit there.

My parents are avid comparison shoppers, and no purchase was ever made in my house without at least a week of research and agony. When we finally got leather couches several years ago, they opted for top grain (or whatever it's called) leather over the bycast. I can't tell you why, since I wasn't part of the decision process, but I do know that they were considering bycast and chose against it, for what I have to assume were valid reasons.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 PM on May 20, 2008

Accord to this, bicast leather is not really leather; it is a man-made product. I guess this makes you safe from militant vegetarians, but puts you in danger of facing some rant about peak oil.
posted by Deep Dish at 10:37 PM on May 20, 2008

I should add that I don't have any pets. I don't have any vegetarians either - but I'm a single man living in Portland. Vegetarians are everywhere here! Also, I enjoy living downtown, which means living in a small space. My loveseat will pretty much be sat on every day.

Really, I just want to be sure that bycast leather isn't crap. I don't expect to get decades out of an affordable couch, but I don't want to replace it in a year or two either. 5 to 7 would be great. More? Even better!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:43 PM on May 20, 2008

Search on Diamond Sofa says they do import of leather and leather match furniture. Leather match I'm assuming to mean "like leather".

Bicast leather from wikipedia

This loveseat has a good description of Bicast leather also (I picked the site since I used to live near one of these stores and liked the look and feel of their stuff but never bought there.)

I ended up getting a Natuzzi natural leather sofa and it's still nice after nearly 10 years and 2 dogs with no cuts or chewing from the pets.

I think for your purpose, $400-800 will get you a nice looking and durable loveseat - be it natural leather or Bicast, as long as you like the look and feel and the cushioning inside isnt cheaply made, it should last you at least the 5 years you are looking for. Especially the size of the furniture, less than 70 inches wide will probably be pretty sturdy if it's wood frame inside. Shop around and compare to look and quality of the one you posted, ask for a deal, and get something you will like. Looks like Bicast gets some votes in the look and feel and durability (stains etc) category, but by the same token I think it can use cheaper leather to start since it will be "treated" and thus you can expect to pay less for something made with that material.

I suppose a leather snob might bash bicast, but really, if you get your money's worth and you like it, who really cares, which also applies to vegetarians who may be angry at your material choice - it's what YOU like and you really arent going to please everyone in life - so get yourself a good deal on something you value and be happy.
posted by clanger at 10:54 PM on May 20, 2008

Mrs Morte and myself have had a dark-brown Kramfors for two or three years now - I think we bought it when it was a new range.

It's been the most reliable, damage-resistant, comfortable sofa we could possibly have wanted. Our 2-year-old climbs all over it, bashes it with his toys and generally mistreats it as much as he can. So far I haven't had to do more than run a damp cloth over it to remove crayon marks.

I believe the leather is coated with a film of polyurethane. So far we've had no scratches or wrinkles in it - it looks exactly as it did when I first assembled it. 10/10 highly recommended etc.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:53 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Vegetarians are everywhere here!

You know what else is everywhere there? Leather sofas and love seats. Buy used and you'll anger less the vegetarians (I'm one) and get real leather for possibly cheaper.
posted by dobbs at 5:58 AM on May 21, 2008

I don't really understand why you'd want to buy a leather couch anyway. In the summer they get hot, in the winter, they're really cold. If somehow it gets ripped, sewing it up will be harder, and the seam more conspicuous. Unless you live in a desert, when it gets hot and humid in the summer, you'll stick to it and it'll feel gross.

I guess leather looks nice, but it seems like a less practical material for a sofa. If you have your heart set on it, I'm not likely to change your mind, but you said you've never owned leather furniture before, so make sure that you know what you're going after before you drop the cash.
posted by explosion at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2008

To me, leather makes sense in a car, where fabric will get grotty and wear out really fast, but I hate it in a chair or sofa. It's so uncozy! You slide around on it, and it's cold in cold weather and sticky in hot. Also it gets scratched. If you want something durable but cozy, there are lots of great microfiber fabrics out there that wear like iron, don't scratch, don't fade, come in all different textures and colors, and will last a lot longer than 5-7 years. Oh, and that are in your price range.
posted by HotToddy at 9:44 AM on May 21, 2008

Any Kramfors owners out there?
My husband and I bought an IKEA Kramfors sectional sofa with chaise. We love it; it's huge and functional, and the price was right. However...

Within 12 months, the polyurethane coating started "melting" and peeling — first on one unit, then the other.

Possible explanations: body oils breaking down the coating, or sunlight/heat/UV rays (we have southern exposure). When we went back to IKEA, the helpful salesperson told us about the coating, and how it's not meant for full sunlight. Too bad we weren't told about this when we bought it!

IKEA did replace both units, but we're left wondering if a year from now, we'll have to buy a whole new sofa.

Compare our story with that of a friend's black leather easy chair: it's 20 years old and has seen enough sunlight to completely fade the black material behind the cusion to white — yet the leather still looks and feels new! This is the difference between top-quality leather and bycast, at least in our experience. Caveat emptor.
posted by Blaq at 2:54 PM on September 5, 2008

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