Leather, Vinyl, or Fabric: Which Is the Best Material for Your Upholstered Furniture?

The secret to beautiful upholstered furniture that will last many decades is in the quality and choice of materials used. Aside from durability, the upholstery material also says a lot about your taste and sense of style.

Whether you are shopping for the perfect upholstered furniture for your home, commissioning bespoke furniture or planning to have an old furniture piece reupholstered, this article will give you valuable information when it comes to selecting the ideal material.

Common Upholstery Materials

Basically, there are three most commonly used materials for furniture upholstery: leather, vinyl and fabric. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each item.


Fabric is an unsurprising favourite when it comes to furniture upholstery given the extensive options for colours, prints, patterns and weaves. Gone are the days when people fear fabric upholstery due to its difficulty to maintain, as they can be ruined by stubborn stains. On the contrary, there is now upholstery fabric, for example, the Aqua -clean fabric, that is stain-proof and can be cleaned easily using water. When going for fabric, go for choices with a higher thread count, such as a woven fabric, because they can last longer.


A classic choice, leather requires little to no maintenance. A simple polish once in a while can make it as good as new. Leather furniture also ages beautifully and has a timeless appearance that will never go out of style and can elegantly match almost any interior design theme. Another winning feature of leather upholstery is the fact that it is allergy friendly.


A less expensive alternative to leather, vinyl, which is sometimes called faux leather, gives you the same low-maintenance feature and classy look as it also comes in various colours and styles. This furniture upholstery material can be waterproof and extremely resistant to everyday wear and tear. This is why vinyl is suggested for upholstered furniture pieces that will be put in outdoor living areas or boats where there is expected exposure to sunlight and other weather conditions because it does not get sun damage and fade.

Tips In Choosing The Material For Your Upholstery

Does your well-loved furniture need a fresh makeover? A high-quality upholstery material can give it a new and stylish look. Interestingly, upholstery can be done on sofas, headboards, seat cushions, footstools, outdoor furniture, and boats,

Here are some additional pieces of advice that may help you decide which material to choose for your upholstery.

Consider where you will put the upholstered furniture.

The wear and tear of upholstered furniture will depend greatly on where you plan to place the item. Is it a sofa that will be placed in a high-traffic area, such as the living room or used in a potential “accident prone” spot, such as your dining room? Are you going to put it outdoors? This way, you will be able to judge the material against possible scenarios.

Forget about delicate and light-coloured materials if you have children and pets.

No matter how much it would look great in your living space, it is best to save yourself the heartache of seeing badly stained or scratched furniture, thanks to your playful baby or your bored cat.

Think about allergies and other relevant factors.

Some upholstery materials can be a magnet for allergens, dust, lint and pet dander. This is something worth considering if you or someone in the family suffers from allergies.

Do not compromise style.

While the strength of the material matters, it is also important that your choice will complement your interior design and the existing furniture pieces you have. Select a material that also reflects your personal style. For instance, black leather upholstered furniture may appear too formal and out of place in a Bohemian-inspired space but may look sleek and stylish in a Scandinavian interior.

Ask for free samples.

It is recommended that you request a postcard-sized sample of the available upholstery materials to take home with you. Inspect each material and see how it fairs against the lighting and the overall theme in the specific area where you plan to position it around the house. You can even ask for a larger sample of the materials. This way, you will be able to picture if the material will fit what you have in mind.

The material should look good on the furniture.

Upholstery experts recommend opting for solid colours if the piece has complex curves. A patterned fabric may not appear as pretty as it was when it was laid out in front of you as after it has been cut out into several pieces and upholstered on to a particularly intricately shaped furniture. Sticking to solid colours for big pieces will also work for your advantage design-wise because it will give it a timeless look and you will not have a hard time searching for pieces that would blend well with your patterned furniture.

Do a durability test.

Do a durability test with samples of materials that are not required to be returned. You can test them against possible accidents. For instance, water spills or coffee and sauce stains. Check if they can be easily maintained and do not require cleaning treatments. Again, only do this to non-returnable samples to avoid damage fees.

Furniture Upholstery in Bristol

For professional furniture upholstery services in the Bristol area choose South West Upholstery. Boasting over 18 years of experience in the furniture upholstery industry, this family-run business is a one-stop shop for all your upholstery and furniture requirements. Our services include a wide range of custom upholstery and re-upholstery services for homes, businesses (including hotels, restaurants, and pubs), motor homes, and boats.

For more information about Bristol upholstery services, please call us on 0117 370 2745 or send us an email at [email protected].