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High Quality Leather Furniture Suggestions?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I am moving in a month and decided that I do not want to take my crappy (yet comfortable) Rooms-To-Go furniture. I quickly realized that while I know all about buying suits or determining that quality of shoes, I know little to nothing about buying quality furniture.

First, what I am looking for: High quality (heirloom quality) leather sofa or sectional. I’m tired of wasting money on crappy furniture that looks good for a couple of years but sags and looks like crap very soon.

I would like to know what to look for to find quality leather furniture. I am willing to pay for quality, but do not what to pay for marketing. In other words, I do not want to buy the Hugo Boss of furniture but I can probably not afford the Tom Ford or the Kiton on furniture. I’m looking for the Hickey Freeman or the BB Golden Fleece of furniture.

I know the obvious things to look for are:
• Topgrain leather (is this the same as full-grain?)
• Hand-tied spring suspention (8-way?)
• Kiln dried hardwood
• Corner blocked frames
• Double doweled frames
• Down fill
• Hand tanned leather

What other “markings” does quality leather furniture have? Are any of those things BS?

In addition, where do you furniture experts buy your furniture? Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, Ethan Allen etc all seem to have some good stuff, but I know a big part of their price is their marketing markup and I really don’t know which stores are crap/marketing/waste of time.

I’m willing to pay up to $6k for a sofa or more for a sectional, although I would like to pay less but not at the expense of quality.

Also, should I be looking at small independent stores? If so, how do I look for them? Any recommendations for the Philly/DE/NJ area?

Comments or suggestions are more than welcome!
post #2 of 26
Expect to pay 5k for a chair and 10k for a sofa. At least that is what my Le Corbusier furniture was around.
post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
I would be willing to pay up to that if there was value to it and I'm not just paying for a brand name. Once again, not looking for the Tom Ford of sofas.

Excuse my ignorance, but what advantages does Le Corbusier furniture have. Any construction details I should look for?
post #4 of 26
Any authentic Le Corbusier or Eames furniture for example is going to be top notch in quality. Also, most of the designs are timeless and will always look modern and fresh. Finally, they hold value.
post #5 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patek View Post

I know the obvious things to look for are:
• Topgrain leather (is this the same as full-grain?)

NO. Top-grain is actually inferior and far less durable than full-grain leather. If you're looking for the "Golden Fleece" of furniture, it MUST be full grain.

Why, you ask? When you have cowhide, there are two parts: the top grain and the split. The latter is what gives leather its heft and durability (but conversely, makes it less pliable, therefore less like your favorite jacket and more like your favorite belt).

However, if constructed properly, a full-grain couch can be just as attractive and comfortable as a top-grain one. It will also last decades longer.

(I went through this whole research phase when buying a couch for my home). This won't help you, but western states have Arizona Leather who makes couches with full-grain leather here in the USA, and whose final product is heads and shoulders above the made-in-China crap you find at a furniture or department store for 2-3x the price. (Seriously, Macy's wanted $5000 for a top-grain leather couch with inferior construction. Salespeople didn't even know what top-grain was.)

Chances are, if you find a furniture maker that uses full-grain leather, they'll also likely be using superior construction in other areas as well.

Edit: Also, furniture has ridiculous markup. You should not ever be paying MSRP. I think 40% below sticker price is a good place to start.
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by amnesiacv2 View Post

NO. Top-grain is actually inferior and far less durable than full-grain leather. If you're looking for the "Golden Fleece" of furniture, it MUST be full grain.
Why, you ask? When you have cowhide, there are two parts: the top grain and the split. The latter is what gives leather its heft and durability (but conversely, makes it less pliable, therefore less like your favorite jacket and more like your favorite belt).
However, if constructed properly, a full-grain couch can be just as attractive and comfortable as a top-grain one. It will also last decades longer.
(I went through this whole research phase when buying a couch for my home). This won't help you, but western states have Arizona Leather who makes couches with full-grain leather here in the USA, and whose final product is heads and shoulders above the made-in-China crap you find at a furniture or department store for 2-3x the price. (Seriously, Macy's wanted $5000 for a top-grain leather couch with inferior construction. Salespeople didn't even know what top-grain was.)
Chances are, if you find a furniture maker that uses full-grain leather, they'll also likely be using superior construction in other areas as well.
Edit: Also, furniture has ridiculous markup. You should not ever be paying MSRP. I think 40% below sticker price is a good place to start.

This is the quality information that I was looking for. I travel a lot for work so I may be able to check out their show rooms. Actually, next week I will be in Dallas and I would imagine there must be some decent leather stores around there.
post #7 of 26
Look at Hancock & Moore. Incredibly well built, lots of styles and leather choices available. I can't imagine I'll ever buy another piece of leather furniture from any other manufacturer.
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hopkins_student View Post

Look at Hancock & Moore. Incredibly well built, lots of styles and leather choices available. I can't imagine I'll ever buy another piece of leather furniture from any other manufacturer.

Good lead. Thanks!
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Anyone else have some insight in what to look for in the construction?
post #10 of 26
I have a Sofa from a small Danish company called Saxo Living, who makes sofas in the fabric of your choice, you can foam, down etc. and if you pick fabric it's completely removable.
post #11 of 26
I (as well as other family members) have always purchased from American Leather. They have a great website with good info and many Iof the features you are looking for in Sofas/chairs.

You pick the frame, Leather, and cushion type. 3 weeks build time. All and in USA.

If you want the order coordinated separates (for instance a 3 cushion couch and 2 matching chairs) make sure you order all at once and demand pulling leather from the same lots. We have a sofa in Bison Fawn that is about 2% different from the same couch that I now have in my office. Not noticeable until I had it in my house next to my living room couch (of the same color). I had to take delivery in my house as our building was still in the final construction/painting phase. The difference is not sufficient that I didn't like the couch (either for that matter) but if next to each other I would always notice the variance. Per American Leather, lots are simply different due to the hand dying of the leathers.

Some pieces are 15 years old and high traffic and still look and feel great.

Frames and designs from traditional to modern. Best we have is our office chairs in our lounge which are actually theater chairs. Smokey black/grey leather.

You can probably locate a showroom with a few pieces near tour home town, but more importantly the leather swatches (real leather approx 16" by 12", not cardboard) will show you the various grades, colors, grains, etc...
Edited by kuslamb - 1/17/12 at 8:01pm
post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kuslamb View Post

I (as well as other family members) have always purchased from American Leather. They have a great website with good info and many Iof the features you are looking for in Sofas/chairs.
You pick the frame, Leather, and cushion type. 3 weeks build time. All and in USA.
If you want the order coordinated separates (for instance a 3 cushion couch and 2 matching chairs) make sure you order all at once and demand pulling leather from the same lots. We have a sofa in Bison Fawn that is about 2% different from the same couch that I now have in my office. Not noticeable until I had it in my house next to my living room couch (of the same color). I had to take delivery in my house as our building was still in the final construction/painting phase. The difference is not sufficient that I didn't like the couch (either for that matter) but if next to each other I would always notice the variance. Per American Leather, lots are simply different due to the hand dying of the leathers.
Some pieces are 15 years old and high traffic and still look and feel great.
Frames and designs from traditional to modern. Best we have is our office chairs in our lounge which are actually theater chairs. Smokey black/grey leather.
You can probably locate a showroom with a few pieces near tour home town, but more importantly the leather swatches (real leather approx 16" by 12", not cardboard) will show you the various grades, colors, grains, etc...

American Leather--never heard of them. I will have to check them out.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sns23 View Post

Any authentic Le Corbusier or Eames furniture for example is going to be top notch in quality. Also, most of the designs are timeless and will always look modern and fresh. Finally, they hold value.

Except for resale value, I do not agree with the rest of the statements in this post.

Convectional wisdom when it comes to hand-made quality , made in USA is : 1. Hanckock and More, 2. Leathercraft.

Arguably they are the same in quality. However, I have to strongly , strongly suggest to sit on the exact model and cushion type before ordering online or through the local showroom.
I have had very unfortunate experience with Leathercraft custom-made leather sofa. It turned out to be the most uncomfortable piece of furniture I have ever sat on. It was made with glaring manufacturing defects and it was as elephantine as most things made in US.
IMHO, the safest bet would be to order chesterfield sofa.
However, from my exp. with different manufacturers in US and Asia, if i needed a sofa I would've looked at the antique/auctions market or classifieds and buy early 20th century piece and have it re-upholstered.
The quality of union-made furniture in US is as bad as Asian made junk nowadays.

P.S. The retail price of H&M or Leathercarft is nothing but a marketing gimmick or a scam , depends how you look at it.. Expect to pay 50% or less from the retail prices indicated in their catalogues.
P.P.S. Sarreid has interesting leather furniture.
post #14 of 26
Buying furniture with the expectation of quality is one of the most frustrating things you can do, largely because the marketplace is fairly ignorant - and easy to rip off. So, kudos for actually looking into the issue!

I have a 220 year old dining room table, for example - and I know that literally *nothing* I can buy today will have that level of quality and durability. This leaves two options - (i) buy antique (which is harder and harder every year, as the supply of antiques gradually is being consumed by not, obviously, replenished) and/or (ii) go bespoke (as one would do seeking the perfect suit, right?)

In my case, my antiques are mostly inherited (family is in the business), since I absolutely lack the patience to go antiquing: I grew up in a house which was essentially a museum, spent far too much of my childhood being dragged from antique to art gallery to antique store, and I truly don't care if I never set foot in one ever again. I appreciate the antiques I've been given (and I've been selective - I've said "no!' to quite a few offers of furniture, etc), but I doubt I'll ever buy any.

So, bespoke: while I hate antiquing, I love nice furniture. My solution is to have my furniture made for me: I have a third-generation master carpenter who can make pretty much anything to order (depending on availability of certain woods and so on, of course - there ARE still some woods which you'll only find now in antiques). Extreme quality (he's very talented), handmade to any specification AND far cheaper than one could find a similar item in a store (no retail chain to add costs). I actually found my carpenter through an upholsterer; it's worth asking around, because craftsmen ARE out there. (One downside: turnaround time can be quite long, as you might imagine.)

(Aside: in addition to tailors, it's good to find an able upholsterer, a restorer, and a master carpenter. All three relationships will last for years and years).

DH
post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 
^^

So, how much should one expect to pay a craftsman to commission a sofa. This is a whole new world for me.
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