Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (2023)

Monday, February 1, 2021

Written by Jeff Frank

Categories: Where Can I Find...? Furniture Design Furniture Construction Furniture Retailers and Manufacturers Sofas, Sleepers and other upholstered furniture Made in america

Comments: 0

BLOG UPDATE - Jeff Frank retired from Simplicity Sofas March 20, 2022 to work full time on his new informational blog. Check out Jeff's new blog [INSIDERSGUIDETOFURNITURE.COM

[The Insider's Guide to Furniture blog contains over 500 articles, including new articles published after March, 2022 and updates of articles in this blog.]

The 18 companies reviewed in this article have been selected by Jeff Frank, a 40 year veteran of the furniture industry.

Mr. Frank is the author of over 800 articles on a wide range of furniture topics covering manufacturing, retail, design, marketing and quality issues.

Ratings and comments are based on his personal opinion and available information.

No payments or other considerations have been solicited from any of the companies on this list.

General Information About Reclining Sofas and Sectionals:

Prior to 2010, most reclining furniture was sold in "real leather" made from hides.

  • Leather reclining furniture was very expensive, especially for larger pieces such as sofas and sectionals.
  • 100% synthetic faux leathers made with vinyl or polyurethane were available, but were unpopular with the vast majority of furniture shoppers.

Over the past 10 years, motion (reclining) furniture has been, by far, the fastest growing furniture category.

Larger pieces, such as sofas and sectionals make up a large percentage of that growth.

  • The introduction of bonded leather in 2010 was directly responsible for this rapid growth.
  • Reclining furniture made with "partially real leather" was now available at greatly reduced prices.
  • Marketed as including "some" real leather content, it was accepted by furniture shoppers who had previously rejected 100% synthetic materials that looked and felt very similar.

Motion (reclining) sofas and sectionals have a significantly higher rate of problems and complaints than similarly priced stationary seating.

Thousands of these complaints were about problems related to peeling bonded leather.

In addition, recliner frames are not as strong or durable as non-reclining frames.

Reclining mechanisms are heavy. This puts added stress on the frames. The moving parts create additional stress.

  • Friction occurs every time someone changes position.
  • This causes both the cushion foam and the fabric to wear out more quickly, a major reason why leather is so popular on reclining furniture.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (1)

The increased weight, combined with delicate mechanisms, also makes this furniture vulnerable to damage during shipment.

  • This can occur during shipment from the factory to the retailer, the retailer to your home or even just moving the furniture around your room.

Reclining chairs are not as susceptible to damage as the larger, heavier motion sofas and sectionals.

Reclining chairs typically have replaceable components that are easier (and less expensive) to repair if needed.

Microfibers and high performance fabrics are more durable than most fabrics on motion furniture. Real leather and high quality faux leathers, made with 100% polyurethane or 100% vinyl, are even more durable.

More recently, new composite synthetic faux leathers have been introduced. These are made with a combination of polyester and polyurethane (and sometimes vinyl.)

The new composite faux leathers are being used by many manufacturers to replace bonded leather. The new composites have not been around long enough to prove their long term durability, but I believe they should hold up for 10+ years and will not "peel."

In my experience, approximately 50% of people looking for “leather“ furniture do not know the difference between genuine and faux leathers.

Do not buy any furniture with bonded leather fabric!!!

At the end of this article I have included information that should be understood before purchasing “leather” reclining furniture.

The Top 9 (Higher quality) Manufacturers

The first 9 manufacturers on this list produce reclining furniture at a significantly higher quality level than the remaining companies listed. Prices are also higher.

These top 9 companies build furniture that is stronger, better tailored and far more durable than the lower priced, mass produced products.

1) Ekornes Stressless, Morganton, NC

In my opinion this is the best made, most comfortable reclining furniture available at any price.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (2)

Ekornes Stressless is a Norwegian company. It makes this Made in America listing due to its 100,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant in Morganton, NC. (which is currently undergoing expansion to 200,000 sq. ft.)

Many Ekornes reclining sofas are available with power mechanisms, but my favorites are the manual systems.

  • The manual seats move effortlessly without any handles or controls, automatically adjusting to your body's most comfortable position.

Ekorness Stressless Video

Shopping for Ekornes Stressless reclining furniture can be stressful.

  • They have more than one website. Not all products are shown.
  • Some styles or options may be restricted and cannot be ordered through some dealers.
  • Prices can vary widely from one dealership to another.

Ekornes is a leather specialist.

  • The top leather grade can substantially increase pricing.
  • The lower grade leathers are still very high quality. They are durable and soft, superior to many of the leathers offered by larger, better known brands.
  • Fabrics are available for those who do not want leather.

2) Hancock & Moore, Hickory, NC

H&M is one of the top quality upholstered furniture manufacturers in the U.S. Leather is their specialty, but they also have a selection of high quality fabrics.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (3)

Styles are traditional to transitional. Product lines include recliners, reclining sofas, reclining sectionals and home theater.

Hancock & Moore's Your Way recliner line uses a mechanism with four buttons plus a "home" button in the middle that returns the seat to its normal position.

This not only brings up the footrest and the tilt on the back function, but also lets you activate a separate headrest motor to tilt your head more upright when reclined.

There is also a USB port to charge your phone, laptop, etc at the bottom of the switch.

Although H&M is known for heirloom quality hand-crafted furniture, it is important to note that their reclining furniture cannot be expected to have the same durability and quality level as their stationary seating.

3)MotionCraft, Morganton, NC

MotionCraft, a division of Sherrill Furniture, has been building custom reclining furniture for over 40 years.

MotionCraft offers a large variety of arm styles, sizes, configurations and custom options. Everything is available in over 1000 fabrics and 100 leathers.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (4)

This is handcrafted furniture, built by experienced, skilled artisans. The detailed tailoring goes beyond what is possible for most other motion furniture manufacturers.

Most reclining furniture is designed for efficient mass production, emphasizing simple tailoring techniques such as “sock-on” (pre-sewn) covers requiring minimal time or skill to upholster.

MotionCraft pays attention to the type of details typically found only in high quality stationary seating. Pleats are perfect. Brass nail heads and button tufting are meticulously attached one at a time by hand.

They even take the time and effort on details that cannot be seen. This includes things like hand-trimming frames to make sure mechanisms work smoothly and wrapping exposed frame parts in cotton fiber to reduce abrasion and extend the life of the furniture.

4) American Leather, Dallas Texas

American Leather was founded in 1990 on a completely different principle and philosophy than the other manufacturers in the Top 9.

The company’s production is highly automated for mass customization of high end seating through state of the art technology.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (5)

The company is constantly developing new designs and technology, including its own power mechanisms that are produced exclusively for their own use.

Fabrics, leathers and frames are all cut on automated computerized machinery, including video cameras and lasers, to minimize waste and maximize efficiency.

The goal is to produce top quality seating in 30 days or less.

As indicated by the name of the company, American Leather specializes in leather furniture, but also has an extensive fabric offering as well.

A very wide range of leathers is available to furniture makers. American Leather claims to use only the top 10% of hides available worldwide.

There can be a substantial price difference between top and bottom quality genuine leathers.

For example, a cheap Chinese corrected leather may be purchased by a manufacturer for as little as $2 per square foot while a top quality European natural leather can cost 4 or 5 times as much.

Assuming an average sofa requires 200 sq. ft. of leather, the difference in cost (to the manufacturer before any profit markups) can be more than $1000.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (6)

For lower cost seating from American Leather, there is a wide variety of fabrics ranging from microfibers to high performance Crypton and Sunbrella fabrics. These fabrics have great durability and a high stain resistance but cost substantially less than high quality leathers.

Cushions are described as "high density" and " multi-dimensional” foam combined with down and feathers. That is a very general description, but this is a company that places a priority on superior comfort and durability.

American Leather is one of the founding members of the Sustainable Furniture Council, which emphasizes environmentally friendly and sustainable "green" materials and production practices.

5) Bradington Young, Hickory, NC

Bradington Young offers an extensive collection of well-built traditional and classically styled reclining sofas and sectionals. The company specializes in top grain leathers but also offers fabric options.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (7)

Details and finish are not quite up to the standards of MotionCraft or Hancock & Moore, but prices are lower, and the overall quality is still excellent.

Bradington Young is a division of Hooker Furniture. Hooker also offers a similarly styled line of reclining sofas and sectionals manufactured in China.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (8)

Hooker’s prices (and quality) for their Chinese made products are significantly below BY.

6) Bassett Furniture, Bassett, VA

Bassett makes two different quality levels of reclining furniture. Only the Benchmade Motion line belongs in the top 9 of this review.

Bassett's Club Level reclining furniture is mass produced and is favorably comparable to other large mass produced brands listed below.

The Bassett Benchmade Motion collection is excellent quality furniture, but you need to upgrade from the standard 1.8 density foam cushions.

1.8 density foam cushions will feel the firmest when new, but will be noticeably softer one year later and may be uncomfortably soft after 3 - 5 years. At that point the foam cushion cores will need to be replaced.

The spring down cushion option is very comfortable and should hold up for 10 - 15 years. After 10+ years they will still feel almost the same as when they were brand new.

All models currently offered are high leg designs with removable cushions.

7) Omnia Leather, Chino CA.

This is a environmentally conscious company with a wide range of reclining products and pricing.

Upgrading from a basic manual reclining sofa in a Grade 1 leather to a fully accessorized version of that same model can result in a significant cost increase.

The same model sofa in a Grade 6 leather with all options, including triple power (headrest, footrest, lumbar) can add $2000 or more to the retail price.

According to Omnia both the starting price model and the top of the line have the same frame, foam, springs, mechs and 100% top grain leather.

The vast assortment of leathers is sourced primarily from Europe. According to a company spokesperson Omnia does not use Chinese leathers.

Frames are solid kiln-dried hardwood.

Omnia's removable seat cushions are a distinct quality upgrade compared with the non-removable seat cushions found in the vast majority of mid-priced mass produced reclining sofas.

Another significant quality factor is the 2.0 density foam and the extra thickness of Omnia's removable seat cushions.

Omnia's seat cushions are also available in a firm seat core option at the same price. (You should not expect the extra firm cushions to last any longer than the standard firmness.)

Omnia's removable seat cushions should maintain their comfort significantly longer than "tight" non-removable seat cushions made with thinner 1.8 density foam.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (9)

All Omnia furniture is made to order in the style and upholstery options that you select. Reclining seating is typically shipped in 8-10 weeks.*

*That ship time was pre-covid. Custom furniture from all manufacturers may take up to a full year until supply chain problems are fixed.

Omnia has an unusually strong warranty for this category of furniture.

This includes a lifetime warranty on the hardwood frames.

There is a five year warranty on leather against transfer of color, peeling, tearing or that it will become hard.

Cushions have a three year warranty.

Recliner motors have a two year warranty.

Omnia is manufactured in California, a state with the strictest environmental regulations in the nation.

As a result Omnia is especially sensitive to ensuring that their products are "green" and sustainable.

The company is a founding member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

8) Smith Brothers, Berne, IN

This 90 year old furniture manufacturer is located in the heart of Indiana’s Amish community and prides itself on building furniture the old fashioned way, one piece at a time. Everything the company makes is custom-built.

Frames are solid maple, reinforced with double dowels, screws glue, corner blocks and metal brackets. The company builds its own frames.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (10)

The company designs its own exclusive arm support system to reduce the arm wobble that is commonly found in reclining furniture.

Seat cushions are removable and reversible with coil spring construction. No-sag springs are used to support the back.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (11)

Smith Brothers uses a modular bracketing system for their sofas. Armless sides have exposed connector brackets, so all configurations must have an arm at both the left and right ends.

Other high quality manufacturers use similar connection systems for their sectionals, but only Smith Brothers uses it for their reclining sofas and loveseats as well.

9) Comfort Design, Asheboro, NC

Comfort Design is owned by Klaussner, a large North Carolina manufacturer, which also makes lower cost (and lower quality) reclining furniture under its own brand name.

Comfort Design is a higher quality, custom manufacturer. Its reclining sofas are built one piece at a time by highly skilled upholsterers.

Cushions are a strength with this company. They offer multiple high quality removable cushion options and use long lasting 2.5 density foam.

Frames are made from kiln-dried Russian birch.

The nine American manufacturers listed above are higher quality than the next nine brands. There are significant differences in overall quality between these companies and the remaining manufacturers on this list.

There may also be a substantial price difference.

This price differential between the top manufacturers and the large mass producers results from a combination of quality, design and economic factors:

Traditional and classical designs were originally created at a time when furniture builders liked to show off their skill and expertise. Cost was a secondary consideration.

●Today’s mass produced reclining furniture designs prioritize cost over everything else. Cost reduction measures include:

oReduction of production costs by making large quantities of identical items. A single model may have sales of over 100,000 units.

oMass production requires designs that are simple to make by low cost workers with minimal skills.

oFabric covers are pre-sewn to reduce the time and skill needed to upholster the furniture.

oMaterial costs are minimized. Fabric is one of the biggest costs. The use of tight (non-removable/non-replaceable) seat and back cushions can save 50% of the fabric cost. With high quality leathers this can amount to hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.

oThe cost reduction factors listed above combine to restrict design options for popularly priced reclining furniture. The result can be very similar looking generic designs produced by multiple manufacturers.

The Rest of the American Reclining Manufacturers

The remaining listings are large American manufacturers who make and sell mid-priced mass produced reclining furniture.

There are several types of problems commonly found in lower and mid-price reclining sofas and sectionals:

Reclining sofas are very heavy. The frames are not as solid and sturdy as the top 5 companies listed above.

Transportation from the factory to the store, from the store to the home or even just moving the furniture around in a room, is more likely to result in mechanism or frame problems.

Seat cushion foam can lose its resilience after only a few years. “Tight” seat and back cushions, used in most mid-priced reclining furniture, cannot be removed or replaced, and are prohibitively expensive to fix.

Cushions (both loose and tight) will not be covered under your warranty.

Although there may be a big bold statement at the top of your warranty reading that your cushions are protected by a 5 year warranty, there will also be exceptions hidden in the fine print near the bottom stating that “normal wear” which includes sagging and foam compression, is not covered.

These manufacturers are heavy users of bonded leather-type fabrics that have a high chance of peeling or becoming discolored after a short time period.

Warranties - All manufacturers and retailers offer warranties on their furniture. These warranties are primarily designed for the protection of the manufacturers and retailers - not the consumer.

The bold warranty periods listed in large print at the top of the document are always modified, weakened or eliminated by multiple exclusions or exceptions listed in fine print further down.

For example, as a general rule, fabric and cushions are not covered, no matter what the large print terms may state.

In addition there are warranties from both the manufacturer and retailer. This does not strengthen your protection. It gives the manufacturer and retailer an opportunity to shift responsibility to the other party, making it more difficult for the consumer to receive service under the warranty’s protection.

Competitive Pressures - Over the past 20 years the number of furniture retailers has been drastically reduced.

According to Furniture Today the Top 100 furniture retailers accounted for 82% of total furniture retail sales on 2017.

The Top 10 furniture retailers account for nearly 50% of total sales.

There is tremendous pressure for the large manufacturers to sell their products to this limited number of major retailers. Cost is the #1 factor and has forced the large furniture manufacturers to shave costs on anything internal that does not improve

A recent survey of consumers planning to buy sofas has indicated that most people now expect their sofas to last only 3-5 years.

This is about half the life expectancy indicated in a similar survey conducted 15 years previously.

10) Barcalounger, Morrisville, TN.

In my opinion, Barcalounger is slightly better quality than the biggest mass producers (LaZBoy, Flexsteel, Ashley and others) but below the top 9 brands listed in this article.

Many people still remember Barcalounger as the top quality reclining furniture brand from the 1950s through the 1980s. That reputation still lingers although the company today is much different.

Barcalounger ran into severe financial difficulties in the 1980s and the quality dropped dramatically. It declared bankruptcy in 2010 and closed its North Carolina and Virginia factories. A completely new company purchased the trademark and opened a factory in Morristown, TN. in 2011.

The current products have no relationship to the old Barcalounger.

11) La-Z-Boy, Monroe, MI

La-Z-Boy’s founders introduced the first modern reclining chair in 1929. Since that time the company has grown into a 1.5 billion business with over 11,000 employees and 5 regional manufacturing plants located around the U.S.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (12)

La-Z-Boy offers over 200 different reclining designs, available in over 1000 fabrics and leathers, with a wide variety of mechanical and power mechanisms. Styles range from modern to traditional.

Many of the parts used in this furniture, including the frames, are manufactured domestically, however a significant number of components and fabrics are purchased overseas.

In addition to manufacturing this furniture, La-Z-Boy has an extensive network of La-Z-Boy Home Furnishings and Décor stores.

The company also has hundreds of La-Z-Boy galleries in larger furniture stores. Most of these offer in-home design assistance.

Most of La-Z-Boy’s reclining furniture is made with “tight” seat and back cushions that are not removable or reversible.

If the tight seats begin to “sag” and become uncomfortable, replacement or repair is very expensive. The warranty will not apply since this is considered “normal” wear.

Avoid La-Z-Boy’s Renew faux leather fabric. Although the company does not call this fabric a “bonded leather,” it is partially made with recycled leather particles and is subject to peeling after a few years – just like other bonded leathers.

12) Southern Motion, Pontotoc, MS.

Southern Motion™ specializes exclusively in reclining furniture. It has nearly 1500 employees in 5 Mississippi facilities.

The company offers a wide assortment of chairs, sofas and sectionals, available with a dozen different mechanisms and a wide variety of options, including power headrests and electronic accessories.

Southern Motion was founded in 1996 and has grown into a leading supplier to the national furniture retailers, offering a line that includes all categories of motion furniture.

The company is trying to become a major supplier for all categories of motion furniture.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (13)

Recently Southern Comfort launched SoCozi, a line of heated massaging reclining chairs and sofas. This is a fast growing category for reclining furniture manufacturers.

From a quality and durability view, Southern Comfort faces the same challenges as the other mid-priced competitors. Price is the #1 criteria followed by looks, comfort and special features and options.

13) Flexsteel, Dubuque, IA

Flexsteel is an American manufacturer that has been producing mid-range upholstered seating for more than 100 years.

Flexsteel should probably not be on this list at all. I am pretty sure it no longer makes any of its reclining furniture in the U.S.

  • The Southhaven series is made in Mexico and represents the starting grade. The Latitudes series has been made in China.
  • Over the past few years, heavy tariffs imposed on Chinese-made furniture products, have resulted in production shifts to other Asian locations.
  • Vietnam, Malaysia and other Asian sources have increased their production as China has declined.
  • Changing tariffs and transportation difficulties caused by Covid are forcing many manufacturers to move their Asian factories from one country to another.

Flexsteel still makes stationary furniture in the U.S.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (14)

Retail salespeople rarely mention that Flexsteel reclining furniture is made overseas, unless specifically asked.

Flexsteel has a long tradition of paying more attention than most comparably priced furniture manufacturers to the internal quality of its furniture. That tradition is being eroded.

The blue steel spring foundation that gave the company its name more than 100 years ago and is still ubiquitous in Flexsteel seating, is probably the strongest, longest lasting spring foundation ever made.

So far, Flexsteel has resisted the temptation to reduce costs by retiring the blue steel spring, which is substantially more expensive than other types of foundations used by their competitors.

All of Flexsteel’s reclining furniture is made with “tight” seat and back cushions that are not removable or reversible.

Genuine and faux leathers are a substantial percentage of Flexsteel’s overall sales.

Avoid Flexsteel’s Nuvo faux leather fabric. Although the company does not call this fabric a “bonded leather,” it is partially made with recycled leather particles and is subject to peeling after a few years – just like other bonded leathers.

14) Best Home Furnishings, Ferdinand, IN

This is a family owned and operated business, more than 50 years old with over 1 million square ft. and nearly 1000 employees. The company has been making recliners since 1989.

The specialty of this company is fast special orders – shipped within one week after purchase with a selection of more than 1000 different fabrics.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (15)

This emphasis on special orders distinguishes the company from better known brand names who either discourage special orders or take 8 weeks or more.

Best makes nearly 200 different recliners and more than 60 different reclining sofas and sectionals.

The company uses solid hardwood frames that are doweled, corner blocked, glued and screwed. Most of the other manufacturers in this category use plywood frames.

Best makes nearly 200 different recliners and more than 60 different reclining sofas and sectionals.

15) Franklin, Houston, MS
Although not as well known as some of the other recliner brands, Franklin Furniture is one of the largest privately owned furniture manufacturers in the U.S.

Franklin has been making recliners in Mississippi for 40 years. The company employs over 1300 workers and its facilities total over 1 million square feet.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (16)

This is a company that specializes in reclining furniture, although it also makes a few stationary sofas. As a reclining specialist it offers a wide variety of custom options.

These options include heat and massage mechanisms, infinite reclining positions, and iPod docking station controlled from a touch pad command center. You can also find models with lifts, extra storage, hidden tables and cup holders.

Franklin is a vertically integrated manufacturer, making nearly all of its own parts, including manual and power mechanisms.

Genuine leather is not available as an option.

16) Jackson Catnapper, TN

Catnapper is the brand name for recliners made by Jackson Furniture Industries. The company has over 1500 employees and 1 million sq. ft. of manufacturing space in 6 different facilities, located in Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and Florida.

This company offers the usual variety of features and options. It also offers a “Comfort Coil cushion on most of its models.

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (17)

In general I would consider a seat cushion with a coil spring to be an upgrade over the tight cushion seats and backs on most other reclining furniture in this price range, but there seem to be a substantial number of negative reviews specifically relating to the seat cushion.

In addition, Catnapper’s tailoring does not seem to be up to the standards of competitors like La-Z-Boy, Flexsteel and Southern Motion.

17) Lane Furniture, Tupelo, MS

Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa & Sectional Manufacturers? (18)

Lane is one of the best known brands in the furniture industry with a history that goes back over 100 years.

Unfortunately, the website for this company is very outdated. Ownership has changed. Links to the catalog don’t work.

As a result, it is very difficult to know much about what is actually happening with this line.

A check of Reviews and Complaints on Google averages 2 stars, which is consistent with most mid-price furniture companies.

There seems to be a large percentage of complaints about bonded leather, so if you avoid that you may be OK.

18) Klaussner, Asheboro, NC

Klaussner's reclining furniture is mass produced using low cost materials and inexpensive labor.

Klaussner has the same problems as most of its large competitors with non-removable cushions that wear out within a few years and cost as much to replace as buying a new sofa.

In addition, there seems to be an unusually high number of complaints about frame failures. This is a problem commonly found with cheap imported reclining sofas, but is not as common with U.S. made furniture.

General Information about Recliner Construction

Recliners typically have a frame, metal activating mechanism (manual or power), padding (foam and/or fiber) and the upholstery fabric.

Frames are usually made from wood. This may be solid hardwood, plywood or fiberboard. The frames are then reinforced with metal bars (part of the reclining mechanism) and often with steel or wood corner supports as well.

Recliner frames receive far more stress than the frames on stationary (non-motion) sofas and chairs.

Joints and connections are more vulnerable than on stationary seating, due to the extra weight and movement.

Before purchasing reclining furniture, sit in it and see if you feel any looseness or misalignment in the motion. Grasp the arms and see if you can detect any wobble, or if they feel as solid as a stationary piece.

More Leather Information

Genuine leather is made from animal hides and is available in a huge variety of textures, qualities and price ranges.

The difference in cost between a sofa made with an inexpensive “protected” leather and a top quality “natural” leather can be several thousand dollars.

Mid-range quality leathers cover all price points in-between.

Counterintuitivly, the least expensive genuine leathers are generally the best protected against daily hazards such as stains, fading, minor scratches, etc.

The most expensive “natural” leathers are the least protected and require regular cleaning and maintenance.

Properly maintained, a high quality natural leather can last 50 years or more. If maintenance is ignored, that same leather may crack, fade or become discolored by dirt or stains far sooner.

The least expensive hides often come from China. These lower grade hides are often marred by numerous visible flaws which may include insect bites, scratches, brands and other unsightly blemishes.

These low grade hides are sanded down to remove all unsightly flaws. This removes the strongest part of the hide.

The sanded hides are then dyed. The dyed hides are then engraved with a printed texture and pattern that simulates the look and feel of more expensive leathers.

The engraved finish then gets a protective clear polyurethane coating that prevents damage from minor scratches and other common hazards.

Mid-quality leathers have fewer natural flaws. The natural top grain is not sanded away, although small parts of the hide with major flaws, may be sanded and dyed to match the natural grain.

  • Hides that are not sanded produce leather that is more durable (and usually softer) than the cheaper protected leathers.
  • A thin, clear protective polyurethane coating is applied to most top grain leathers.
  • This coating will not be as thick as those used for protected leathers and will not protect as well against minor scratches.

The highest quality leathers have no protective coating.

The cheaper protected leathers offer more protection against sunlight, dirt and minor scratches, but they are stiffer and do not improve with age.

Top grain and full grain leathers, that retain their natural grain, will improve with age if properly maintained and cleaned periodically.

For a more thorough education on leather I suggest that you check out myfurnitureforum.com.

This long running blog is moderated by a small Virginia retailer who has specialized in high end leather for several decades. The blog includes thousands of questions and answers relating to all types of leather (and non-leather) upholstered furniture.

Faux leather -- These are fabrics, usually polyurethane (PU) or poly-vinyl chloride (vinyls) that mimic the look and feel of leather.

  • Recently, composite faux leathers that combine polyester and polyurethane have started replacing bonded leather in several major furniture retailers.

Polyurethanes - This type of faux leather more closely resembles the soft, luxurious feel of high quality genuine leathers than the older vinyls.

  • They are available in a huge assortment of colors and textures and are extremely durable and stain-resistant.

Vinyls are becoming less popular for residential furniture, although they are still used extensively for heavy-duty commercial use.

  • Thinner, low cost vinyls are still used in some applications, especially leather match.

Leather match - This is a combination of genuine leather on the parts of the furniture where you sit and touch and a matching vinyl or polyurethane (or bonded leather) on the parts of the sofa, such as the outside arms and backs that are not generally touched.

  • In order to get the best possible match, this type of furniture generally uses the least expensive protected leathers (which have been sanded, dyed and engraved. The leather is then matched to a vinyl that has an identical color and artificial grain pattern.
  • Leather match reduces the amount of genuine leather used in a sofa by about 50%.
  • This can reduce the retail price of the sofa by $200 or more.)


There are thousands of customer complaints about “leather” sofas that have “peeled” or become badly scratched over a short period of time. These are all “bonded leather” fabrics.

Although there are many different types of “bonded” or “bi-cast” leather products, I am generally lumping them all into a definition of any fabric which contains any amount of re-constituted leather scrap particles.

Generally these products are touted as containing 10% - 20% “real” leather. What is never mentioned in marketing materials is that this “real leather” consists of left-over hide scraps that have been chopped into tiny pieces, mixed with adhesives and other chemicals and then used as a backing to a thin layer of vinyl or polyurethane.

Processed leather scraps are a terrible backing material and because they are thicker than normal backings many companies use only a very thin vinyl or polyurethane face material.

The only reason for bonded leather-type fabrics is to fool uneducated consumers into thinking that they are buying “real” leather furniture at greatly discounted prices.

Some of the major brands have their own proprietary faux leathers which contain re-constituted leather particles, but which they claim are different from other “bonded leathers.”

Flexsteel’s Nuvo Leather and La-Z-Boy’s Re-new Leather are examples of this. Both of these products have received hundreds of complaints for the same type of problems as other bonded leathers.

Information about American reclining furniture manufacturers not currently included on this list is welcome.

This list will be updated as additional information becomes available. Please send information, corrections or updates to [jeff@simplicitysofas.com]

There are no comments yet. Be the first to add a comment by using the form below.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated: 10/30/2022

Views: 6285

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.