Decorating Dilemmas, House / Living Room, In Progress

Reupholstering Our Sofa: Choosing the Leather

Blog photos often convey a much cleaner version of real life.  I know this for a fact now, because our white living room sofa looks so much better in blog photos than in real life.  It’s become embarrassing to have guests see it in person.

Living Room The Borrowed Abode June 2012

We’ve gotten 4.5 good years out of the Petrie Sofa since I bought it on Craigslist for $350, and I am very glad that I didn’t pay full price to get it new at Crate and Barrel.  Many of the buttons in the seat cushions have tears around where they’re attached, and some of the folds in the seat upholstery have torn apart.  The fabric stains easily and wears poorly, too.

Want to see some proof?

Crate and Barrel Petrie White Sofa Problems

I scored it for a steal because of the tear in the arm rest. But now it’s gross all over.

It’s finally time:  Ryan and I have saved up to have the sofa reupholstered in top-grain leather*.  In the context of home decorating, this is an intimidating decision because of the cost and the longevity we’re going for – 10+ years or more.

When it came to leather, I knew exactly what I wanted.  A few years ago I saw a distressed leather sofa in medium brown at Crate and Barrel. It immediately brought to mind a Ralph Lauren catalog – I have no idea why – but I pictured it in an awesome lodge with a roaring fire.  And maybe a Ralph Lauren male model sitting on the arm of the sofa.  😉

Ryan and I agreed we should go with medium brown distressed leather. Distressed, because it would be already soft and worn and pre-scratched, and future scratches would only add to its loved, comfy look.  The square modern lines of the sofa will keep the distressed leather looking elegant.

With this image firmly implanted in my mind, I thought it would be easy to pick the leather we’d use on the couch.  Boy was I wrong.  There are so many different colors in the swatch books.

Here are the colors we’re trying to choose from:

Leather Sofa Swatches

Considering Undertones

Ryan leans towards the bottom left, Nutmeg – while I lean towards the bottom middle, Pecan.  I just worry that the Nutmeg leather is a little too dark.  I was hoping to have a lighter feel. We need to come to a compromise somehow.

I think the Lynx is too light and yellowish even though I like it.  We need to be careful about the leather’s tone. Just like paint colors, there are undertones to leather.  Because we rent, it is so important to keep our sofa neutral – something that will adapt to many different spaces and possible wall colors over the years.

Some brown leathers have red undertones, and some have yellow ones.  Beware of both!  I held our two favorites up to the mid-century credenza because we have several pieces of wood furniture in that stain color:

Leather Swatch Wooden Furniture

I think we want the leather to match, or at least not clash with, the furniture stain colors.  What do you think?  Advice on how to choose the color is very welcome.

*I know the choice of using real leather may be controversial, and I plan to share our reasons for choosing leather in a different post.

PS:  Jeannine at Small Chic Home went through a similar process to choose her new leather sofa.  She had even more choices since she had to choose nail-head trim and leg stain colors.  Thank goodness I’m only choosing leather!

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  • Reply Jordan at 3:23 pm

    I tend to agree with you that the Nutmeg is a little dark. However, the Pecan would look lovely next to the window’s natural light and wouldn’t show imperfections as much. We have a leather couch too and it was the perfect solution with our cats. Good luck!

  • Reply Jen on the Edge at 1:14 am

    We have a leather sofa that we bought 13 years ago and it’s still going strong. We have no plans to replace it any time soon. When our children were little, the sofa was where we put them when they were sick or injured, because they could make a mess and the sofa would wipe down quickly and easily.

  • Reply Our Reupholstered Petrie Sofa is Back!The Borrowed Abode | The Borrowed Abode at 8:14 am

    […] case you’re new here, after years of debate we chose to reupholster our well-worn Crate & Barrel Petrie sofa with leather rather than buy a new leather […]

  • Reply kyla kanz at 1:32 pm

    I have the exact same white Petrie Sofa, in a similar condition–beat the crap up. I am torn between reupholstering or getting a new one. The shape , size and style are perfect. But leather and labor is spendy expensive. I still think the ‘bones’ of the sofa, ottoman and chair are sound.

    Just wondering from your experience, was it worth it?

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