Category Archives: Thrifting, Upcycling, Trash Picking

Why We Chose Full Grain Leather for Upholstery

After sharing that Ryan and I got our sofa back from the upholstery shop, I wanted to discuss the reasons why we chose to use real leather instead of any other material. Also, did you know there’s  several different “grades” of leather, with some of them being really crappy? Before this, I had no idea!

This has been an adventure in taking the time to save up the money to do a project right the first time. In  the past I’ve been tempted to choose a cheaper option thinking it will be good enough, and that has sometimes been a mistake.  In the case of our sofa, since we loved the lines and were spending the money to get it recovered, we wanted it to be just right.How To Choose Leather Upholstery

Why Leather?

When I first purchased the white couch, I thought I’d have it redone in white faux leather.  But we were both disappointed in the black faux leather slipcover (from ComfortWorks) that we put on the rec room sofa.  It feels plastic-y and scratches show white fabric underneath.

What about fabric?  Many fabrics require maintenance.  Washing slipcovers or vacuuming.  And heaven forbid the cats snag the fabric again.

This brought us back to the topic of leather, which we had been avoiding because of cost and animal rights reasons. But for what we wanted in a sofa, leather really fit the bill:

  • Clean up easily
  • Not attract pet hair
  • Not be slipcovered
  • Scratches and worn spots must contribute to its look, not detract from it
  • Be kid-proof
  • Last for about 10 years, if not more

We decided that we’d go with leather, and in the long run the durability and environmental friendliness of having it last for a long time would outweigh the animal rights & cost issue for us.

Choosing the Right Grade of Leather:

The upholstery shop explained about the different grades of leather, and we decided to save up for high quality, full-grain leather.

Cheapest Option – Bonded Leather:

Bonded leather, or recycled leather, is the cheap leather on lower-end furniture in stores. They use the word “recycled” to make it sound like such a responsible choice, but as the consumer you will likely be disappointed in how it wears over time.

Scraps are glued to a fabric backing, and the top is coated with a polyurethane layer to help it all hold together. It’s like the leather equivalent of particle board, and it falls apart quickly.  Scratches and worn spots do not look good on bonded leather.  When areas get worn, the polyurethane coating wears off and the color underneath is totally different.

I’ve read that even La-Z-Boy is using this stuff now.  Yuck.

Best Option – Full Grain Leather:

Full Grain Leather is the best, and its natural surface wears beautifully with use.  It comes from the top layer of the hide.  Scratches can be buffed out if they’re really bad, and they won’t reveal a different color underneath

We want this sofa to look fabulous and hold up well to kids, pets, and me for a long time – so we chose full grain leather. 

If you’re considering buying anything made with leather, you seriously should check out this article on the different types of leather so you don’t get screwed: Saddleback Leather’s awesomely great article.

For awesome updates & exclusive discounts on Janery pet beds, please sign up for my newsletter!

Our Reupholstered Petrie Sofa is Back!

I returned home from my business trip to Las Vegas last week just in time to take delivery of our reupholstered sofa!1-Leather Petrie Sofa-001

It’s amazing what a difference it makes in the room.  I was worried that it would be too dark, after having such a bright white couch, but it’s nice and warm without being depressing.

In 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 sofa.

The distressed leather feels amazing – already broken in and soft, not plasticy and new.   At the last moment I chose to have the cushions made with piping, because I realized that without the original biscuit tufts the seat cushions needed a bit of definition.  I’m glad the tufts are gone, because they were wearing out (starting to tear) in the spots where people sat down the most.

4-Leather Petrie Sofa-004

The reupholstery shop – Looney & Sons – provided excellent service, did a fabulous job, and their delivery people were courteous and careful.  The wait time was about 3 months from the time we placed our order. 3-Leather Petrie Sofa-003

I think I’m going to make some other changes to the living room now that the sofa is here.  It’s been the same for about 4 years.  I may add drapes, switch out the pillow covers, and maybe change the end tables (because they almost blend into the sofa).

These changes will occur slowly, since the sofa was a big splurge we saved up for.  It’s the most expensive piece of furniture we’ve ever bought, by a long shot.  Labor was $695 but the leather cost several thousand.  We paid for it with some savings, some leftover wedding gift money, a bonus I got from work, and some furniture I sold on Craigslist.  2-Leather Petrie Sofa-002

We expect the sofa to last for at least 10 years, so we feel it was well worth it.  Aside from the bed, it’s the most used piece in the house.

For awesome updates & exclusive discounts on Janery pet beds, please sign up for my newsletter!

My Vintage Kilim Rug Dilemma

I don’t think you ever met one of my favorite Craigslist scores, my bright red Kilim rug.  I found it years ago when I moved to my first apartment in the DC area, and it was a ridiculous deal – only $25.  I love the bold colors and patterns; it’s one of the least fussy vintage rugs I’ve ever seen.First Condo Living room 1

Despite my love for the awesome rug, it really hasn’t made an appearance on the blog, because it’s been folded up in storage.

Why?  Because Ryan hates it.  He thinks it’s ugly, but he also said this:

“That rug probably has enough residual pet DNA to clone every pet Jane has owned in the last 10years. And looks like it.”

I say he’s being dramatic. Yes, Charlie had two accidents on it back in the day, and despite my attempts to clean them up with enzyme cleaner, the rug still had stains.

So a few weeks ago I had the rug professionally cleaned, in an attempt to change Ryan’s mind.  I’ve never had an oriental rug professionally washed before, and was a little shocked at the price of $200.  They supposedly hand wash it with a special process, and my rug is supposedly worth more than $700, so I guess the cleaning fee was worth it.

However, the cleaning company advised me that you should never use enzyme cleaner on a rug like this because it could affect the vegetable dyes in it, and could cause colors to run.  Oriental rugs, especially those with natural fibers and dyes, require special cleaning.

I got the rug back from the cleaner last week, and rolled it out in the kitchen just to take a look at it. (I won’t use it in the kitchen, because the red rug makes the wood cabinets look even more orange than usual.)


The colors are much brighter now that the rug is clean.  Unfortunately, the stains didn’t come out all the way.  I guess the enzyme cleaner and/or the dog urine permanently discolored the fibers.  It’s not super noticeable, but it’s there.

Kilim Rug Pet Stains

I still love the rug, and Ryan still hates it.   For now I’ll keep it – it’s rolled up and back in storage – but I don’t know what the long term plan is.  I’ve always dreamed of using the rug when decorating a room for a little boy, but I don’t know when that will happen.

For awesome updates & exclusive discounts on Janery pet beds, please sign up for my newsletter!