Fabric or Leather sofa: which should I choose? - Parker Knoll
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Fabric or Leather sofa: which should I choose?

The age-old question: Is a fabric or leather sofa best for me? What do I need to know to help me choose?

When choosing the correct fabric and leather, it is important to know where the sofa will be located and how durable it needs to be. Consider the levels of exposure to sunlight as this can cause the fabric and leather to fade over time.

You need to see how your choices look in natural and artificial lighting. You can order a free sample of your favourite Parker Knoll fabrics and leathers which can be used to test the fabric in various lighting options.



What is composition? Much like a recipe, these are the materials used to create the fabric. The composition can tell you a lot about the durability, look and feel of the fabric. For example, Velvet and Chenille fabric has a pile and natural characteristics of this fabric include shading, pressure marks and will flatten over time. This doesn’t detract from the durability of the fabrics, however, and they  inject a decadent, elegant look to your sofa. All our fabrics pass testing for general domestic use; if it doesn’t meet British standards, we won’t include this in the range.

The composition of the fabric also tells you which fibres were used to construct the fabric. This information can be found on the label of the swatches in store and on our website. You may experience an allergy to certain fibres. 

Here are some examples of the best fibres for various requirements:

  • If you have children and/or pets – Polyester as it’s hard wearing
  • You’re after a glamorous look and decadent feel – Viscose for shine and sheen
  • For an organic look that is hard wearing – Natural leather that’s easy to clean
  • Mix and match patterns, textures and colours – Finer woven fabrics from our ‘scatter & accent chair only’ ranges

All the information you need on composition can be found at the back of each fabric and on our website.

Fabric Grade

It is a common misconception that fabric grade is an indication of quality and durability, but this is most certainly not the case.

Across the industry fabric grades range from A (less expensive) to F (more expensive). The grade of the fabric will be determined by features such as fibre content, construction of both fabric and the type of weave. The more natural the fibres, and the complexity of the weave, the more expensive it generally becomes. 

Pattern Matching

Parker Knoll’s extensive fabric collection offers a magnitude of choice to ensure that your brand new Sofa or Chair perfectly complements your home.

In doing so, we offer a pattern matching service with a selection of fabrics, highlighting their dedication to perfection.

From checks and stripes to co-ordinates and medallions, a highly skilled team of designers work hard on fabrics with multiple complicated match points to bring you the ultimate in style and design. Designing your Parker Knoll on the individual products pages of our website will allow you to see how the patterns are repeated on each sofa & chair.

Please refer to swatch books in store for more information on the selection of pattern-matched fabrics available.


It’s incredible how much of a difference great scatter styling can make to your living space.

There are no hard and fast rules here. It depends entirely on your own personal style, and requires you to be a little creative.

One of the many advantages of scatter cushions is that they can be easily updated to reflect the latest styles, seasonal trends, and when you simply fancy a change.

Use the swatch book to find fabrics that work well together for scatters, pillows and accent chairs. Each layer of the swatch is paginated to reflect various trends and co-ordinating colours. 

At Parker Knoll, we offer various sizes of scatter cushions, from pillows, to smaller scatters and bolsters, which allows you to vary the sizes, adding interest and height to your scheme.

Fabric by the metre

All of our fabrics can be purchased by the metre from your nearest retailer. Use these fabrics to create curtains or blinds to match your new furniture , or even to retain the look of your favourite vintage Parker Knoll armchair.


Why Leather?

Leather is a really versatile material and, with a huge variety colours and tones available, it’s easy to tailor to your living space.

Good quality leather is highly durable, will wear well and provide you with years of timeless style and comfort.

Choosing the right leather for me

The type of leather that you choose will depend on how you expect the furniture to be used, as well as the finish that you require.

It’s important that you’re aware of the characteristics of leather when choosing to purchase this type of suite. A sofa chosen for everyday use, for example, will require a harder-wearing leather in a darker shade that will accommodate the wear and tear of daily life. 

All of the leathers we offer are high quality, natural, and hard wearing, however it’s key to note that leather will stretch and move over time. 

Our Creative Designer, Jo, says “Ensuring leather furniture is kept away from direct sunlight and heat, keeping pets with sharp claws off furniture and using a soft cloth to give your sofas and chairs a light, weekly dusting will keep them looking good for years to come”.

Our semi-aniline leathers are designed to imitate the most natural of leathers, making it much more durable that aniline hide.  This type of leather showcases a smooth buffed hide, which is soft and perfect for everyday use.

For a more natural finish, choose leather such as London Saddle or Dallas Tan, which are closest to full-aniline and may display traces of the hide’s past, meaning that there may be visible healed scars, insect bites, growth marks and veins. These are all hallmarks of hide which offer a natural, timeless appearance and in no way detract from wearing qualities of leather.

Alternatively, for a more even finish, choose a leather of a more semi-aniline quality such as our Como leather range which comes in a wider variety of colours. 

Leather is a classic cover that is timeless, therefore you wouldn’t have to worry about having to update your suite over the years. this material is also really easy to care for.

It’s up to you whether you choose fabric or leather to upholster your new Parker Knoll furniture. It’s an individual preference but each has very different qualities which will best fit with your lifestyle. The obvious benefit of choosing fabric is that you have more colours and pattern choices than leather. However, leather is more rustic and generally more hard wearing.

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