Leather vs. Fabric Upholstery: The Pros and Cons of Both in Your Homescape

Uncover Your Personal Style with Nell Hill’s New Upholstery Furniture in Kansas City

OK, I’ll state the obvious: Custom upholstered furniture is an investment. You put a considerable amount of time, effort, and money into picking out a piece you’ll be able to love in your home for years to come.

And like any investment item, there are a number of factors to take into account, including your budget, lifestyle, and style preferences – just to name a few. With so many considerations, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about which upholstery material is right for you. Believe me, I’ve been there too!

Our design consultants are often asked the age-old question of whether leather or fabric upholstery is better. Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. Every household’s needs are unique, meaning what works for one design may not be ideal for another.

At Nell Hill’s, we pride ourselves on helping you create a one-of-a-kind space that stays true to your personal style. Our carefully curated upholstery selection features a wide variety of colors, patterns, and materials, so there’s no shortage of ways to get inspired and bring your vision to life.

You shouldn’t start your custom upholstered furniture journey unprepared, though. Remember, there are a lot of things to think about before giving the green light on an upholstery choice. By having some background knowledge, you can make a more informed decision and ensure a smoother design process when the time comes.

For a fair look at leather versus fabric upholstery, I’m weighing the pros and cons of each material and how they impact a room’s ambience.

Leather Upholstery

Oh, how I love leather! Its luxurious nature elevates any room, and its soft and supple texture only gets better with age. It’s no wonder this upholstery option remains a new traditional design favorite.

Leather certainly never goes out of style, but it’s important to fully assess all the advantages and disadvantages of owning the material before settling on an upholstery selection. You don’t want to end up with a custom upholstered furniture piece you’re not completely head over heels for. Let’s take a closer look at leather’s pros and cons.


  • Appearance: Leather’s characteristic sheen makes a statement and adds unmatched visual interest, whether you’re going for a more classic or contemporary aesthetic. Not to mention, leather’s ability to beautifully patina makes it even more special and unique with each passing year.
  • Durability: When cared for properly, leather upholstery can last for decades. The highly durable material is easy to clean, meaning many food and beverage spills are a breeze to remedy. Keep in mind that leather is porous and spills warrant quick action for best results.
  • Best for Allergy Sufferers: If you need a hypoallergenic solution for your household, look no further than leather. The upholstery material doesn’t harbor dust, pet dander, and other allergens as easily as fabric.


  • Cost: A high-end leather furniture piece is typically more expensive than a fabric option of the same quality. Why? There are additional steps involved in creating leather goods that are time-consuming and costly, which ultimately affects the final price tag.
  • Shows Scratches: Although leather is extremely durable, scratches and wear marks are much more visible than on fabric upholstery. If your family includes kids or pets, you probably already know that accidents are inevitable. A performance fabric solution may fit your needs better.
  • Heat and Cold Retention: As with leather seats in a car, leather furniture may feel hot and sticky in the summer months and extremely cold in winter when you first sit down. You can curb this to some extent by keeping leather items away from windows and out of direct sunlight, which also helps with fading.

Fabric Upholstery

Fabric is a much broader upholstery category and can be made from natural fibers, like wool, linen, and cotton, or synthetic materials, like polyester. This opens the door to endless possibilities, allowing you to play with several textures to create a more dimensional design.

Just like leather, though, fabric has its own set of pros and cons. These include:


  • Variety: Upholstery fabrics come in a full range of styles. From durable performance fabrics to luxe velvet to performance velvets, you’ll have no trouble finding a material that easily fits in with the rest of your home decor – especially when you work with Nell Hill’s design consultants! On top of that, there are countless color and pattern options, so you can let loose with creativity and select a fabric that reflects your personality.
  • Comfort: Upholstery fabrics offer an element of coziness that leather can’t compete with. Although the structure and quality of the frame and cushions also factor into comfort, fabric tends to be softer to the touch.
  • Budget-Friendly: You usually get more bang for your buck when you opt for fabric custom upholstered furniture. However, that’s not to say you should go with the cheapest option you find. Low-quality fabrics can be more vulnerable to pilling, tearing, and fading. High-end upholstery, like what you’ll find at Nell Hill’s, better ensures your furniture will look great even when it’s no longer new.


  • Trickier to Maintain: Unfortunately, spills on upholstery fabrics don’t always clean up easily. If left untreated, stains can seep into the fabric fibers and become permanent. That being said, performance fabrics have come a long way and are designed to be stain-resistant without sacrificing on comfort.
  • Frequent Cleaning: Compared to leather furniture, which requires little maintenance, fabric upholstery needs regular vacuuming to keep dirt, dust, and odors under control. Having your fabric furniture professionally cleaned at least once a year can be beneficial as well and remove allergens your vacuum cleaner can’t.
  • More Design Dependent: Leather furniture works well almost anywhere, looking right at home with the rest of your decor. But with fabric upholstery, you have additional design considerations. A bold, geometric pattern could look out of place in an otherwise classically-decorated room.

Visit Nell Hill’s for New Upholstery Furniture in Kansas City

I hope you found this guide helpful and now have a clearer picture of whether leather or fabric upholstery is right for you. When you’re ready to shop custom upholstery near you, you need look no further than Nell Hill’s!

With exclusive upholstery lines and hundreds of leather and fabric choices, you’re sure to find a solution that perfectly complements your personal style. Not to mention, our design consultants will be there to help every step of the way!

Have questions about custom upholstered furniture? We’re here with answers! Call us at (816) 746-4320 to chat with a member of the Nell Hill’s team.

Until next time – happy decorating!