On the one hand, the office chair serves a practical purpose and provides you with the comfort and support you need throughout the day. On the other hand, an office chair can be a statement piece that sends a message. The right chair will send a signal, not only about the type of office environment you are trying to create, but also about you as a person. For example, office chair models covered in bright fabrics create a more casual, cheerful vibe, while a stately, dark leather chair conveys a message of brevity and authority.
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If you are looking to make a statement that conveys authority and prestige and considering investing in a sophisticated leather office chair, here are some factors to factors to keep in mind:
Advantages of a Leather Upholstered Seating
Office chairs are constructed using a wide range of materials. From wood and plastic to mesh and fabric coverings, there are a lot of options to choose from; however, leather chairs offer distinct advantages that are worth noting. Unlike wood, metal and plastic based models, leather office chairs include full padding throughout both the seat and back. If you spend more than a couple of hours a day at your desk, this padding will provide much-welcomed relief.
Office chairs that are covered in plastic or vinyl based materials have a tendency to crack and wear easily. In addition, the mesh that covers many ergonomic models can stretch over time causing a sagging effect that can lead to discomfort. Leather provides a more durable material that will not only last longer, but continue to look like new. You can even extend the lifespan of your leather by periodically treating the material with oils that will keep the leather soft and malleable.
Sipping coffee or eating lunch at your desk is bound to eventually end up in a spill or two. With most common office chair fabrics, the result can be an unsightly stain that can’t be removed with common cleaners. If you drop a dollop of spaghetti sauce on pigmented leather desk chair, all you have to do is wipe it off. No harm done. This means that your chair will continue to look professional, no matter what you put it through.
Return On Investment
One of the main reasons most people opt for fabric or plastic chairs is because they tend to come with a more affordable price tag. However, when buying any piece of office furniture, it is important to think long-term investment. Consider the fact that leather often lasts three times longer than other fabrics. Ultimately, you will end up paying more in the long run if you try to cut corners by purchasing furniture that has been constructed using mediocre materials. It is worth paying more up front for a chair that you won’t have to replace in a couple years.
Selecting The Right Type Of Leather
Even when it comes to leather, not all materials are created equal. To get your money’s worth, you will want to look at a few key features and be sure to ask the right questions.
The Five Types of Leather
- Full grain. This is the highest quality leather available which consists of animal hide that is found just below the hair. The top layer is made up of a very tight grain pattern that tends to run vertically, which makes it extra strong, durable and resistant to moisture. Harvesting full grain leather involves scraping off the very top layer of hide, which means that it often contains small imperfections where the animal has been cut or scarred. For the true leather connoisseur, these idiosyncrasies only add to the allure of this expensive and somewhat scarce material.
- Top grain. This refers to the layer just below full grain leather and considered second best in quality. Top grain is essentially split from the top full grain layer, which helps to remove some of the blemishes. The leather is then sanded and treated to create a smooth surface. While some may prefer the look of top grain leather, the manufacturing process actually weakens the fibers and results in a less durable final product.
- Genuine Leather. The third level of leather quality also represents the most popular. This is the material that you will find in most retail stores because it provides a more affordable option for consumers. Genuine leather is what remains after the top layers have been stripped off. At this point in the hide, the grains begin to run more horizontally, which creates a looser grain. Again, this directly coincides with strength and durability. Often times, genuine leather is spray painted to resemble higher grade leather, but don’t be fooled!
- Suede Leather. At this point, you may be wondering where suede falls into all this. Suede is simply the raw form of genuine leather before is has been resurfaced. While suede is considered more durable than many cloth materials, it does not stand up to stress as well as higher grades of finished leather. Essentially, you are purchasing a fuzzy form of genuine leather, so you can expect that same advantages and disadvantages associated with this lower quality material.
- Bonded Leather. Basically, bonded leather is the bottom of the barrel. Manufacturers will collect leather shavings and dust and press them together to form a cheap, leather-like material that simply doesn’t withstand much wear and tear. In addition, bonded leather can actually “sweat” out some of the chemicals that are used to bond the materials together. You are probably better off purchasing fabric rather than a chair covered in bonded leather.
Beware of Incorrect Leather Labeling
If you find a leather office chair that catches your eye, be sure to look into the kind of leather that has been used to upholster the chair. While a top grain model may be more within your price range, you also want to know exactly what you are getting before you spend your hard-earned money.
Finally, beware of products that are advertised as full grain, but incorporate vinyl and bonded leather components. Often times, manufacturers will cover the main parts of the chair in full grain leather and then fill in less visible areas with cheaper materials. Unfortunately, they can still advertise these products as full grain, so be sure to do some investigating.
Faux leather comes in two different forms: polyurethane and vinyl. These synthetic versions of leather can be tough, flexible and easy to clean, which makes them popular options in high traffic areas such as restaurants and hospitals. They are also very popular among entry level office seating.
However, these materials also come with some significant drawbacks. Vinyl products are especially susceptible to cracking because of the plastic products that are used to coat and seal the polyester fibers. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause vinyl to reach high temperatures, which also allows the surface to easily crack even under slight pressure.
Some polyurethane faux leather products are more expensive than vinyl, but they also more closely resemble actual leather and are less likely to peel and crack. In fact, this material will even take on a soft feel over time, just like leather.
Common Faux Leather Names
- LeatherPlus – recycled leather with polyurethane infused for added durability and softness
- Caresoft Plus – man made vinyl material made to look and feel like leather
- Eco Leather – recycled leather top coat with a synthetic backing (bonded leather)
Faux leather office chairs and other furniture pieces provide affordable options, but their biggest drawback is that they aren’t leather. There simply is no way to recreate the same patina and luster that leather forms overtime. If you want to look and feel of leather, it is worth investing in a top quality piece. You will like the way it ages and will last longer than products covered in any other material on the market.
The Tanning Process
Another factor to consider when choosing a leather desk chair is how the leather was dyed. Lower quality leathers are pigmented, which means that the dye is only applied to the surface along with a protective coating. Since the color doesn’t go all the way through the leather, these models don’t always wear as well and require some breaking in to provide the soft feel most people associate with leather chairs.
The absolute best leather is known as untreated aniline. In this case, the leather is tumbled in a giant drum full of oils, preservatives and coloring. On average, it takes ten hours in the drum for all the fluids to permeate the entire thickness of the leather for a full and rich final result. These leather products don’t include any protectant sealant, which makes the material especially soft.
Pro Tip: Sometimes, even aniline treated leathers can lack quality. Certain companies will try to ramp up production by cutting down on the amount of time spent in the drum. The end result is leather that is only tanned on the surface, which means that it won’t age as well as well treated leather. Companies have also been known to cut corners by not filling the drum with the necessary amount of liquids. While this may save them money, it means that your leather will quickly begin to fade and crack, especially if it is exposed to sunlight.
When it comes to leather office seating, your best bet may be a middle of the road option that uses the aniline drum method, but also incorporates a protective sealant. This leather will look great and provide a durable, long-lasting covering that is also stain resistant. It might not be as soft as the top tier option, but it is a better choice for standing up to an office environment.
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Stitching and Decorative Details
Whether you choose a classic look or a more sleek and modern chair, be sure to pay special attention to the stitching and seams. Look for any signs of fraying or irregularities. A high-quality leather chair will be tightly sewn together and any embellishments will look like they have simply been glued on the surface instead of actually serving structural purposes.
Manufacturers will also try to hide the use of lower quality leather by folding over edges and seams. This prevents consumers from being able to see that actual middle of the leather and whether the color goes all the way through. That being said, this technique can also be a stylistic choice that helps provide a finished look. It is just another detail to be aware of when trying to ensure that you are getting what you are paying for.
While you might not be a chair expert, you should be able to recognize if the model has been constructed using shoddy craftsmanship. Pay attention to details and don’t be taken in just by the overall look of the chair.
Besides examining the leather that covers the chair, you will want to look at the chair’s construction as a whole. The best way to do this is to have a seat and take it for a test drive. When you sit down, you shouldn’t feel any hard parts of the seat pan. The padding should be evenly distributed so that there aren’t any obvious pressure points. In addition, you will want to lean back and move around in the chair. Listen for any squeaking or other abnormal sounds. This will give you a basic feel for how well the chair is constructed. If you’re unable to sit in the chair, ask your sales associate these same questions
There are more options when it comes to office chairs and furniture than ever before. If you are looking for a high-quality model that will provide a timeless and elegant look, then you can safely narrow your choices down to leather chairs. From there, look for a well-constructed chair that is covered in soft leather that includes some sort of protective sealant. This will help make your chair stain resistant and keep it looking like new.
Also, keep in mind that leather comes in a range of grades. Make sure that you are aware of what type of leather you are purchasing and be on the look-out for places where cheaper materials may have been patched in. Finally, as you are shopping don’t be turned off by the higher prices that usually accompany leather chairs. A lower price tag doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting a deal. Remember that you are purchasing an investment piece that is built to last.