Buying Distressed Leather Sofas: Sofas In Trouble?

When doing the research for this aged furniture article, several sites popped up that explained what distressed leather is and how it's created. Some of them were so funny that they just had to go into this piece – at least for the entertainment factor they provide if not the information. One of the definitions out there is that it "has been scratched or rubbed or treated in some way to achieve a stylish effect". Like Sylvester after a visit to the cat salon? Ooh, bad putty-tat! Another is "dyed with one color over another so as to create an artificially aged effect. Hey now they're talking about Grandma's new do – except for the 'artificially' part. Yet another one, states that it is "the simulated effect of age and wear". So now Steven Tyler is in on it? But that's enough with the wordplay. Now to actually call it like it is, which is 'leather that has been artificially given an old and worn out look without any loss of integrity to the actual material itself'. Ah, now isn't that refreshingly un-spoofable?

Distressed Leather Sofas: Naturally Aged Furniture

Before we run out of column space (or pixel points, as the case may be), let's get to the real point of this article. If you're out to buy a pre-distressed leather sofa to give your living room that perfect 'old money' look, there are some great places to look for them. Antique shops should be your first port of call. Naturally aged leather is the most authentic-looking kind. Even a 30 or 40 year-old leather and mahogany sofa will be sufficiently worn to give the desired effect. If older you're lucky, but you should expect to pay high four-figure or even five-figure sums for such works of art. These pieces will usually have been restored so no further treatment will be needed.

Distressed Leather Sofas: Artificially Distressed Furniture

On the other hand, if you're thinking of aging the pristine leather sofa that you just bought last month, here are a few methods you can choose from. The first way is to apply water liberally on the leather using a dishcloth or a bath sponge. Once you've done this, quickly blow-dry the leather on high heat, until you see the wrinkles and cracks start to appear. That's the first aging. If you want an even older look, do it again. Another painstaking way to distress your sofa leather is to apply either rubbing alcohol or leather balm, which is an alcohol-based microcrystalline wax, on normal quick-wear areas like the seat and arms, and then quickly and firmly brush it off with a rag. This will give your leather that dark oily worn looks that is typical of naturally worn leather. If you're going for a severely distressed look, then gently rubbing it with 240 grit sandpaper (very fine abrasive particles) should give you that bleached-in-the-sun look. You can also use wire brushes to achieve a worn effect.

Distress-It-Yourself: D-I-Y Warnings

The risk of distressing your own leather sofa is that you might overdo it, and it could end up looking like it should be left out on the curb for someone to take away. Whatever method you use, do it on a small test area, like the lower part of the back of the sofa, to see if you like the effect. Many distressing methods are irreversible so when you work with sandpaper or wire brushes you want to start gently and go deeper once you're confident that it's shaping up to be what you expect. If all else fails and you think the end effect is dismal, you can use a leather conditioner to try and get it back to the way it was. However, that's not guaranteed.


Distressed Leather Sofas: Buying Them Pre-Distressed

If you don't really want to go through the hassle of either Indiana Jones-ing through the neighborhood antique stores, or breaking your back to beat up a perfectly good leather sofa, then you're probably better off buying one that's been distressed already. There are some great furniture stores that sell distressed leather sofas, but remember, distressed leather is usually sold at a premium because of the additional effort in giving it that look. A leather sofa normally sold at around $2000 can be sold distressed for as much as $3500. Now that's distressing.