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Pets or kids? Yes, you can have leather furniture!

Leah A. Zeldes, Tribune Brand Publishing

If you've got cats, dogs, young children or family members who live on the couch, you need a sofa with hard-wearing upholstery. For beauty, comfort and durability, you can't beat leather.

"Leather, especially protected leather, is great for a family room," said Helene Brown, a designer with Baer's, a collection of fine furniture stores with 15 locations throughout Florida. "It's great with kids; it's durable, and easy to clean."

While furniture leather doesn't have the rugged durability of the leather used for saddles or automotive applications, it can easily stand up to pets, kids and couch potatoes.

Brown Leather Sectional

"Protected" leather has a coating to resist stains, minor scratches and other damage. You can wipe it clean with a soft cloth.

"Full grain" and "top grain" are the strongest leathers. These leathers come from the uppermost layer of the hide, which must be split in order to make it thin and supple enough to use as upholstery. "Full grain" is the most natural-looking leather, and the least processed, so variations in the animal hides, such as scars and other markings will show.

In one type of protected leather, called "semi-aniline," the hide is dyed and then a light, extra coat of color is sprayed or rolled onto its surface, creating a uniform surface color, which covers shade variations from hide to hide and protects the leather from fading. Then the tanner applies a transparent resin to add more protection.

Another protected leather, called "corrected grain" or "top grain" comprises the most common type of leather upholstery. In this leather, imperfections in the hide have been buffed away, and the leather is embossed to resemble natural grain before getting a pigmented topcoat and a resin finish. The processing leaves a smoother and uniform finish that, while not quite as soft as purely natural leather, is impressive.

The lower layer of a hide, called "split leather," has much less durability, and is less suitable for upholstery. Some manufacturers use it for parts of the furniture that get less wear, such as the sides or back.

Obviously, as with other types of upholstery, you want to stop your cats from using your leather furniture as a scratching post and keep the dogs from chewing the cushions. If the kids draw on it in ink, it may need professional cleaning.

Otherwise, leather will hold up beautifully, and only become more attractive as it ages. "A good leather hide can last for 20 years," said Wendy Rossi, another Baer's designer.

"With kids and animals — active households — protected leather works well," said Molly Tracy, marketing manager for furniture makers American Leather. Avoid leathers with a less durable waxed finish, she suggests.

Tracy also suggests looking for leather that has been dyed completely through, so that even if the leather does get a scratch, it won't be obvious.

"It's an extra step that we take," she said. When the leather is tanned and dyed all the way through, it holds.

"All leather's four times more durable than fabric," Tracy said. "It's very good for an active household."

Beautiful and long lasting, a leather sofa or recliner can be just the thing in a busy household. For a large selection of 100% genuine leather furniture from all the top brands, stop in to any Baer’s location and have a seat.