"Leather match" may sound impressive, as if all the leather used to make the piece of furniture is carefully selected to ensure it looks the same. In reality, the term means that only some parts of the furniture covering are made from real leather, while the rest of the piece is covered in a synthetic material designed to match the leather.
To find out if that "leather" chair you're eyeing at the store is made exclusively with actual leather upholstery, check the tag. If the tag states "leather match" or "L/M," the only parts made from actual leather are the seat, seat back and, perhaps, the armrests. Any portion that doesn't touch the body during regular use, such as the sides and back of a chair or sofa, is made from something other than leather.
The fabric used to match the real leather is made from vinyl or bonded leather, which are both forms of faux or synthetic leather. While bonded leather may have leather in its name, it is largely a synthetic material, made by fusing tiny bits of real leather onto a fabric backing, then sealed with a coating designed to match the color and texture of real leather. The top surface isn't leather at all, and the leather content is minimal.
Price-wise, leather-match furniture costs far less than similar genuine leather pieces, largely because far less leather is used to make the piece. From afar, the furniture looks just like real leather, and if you sit on it to try it out in the store, you may think the piece is made completely of leather because the areas nearest you are. Leather match is designed to offer a budget version of real leather and is typically found in budget furniture stores, rather than high-end shops selling quality leather furnishings.
Durability, or Lack Thereof
While genuine leather furniture is designed to last for many years, leather-match furniture is not. The "match" materials tend to crack, chip and peel over time, even though they are not exposed to the same amount of use as the leather portions of the seating. Small damage areas missing the leather-like coating may be repaired with a leather and vinyl repair kit, but if the entire fabric panel flakes or peels, it is beyond repair. The leather portions of the furniture may still be usable long after the synthetic materials are past their prime.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.