How durable are the materials in Article's couches?

I’ve been looking at purchasing a new sectional since I moved into my new place in October. The building I’m in is about 70 years old and there are some odd size limitations because of the size of the elevators and stairwells.

I’ve narrowed my options down to a couple of sectionals from Article. Specifically the ones I’m looking at are the Mello Taos and the Solae.

Now these are outrageously expensive couches and it would be irresponsible to make a purchase without putting the materials through some sort of test. So I ordered a handful of swatches.

Criteria

There’s a only handful of things I’ll be able to assess based on the swatches—mostly color, texture and durability. I’ll talk a bit about the first two here, but the real question we want to answer is how durable are the materials in Article’s couches?

My girlfriend has a cute dog, but he isn’t always the best behaved. What happens when Remi gets on the couch? Will he scratch the leather?

Also, when friends are over or I’m drinking my morning coffee. How bad will a spill stain the couch?

This won’t be a full review of Article’s couches. However, these are the questions I’m going to try and answer with the few swatches I’ve received.

Scratch test

Below are the four swatches I ordered from Article: Mello Taos Tan (Top Left), Mello Taos Brown (Bottom Left), Solae Hush Gray (Top Right), Solae Canyon Tan (Bottom Right).

This test is pretty simple. Take my keys and scratch the leather or cloth as hard as I can. This is much more damage than I’d expect a dog to do, but it will show how scratch resistant the materials are.

From reviews I knew the Taos leathers (left) were prone to scratching. Here’s an example from Article’s site.

This couch is deceivingly comfortable and really great to stretch out on. We love it—but a note of caution, it does pick up pet scratches quite easily. Because of the natural leather texture it’s not something that bothers us particularly, but those looking for a cleaner, more uniform look will likely be disappointed. Anyway, great couch and the service was truly excellent!

A close-up of the swatch shows how the keys were able to dig into the leather and damage the top layer. Because of the damage, it’s probably not something that will buff out.

On the other hand I was impressed by the durability of the Canyon Tan. They keys barely show any marks and you have to look very closely to see any sort of impression.

This swatch was surprisingly soft—not like any leather I’ve felt. I thought for sure it was going to come apart in this test.

Obviously, the cloth fared fine in this test.

Coffee spill test

In addition to seeing how easily the couches scratch I also wanted to see how easily they would stain. In this test I took a spoonful of coffee and dropped it on the swatch. I waited 5 minutes—presumably enough time to get paper towels and then attempted to soak up the coffee.

This was shot the moment after putting coffee on the swatches. The Hush Gray cloth absorbed the coffee immediately.

Disappointingly the Taos leathers also started to absorb the coffee. You can see the darker spots below the coffee begin to form.

Once again the surprise was the Canyon Tan leather. It looks like there is no initial absorption.

Here’s a photo about 5 minutes after I tried to clean up the stains with a paper towel.

The Canyon Tan leather looks no different from the initial photo on this page. None of the liquid soaked into the leather. The cloth version faired pretty well. Even though it soaked in gray can hide most spills.
There are still wet spots on the Taos leathers. They even soaked through to the card below.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Taos Tan stains fairly easily. In the photo above you can see a dark ring forming around the edge as the coffee dries.

I can’t see any rings on the Taos Brown. Perhaps it is dark enough to hide them.

Wine spill test

Another obvious liquid to test is red wine. You’re planning on having friends over for drinks occasionally, right? This test is essentially the same as the coffee test. Pour red wine on the swatches, wait a couple minutes and then try and dry them off with a paper towel.

Initial pour.

As you can see the red wine was a bit messier than I expected.

Here’s what the materials looked like after a few minutes of waiting and then cleaning the swatches off with a paper towel.

As you can see they behaved about the same. The Hush Gray cloth absorbs the wine immediately. It looks like there may be more stains on the Taos leathers to the left.

The Solae Canyon Tan didn’t absorb the red wine at all. The paper towel soaked up all of the wine.

Here’s a shot of the swatches about a day after the spill. Honestly, they all faired pretty well. Unlike the coffee stains, it doesn’t appear that the wine has left any permanent stains—even on the cloth.

Final thoughts

The Solae materials held up much better in my tests. Quite frankly, I’m a bit disappointed in the results for the Taos leather. For a sectional that costs almost $4,000 I would expect it not to stain easily.

There are a lot of people that have posted pets hanging out on their Mello Taos sectionals on Instagram. I wonder how those are fairing?

I would say that if you have pets or kids, the Mello Taos couches seem like a poor choice. For now I’m leaning towards the Solae—either in Canyon Tan or Hush gray.

Do you know if this is this the same leather that is used in Article’s Seven Sofa?

Article’s website says that both the Seven Charme, Solae and Taos all use full-aniline Italian-tanned leather. But I don’t think they are the same. Just from my tests the Taos and Solae leathers were very different.

I would encourage you to order the swatches and do these tests yourself. All you need is a pair of keys, coffee and red wine!

Hey Sam, thanks for doing these tests. I too am doing some research to find that perfect sofa. I thought about what you said and did some more research and came across this post from Article themselves explaining the differences and characteristics of their leathers:

The Mellos Taos and Solae were also sofas I was considering because of their low profile and simple design. If you’re out to put a scratch test on the Taos leather, it’s a setup for failure if that leather is actually meant to scratch easily to help develop that vintage patina. Just because a leather scratches easily or is meant to patina that way doesn’t necessarily mean it’s low quality right?

Of course, tastes differ, some people like that lived-in, scratched-up look while others loathe it and want their sofas to look pristine/newer longer. Just based on their post, Article seems to cater more to those who love that patina/worn-in leather look and they are recommending the leathers that basically scratch easily to those with kids and pets, according to that article.

Also for anyone else out there wanting to add to this conversation (warning: also rambling here) I thought I actually wanted a white or light gray sofa that is full grain aniline (something which Article doesn’t really offer). I don’t know if those colors defeat the purpose of a full grain leather which is meant to show the original animal’s character such as scars, bug bites, wrinkles, etc. if I’m also after a pristine look in terms of color uniformity… Obviously the warmer browns and tans Article has a panache for would highlight those “full grain” characteristics better than a completely black or stark white dye color… (Ya’ll get what I’m saying here?)

To add (and correct me if I’m wrong), “top grain” is a step below “full grain” in terms of quality… sort of. If we think of full grain as almost sort of the untouched virgin leather showing scars, natural marks, etc. then “top grain” is the buffed and sanded version meant to show perfection rather than embrace the natural “flaws” of the former. However because top grain is sanded, it can be considerably thinner than full grain leather. The trade off for momentary perfection is at the cost of long-term durability. Whereas full grain retains the original thickness of the hide and embraces scratches, oil absorption and ages well overtime so long as you too, embrace the scratches it sounds like in theory, full grain leather would outlive top grain leather… Or at least age more gracefully.

Whelp now I’m even more at a loss at what I want in a sofa. I thought I wanted a pristine white sofa but that can only look good for so long with two dogs and the constant fear of a guest wearing dark blue jeans sitting on it and staining it forever… Perhaps I will go for that full grain lived-in look…

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Appreciate the thoughtful comment!

You’re right. No leather is prefect and often those imperfections do add character to the couch.

Personally, I felt like the Taos leather would be too easy to scratch or stain. My tests don’t account for years of people sitting on the couch, which might buff some of those scratches. In the end I decided it was worth paying more for the Solae.

If you do want a solid color, it may make sense to check out the cloth versions? I only tested the gray cloth, but it was incredibly durable. It completely hid the red wine I spilled on it!