If you experience back pain or general discomfort when working in the office, perhaps it’s time to upgrade your office chair. According to a survey conducted by the Massachusetts-based office supply store Staples, 86% of office workers say their office chair isn’t comfortable, while 46% of office workers say their office chair is an underlying source of physical pain.
A high-quality, ergonomic office chair is essential for office workers. Unfortunately, not all office chairs meet this criterion. Many are made of cheap materials, as well as poor craftsmanship, that can take a toll on your physical health. While you can always test different types of office chairs, though, two of the most popular types include leather and mesh. So, what’s the difference between leather and mesh office chairs? In this article, you’ll learn more about the nuances between leather and mesh office chairs, allowing you to choose the right seating solution for your workstation.
What Is a Leather Office Chair?
Leather office chairs are characterized by a leather construction. They aren’t made entirely of leather. Rather, only the seat, backrest and armrests – if present – are made of this natural fabric. The frame and feet are typically made of a stronger material, such as metal or heavy-duty plastic.
Some people assume that all leather is made of cowhide, but this isn’t necessarily true. While cowhide is frequently used in the production of leather, other types of animal hide may also be used. Sheepskin, for example, is a popular alternative to cowhide. When compared to cowhide, sheepskin leather is lighter and has a smaller, less-noticeable grain. Regardless, all leather office chairs are made primarily of leather.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with leather office chairs, you’ve probably seen them. They’ve become the preferred choice among countless businesses and consumers. Whether you work in a home office or commercial office, you can’t go wrong with a high-quality leather office chair.
Some of the different types of leather used in office chairs include the following:
- Full-Grain Leather: A type of top-grain leather, full-grain leather is prized for its soft and supple texture. With its grain intact, full-grain leather ages more gracefully over time than other, lower-quality types of leather.
- Corrected-Grain Leather: With corrected-grain leather, imperfections in the grain are buffed out during production. Leatherworking companies use a sanding device to make the raised grain smoother and more uniform.
- Nubuck Leather: Like corrected-grain leather, nubuck leather has a modified grain. With nubuck leather, the grain side is meticulously buffed to create a soft and velvet-like texture.
- Faux Leather: Also known as eco-leather and bonded leather, faux leather is a unique type of office chair fabric that’s comprised of genuine leather scraps blended with one or more synthetic fabrics.
What Is a Mesh Office Chair?
Mesh office chairs, as the name suggests, are made of a mesh fabric. Like their leather counterparts, mesh office chairs are made of other materials as well, such as metal or heavy-duty plastic. Only the backrest of most mesh office chairs is made of mesh fabric.
Mesh itself isn’t a specific type of fabric. The term “mesh” simply refers to any fabric featuring multiple strands of connected fibers, resulting in a webbing-like appearance. The individual fibers are woven or otherwise joined to create a breathable mesh fabric. This fabric is then stretched out and secured to the backrest of an office chair.
Although there are exceptions, most mesh office chairs are made of one or more synthetic fabrics like polyethylene, nylon or polypropylene. The individual strains of fibers are then connected to create the mesh fabric, which is used to make the backrest of mesh office chairs.
The Benefits of a Leather Office Chair
You can rest assured knowing that a high-quality leather office chair will last a long time. When properly maintained, a leather office chair can last for 20 or more years. Some manufacturers, in fact, offer a lifetime warranty with their leather office chairs. With a lifetime warranty, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the manufacturer will pay to repair or replace your leather office chair if it fails prematurely.
There’s no denying the fact that leather office chairs are popular. Statistics show 35% of all upholstered furniture sold globally is made of leather. For decades, businesses and consumers alike have used leather office chairs. And during that time, they’ve only become more popular.<br><br>Leather office chairs are easy to clean. While you should always refer to the owner’s manual, most leather office chairs can be cleaned using water and mild dish soap. If you discover dirt or superficial blemishes on your leather office chair, dip a washcloth in a solution of warm water and mild dish soap, after which you can use the damp washcloth to blot the leather clean.
Of course, leather office chairs are stylish and aesthetically pleasing. Their distinct leather appearance has become synonymous with traditional office designs. Leather office chairs usually feature black or brown leather, allowing for easy integration into your office’s design.
Leather office chairs can typically support more weight than mesh office chairs. If you’re a “big and tall” person, you may want to choose a leather office chair for this reason. It’s not uncommon for leather office chairs to support over 250 pounds. Certain types of mesh office chairs can also support a lot of weight, but they typically lack the strength and durability of leather office chairs.
The Benefits of a Mesh Office Chair
While leather office chairs are long-lasting and popular, there are still reasons to consider a mesh office chair. Because they are designed with a mesh backrest, mesh office chairs will keep you cooler and more comfortable.
Research shows working in a hot office lowers productivity. When you feel uncomfortably hot, your work output will decrease. While using a mesh office chair won’t directly affect the temperature of your office, it can still help you beat the heat by promoting airflow. The heat produced by your body – the average person produces about 250 and 400 British Thermal Units (BTU) of heat – can escape through the chair’s mesh backrest. If you choose a different type of office chair, though, your body heat will remain trapped, which may cause you to feel hot. Mesh office chairs provide a cooler and more comfortable seating solution than other types of office chairs by promoting airflow.
If you’re on a tight budget, a mesh office chair might be the answer. Mesh office chairs typically cost less than leather office chairs. You can find a variety of high-quality mesh office chairs available for just $200 to $300, making them a smart choice for budget-conscious consumers and businesses.
With their mesh construction, mesh office chairs are lighter than other types of office chairs. As a result, you can easily lift and move them around your office.
It’s also worth noting that mesh office chairs have a smaller and more compact design than leather office chairs. Even if your office workstation has limited space, you shouldn’t have trouble adding a mesh office chair to it. They aren’t as bulky as other types of office chairs. With their small and compact design, you can easily add a mesh office chair to most workstations.
Furthermore, mesh office chairs are less vulnerable to scratches than leather office chairs. The seat and armrests can still develop scratches, but the mesh backrest is nearly immune to scratches. You can use a mesh office chair for eight or more hours a day, and the backrest won’t develop scratches.
Tips on Choosing a Leather Office Chair
When choosing a leather office chair, check to see what type of leather it’s made of. As previously mentioned, there are nearly a half-dozen different types of leather, each of which is unique. Full-grain leather office chairs are recognized their superior strength and comfort, whereas faux leather office chairs are less expensive.
In addition to the type of leather from which it’s made, consider ergonomics when choosing a leather office chair. If a leather office chair isn’t ergonomic, it may cause discomfort. Thankfully, most well-known and reputable manufacturers recognize the need for ergonomics. They design their leather office chairs with adjustable armrests, an adjustable seat, casters and a proper backrest. If a leather office chair doesn’t have these features, you may want to look elsewhere.
You should also choose a leather office chair in an appropriate color that flows cohesively with the rest of your workstation. Most office leather chairs are either black or brown. Brown is a more traditional color, whereas black is a more modern color. A good rule of thumb is to choose a leather office chair in a color that matches the space in which it’s used. If your office workstation consists mostly of black furniture, choose a black leather office chair. If it consists mostly of brown furniture, a brown chair may be a better choice.
Tips on Choosing a Mesh Office Chair
If you prefer the cooler and more breathable design of a mesh office chair, there are a few things you should know when choosing one. First and foremost, pay attention to the backrest to ensure it offers adequate lumbar support. The mesh fabric should be stretched in a way that contours to the shape of your back when sitting. In other words, the bottom of the backrest – where the backrest meets the seat – should extend farther back than the middle of the backrest.
Mesh office chairs are available in both rolling and non-rolling models. Rolling models are designed with casters – typically a five-point star arrangement of casters – on the bottom so that you can roll while sitting in them. Non-rolling models are designed with fixed legs that don’t roll. Of those two models, most office workers prefer rolling mesh office chairs. Using a mesh office chair with casters, you can roll around your workstation, which may result in increased productivity. For waiting rooms and conference rooms, however, fixed office chairs without casters may suffice.
Perhaps the most important tip on choosing a mesh office chair is to stick with a well-known and reputable manufacturer. Mesh office chairs aren’t as strong or durable as leather office chairs. Specifically, the mesh backrest may weaken over time. And once the mesh backrest has deformed, it will no longer support your back.
Some of the top manufacturers of mesh office chairs include the following:
- Space Seating
- Offices to Go
What About Other Types of Office Chairs?
While popular, leather and mesh aren’t the only types of office chairs on the market. Another common type of office chair is executive. Executive chairs feature a similar shape and design as leather office chairs. Rather than a leather construction, however, they are made of a cloth fabric. The cloth fabric is used for the chair’s armrests, backrest and seat.
Task office chairs have become a popular alternative to leather and mesh in recent years. They receive their namesake from their task-oriented design. Task office chairs offer a simple and ergonomic design that’s ideal for performing everyday office tasks, such as using a computer or writing documents on a desk. Some task office chairs are designed with armrests, though many do not have armrests.
Regardless of which type of office chair you choose, make sure it has an iron-clad warranty. If an office chair has a poor warranty – or no warranty at all – it usually means the manufacturer isn’t confident in the performance of its product. As a result, you shouldn’t be surprised if and when the office chair breaks.
A high-quality office chair is a smart investment that can improve your productivity and comfort level when working. However, both leather and mesh office chairs have their own unique benefits. Leather office chairs are durable, popular and easy to clean and stylish. Mesh office chairs, on the other hand, are more breathable, compact and less expensive. By considering your personal and professional needs, you can choose the perfect office chair.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.