I would like to discuss leather armchairs - specifically, the kind that you would use to adorn your living room, sitting room, library, etc. I will break these down into five classes of leather chair. They are:
Leather Club Chair The leather club chair was first introduced in England in the 19th century. During that time there were "gentlemen's clubs" where men would get together to drink, smoke cigars and discuss the issues of the day while sitting in comfortable leather chairs. Shortly there-after the occasional leather club chair could be found in the sitting room of a well to do estate. They became a symbol of status.
Today, quite a few club chairs are modeled to look quite a bit like there 19th century brethren. These chairs are best suited (in my humble opinion) for a sitting room, study, or perhaps a private library. Since they place you in a more upright position than a lounge chair, they are better suited for entertaining guests, and look very nice as a guest chair or "smoking chair" in a study.
Tub Chair The tub chair was developed in the late 19th century as a form of art deco furniture. Probably the most famous of these was the Joseph Hoffmann Haus Koller chair of 1911. The style has changed a bit, but not too drastically. You can actually still find Joseph Hoffman tub chairs, and they are beautiful. With their rounded backs and gentle curves, nothing quite says "style" like a well crafted leather tub chair. I would recommend using these in the same locations as the club chair if you want to add a little art deco styling.
Lounge Chair/Recliner This is, by far, my favorite type of leather chair. These are what you put in your living or family room when you want to spend a lot of time there. These leather chairs just scream "comfort". A proper leather lounge chair should allow you to sink into the chair without sacrificing support. Look for terms like "overstuffed" and "pillow top" for the best "sinkage". When you sit in the chair, you should feel support in your lower lumbar, or sitting in the chair for long periods of time may feel uncomfortable.
A couple of other terms you want to look for when shopping for this type of chair are "bonded leather" and "hardwood" construction. You also want to make sure that the leather feels thick and strong. A thin leather chair will wear out much more quickly. If you are looking to get a recliner, the reclining mechanism should feel sturdy and the chair should recline smoothly.
Retro/Contemporary Style These are chairs that are made today to either look like vintage chairs (retro) or to accent homes with a more modern theme (contemporary). The Hoffmann Koller chair that I mentioned above is a prime example of a retro styled leather chair. I have actually seen this chair sell for as much as $2500. More contemporary styles are usually much less expensive, but look to spend quite a bit if you are looking to find something truly unique and "outside the box".
One final thought on this topic is price. If you are going to buy a leather chair, stay away from models with severely marked down prices that may seem like great deals at the time. A good quality leather tub chair will cost you at least $200-$300. Expect to pay at least $300-400 for a good quality club chair. A leather lounge chair should cost you at least $400 with leather recliners starting around $500 and up. If you are paying less than that, there is usually a reason. Choose well and your leather chair will outlast you. Choose poorly and you will end up throwing it away or having it reupholstered.