Whether you’re customising a brand new sofa or reupholstering a much-loved easy chair, choosing the right fabric goes beyond gorgeous colours.
The world of fabrics is a tactile, textural and colourful one, so narrowing down your textile choice can be tricky. As well as tone, pattern and feel, don’t forget to consider lifestyle, use and the piece of furniture in question.
Natural or Synthetic?
There are countless fabrics to choose from, broadly divided into natural and synthetic. The main advantage of natural fabrics like cotton, linen and silk is that they are inherently breathable, so they feel cool in the heat compared to synthetics. However, natural fabrics stain easily and are prone to fading when exposed to sunlight. On the other hand, synthetics are incredibly durable, resist sun damage, and in many cases, are formulated to repel liquids and oils, making them stain resistant. Human-made textiles, however, can feel ‘sticky’ on hot days and are prone to pilling.
Heavy or light use?
How much use a piece of furniture receives will often determine the choice of fabric. Heavy-duty, stain-resistant fabric is a must in a family setting where drinks may be spilt, or food dropped on furniture. Kid Proof by Rowe
, available at Sticks & Stones
, is an excellent choice for young families. Equally, if pets are going to sneak up onto the cushions and leave hair behind or use the upholstery as a scratching post, investing in an expensive velvet may not be the wisest choice. On the other hand, a decorative chaise in the bedroom will likely see only light use and be suited to a more delicate fabric.
Indoor or outdoor?
Outdoor furniture takes quite a beating from the sun, rain and salt air, so any exterior upholstery demands very heavy-duty fabrics. This invariably means synthetics that do not fade or suffer from mildew: Sunbrella is a hardwearing, fade-resistant outdoor choice. Bear in mind that indoor furniture placed near windows can also be damaged by sunlight.
Pattern or Plain?
A bold, beautiful print can be love at first sight – but that love could quickly turn to regret if you wrap your sectional sofa in it. For large pieces of furniture, stick to solid colours and accent them with patterned cushions. Or liven up a bland room with a smaller statement piece upholstered in an eye-catching print.
Shape and Style?
If you’re going with stripes, geometric patterns or prints, consider how this will work with the shape of a piece of furniture. A curved or ornate piece of furniture may require cutting fabric into multiple pieces, disrupting the design and resulting in an untidy look. Equally important is ensuring the style of the fabric matches the style of a room: is a heavy damask right in a modern home? Is floaty linen too casual for a formal setting? Do darker shades work in a sunny beach cottage?
Need help finding the right upholstry fabric?