Choosing the right fabric can seem like quite a daunting task if you are new to the upholstery world. Make a mistake with the colour, the whole room will suffer while choosing the wrong material will leave you covering up snags and stains. With so many fabric choices, how do you choose the right one? Our guide will help you to understand and select the right fabrics for durability, comfort, and style.
In this guide
What is Upholstery?
Upholstery is the work of attaching a furniture frame such as chairs, sofas, or headboards to fabrics, cushioning, or textile covers. The outer material of a piece of furniture makes up the visual identity while the interior frame controls the comfort.
An upholstered piece of furniture visually demonstrates the sign of its quality and style. The fabric is also the part that is most likely to show wear and tear. Before unholstering a piece of furniture, be aware of the fabric’s durability, cleanability, and resistance to tearing and fading.
Before purchasing upholstery fabric or furniture, bear in mind that the greater the thread count, the tighter the woven fabric is, and also the better it’ll age.
Types of Fabric Fibers
There are two main types of fabric fibers that encompass all fabrics. These are natural and synthetic.
Natural Fabric Fibers
Linen is a popular fabric for many people. With a natural relaxed look, this is an ideal curtain fabric or a light and airy alternative for bed sheets on a hot summer evening.
Leather upholstery is made using organic materials and looks slick and sophisticated. It is known for its hard-wearing qualities and practicality and comes in a number of different variations and finishes.
Cotton is the most popular natural fiber with a high level of durability and resistance.
Wool is a popular and versatile fabric made from sheep’s wool. It has many natural characteristics and is ideally used in carpets and throws, provides comfort and durability within the home.
A cotton variation that provides comfort and breathability. Cotton Blend is a family-friendly, sturdy fabric that has increased colours retention, crease-resistance, and is easy on stains.
Perfect for picnics and dining rooms during parties, the Vinyl fabric is easy to clean, durable, and versatile.
Silk is a delicate fabric made from natural fibers. This fabric provides a luxurious interior finish to cushions, wall coverings, and curtains and is only suitable for a formal room due to needing to be professionally cleaned.
Synthetic Fabric Fibers
A soft imitation of silk also known as “Artificial Silk”. Acetate can be used in the home in the same way as silk for items such as curtains, cushions, and bedsheets. However, it is not a good choice for furniture that requires everyday use. it can easily wear and tear and needs to be kept out of the sun to avoid fading.
Combining soft texture and durability, Acrylic is an imitation of wool. It resists wear and tear, creasing, and fading and is a good retainer of colour that can be experimented on with patterns, pictures, and prints. Due to its resistance to stains and creases, it is a popular fiber in the interiors world.
Nylon is one of the strongest upholstery fabrics that drapes well and is easy to wash. It is most commonly used within curtain work, rugs and bedspreads.
Olefin is a soft and lightweight fabric that’s great for outdoor furniture due to its strength and durability. It can be produced in a variety of different textures, colours, and prints making it a perfect fiber for both indoor and outdoor accent colours.
As a type of plastic, Polyester is a sturdy material with a high level of crease and fade resistance. It is a long-lasting material that is also resistant to stains.
One of the most commonly used fabrics, it is an excellent alternative to silk due to its rich feel texture. It is commonly used on window treatments and hangs well. However, it is a relatively weak fiber that can stretch or shrink easily if not treated well.
How to Choose the Right Fabric
Choose a fabric for your upholstery project based on its everyday use. Think about how the fabric will be displayed and which room it will be housed in. Thoughts such as whether it will be exposed to children and pets will also need to be considered.
Woven patterned fabrics have a higher level of durability with a higher thread count and tighter weaves. For example, sofas that need to withstand a high level of wear and tear need to consider microfibre fabric or leather for daily use.
Decorative pieces for upholstery projects that will not be used every day will not need to be as durable. This means more luxurious fabric varieties such as wool and linen could be considered.
It is best to clean upholstery fabrics before they have been applied to furniture. Make sure that you take a look at the manufacturer’s instructions before attempting a wash or take the fabric to the dry-cleaners. Once upholstered, use specialist spot cleaners to help with the fabric upkeep and use fabric protection spray to keep the fabric in good condition.
Choose a fabric style that compliments both the piece of furniture and interiors of the room. Some fabric styles are casual, while others are more formal. Decide based on mood and character.
To add originality to the room, consider combining multiple styles. However, you need to be careful not to confuse the look which could result in a negative output.
Patterns need to be scaled based on the size of the furniture and room. Within larger rooms, bolder patterns can be used while a more muted and condensed pattern may be more appropriate for more confined spaces.
Fabric colour is often the first consideration when buying furniture. This is because it has a significant impact on the overall feel of a room. It is important to note that you must consider colours that will satisfy over a long period. Neutral colours look stylish in almost every décor and are generally the safest route in this instance.
Before you start, you must look at your current colour scheme. For example, do you have certain shades for your centerpieces such as tables, carpets, etc? Could you do with an injection of colour or would a softer tone be more appropriate?
Warm and cool colours affect the mood of the room and should be considered to strike the right temperature. Avoid colours that could date easily as this could be an expensive risk when a piece of furniture needs to be removed from the room.
Once you have found a colour scheme that compliments your décor, it is time to consider the fabrics. For stylish, low-risk options consider neutral tones. As for patterns, consider designs that grab attention but do not look out of place within the room.
Fabric for Furniture
When considering upholstering a sofa, take the shape into consideration. Patterns with distinctive directions may look great on a fabric sample, however, may not be as effective once it has been placed across the curves of a sofa.
Size must also be considered. For larger pieces, use a rich solid colour or classic natural tones that will not tire over time.
Smaller pieces are great ways to liven up the room with an accent colour. Statement sofa chairs can include bolder shapes or patterns however you must effectively work with the room.
Liven up your room with great statement chairs. Bold fabrics on accent chairs can give a room a positive lift and can easily be swapped out with changing trends.
Occasional accent chairs get relatively low wear and tear so it could also be worth considering making an investment for the overall impact on the room that it sits in.
Fabric choice within curtains is essential when considering longevity. For example, a room with a lot of light will fade fabric over time, especially bright colours. Linen, silk, and velvet are recommended luxurious options as they tend to be the most durable and hang best. While suede, velvet, and tapestry can help to keep out the cold. Be sure to request larger samples to mimic the piece’s true drape.
There are several considerations when choosing the right fabric for blinds. The translucency, ease of use, colour and patterns all need thought about to aid effective results.
Before purchasing blind fabric, hold a sample in the direction of how the blind will sit and position it in front of the light. Next, place the sample next to any colours and patterns used in the room to confirm that the style fits.
Some of the more popular fabric choices for blinds are cotton, polyester, linen, silk or acrylic. Cotton is the most traditional however, if you want to go be sophisticated and luxurious, consider fabrics such as Silk or Linen.
Before you purchase any fabric, it is also better to request a sample. This allows you to see and feel the material before committing. Be sure to also book an appointment in our showrooms where you can see how it feels in store. If you like a fabric not on the floor, order a large swatch which you can drape over the area to get a better idea of the finished look.
Paolo Moschino has been creating fabrics since 2000 and since then the collection has grown to include over 60 designs across a range of colours synonymous with the brand. A mixture of linens, silks, cottons, and velvets, we are proud to source from Europe’s oldest and finest manufacturers and artisans that we have handpicked to create the finest fabrics possible.
Most of our fabric designs are available as wallpaper and all our designs can be produced as paper-backed wallcoverings.