Looks are just not enough to create a lasting relationship. Whether that’s romantically or design speaking, there must be something more enduring. When it comes to knowing how to choose the right fabric for your next home project many factors come into play. The vast array of versatile fabric and trims available can seem overwhelming but taking the time to understand the difference between a synthetic fabric and natural fabric, or curtain fabric and the perfect fabric for furniture upholstery will be the key to your successful design scheme. Without the right materials the look and feel of your interior design will suffer, as well as its ability to deliver the performance you need. To help you choose the right fabric, we’ve created this helpful guide to allow you to create a home design that looks great and lasts.
Understanding fabric types
The principal difference between fabrics is the fabric type, whether they are synthetic or natural in composition. Very simply, are they manmade or from nature? Wool, linen and cotton and hemp all come from animal or plant sources and are classed as natural fabrics. Synthetic fabrics can feel natural in texture but are made from chemicals, plastics or oil. These include common types such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. Blended fabrics are also now popular as they can deliver the look and feel of a natural fabric but with some added performance benefits, like being more durable, making them very versatile fabrics.
A fabric’s usage is determined by its weight and its unique properties. A knitted fabric would not make a good upholstery fabric, but woven fabrics with a heavy weave and a stain resistant coating would be ideal.
Performance and durability
Furniture that attracts a lot of action and is in almost constant use, needs a more robust fabric, ideally one that takes care of itself. A white raw linen sofa may fill minimalist design dreams, but not promote family harmony with food and football boots at play. A patterned fabric can hide a multitude of stain and drip sins, and this stain resistant Kami fabric is also machine washable, all of which makes it an ideal busy home choice.
Natural fabrics have a sensory quality of their own, and most popular of these is the hugely versatile linen fabric. It is a breathable fabric, a name for fabric types that allow air and moisture to pass through. This keeps sofas comfortable in summer, whereas a non-breathable material such as leather can be uncomfortable on a hot day. This works especially well in homes where sustainability is valued, as it can help add to the naturally cooling sensations in a room. Our Khiva print from our new Bibi collection is digitally printed on fine linen and inspired by the traditional wood block designs of Uzbekistan. It’s ideal for adding some informal and pretty interest to furniture upholstery or flowing curtains.
A quiet decorating scheme such as a minimal or one- or two-tone palette needs every element to pull its style weight. Using a soft and cosy fabric like velvet or chenille for upholstery in a sitting room or bedroom such as this Omega III eco velvet fabric in Sea Mist, will bring another sensory layer without disrupting the peace. Choosing synthetic fabrics has some advantages. This Omega III, as well as being a durable fabric, is also suitable for both washable covers and curtains, and due to its composition, folds beautifully without crumpling. Choosing one fabric for multiple uses in a room keeps things calm and serene, ideal for a space you want to keep harmonious and restful.
The most family friendly fabrics are the ones that cause the least arguments. The right fabric for a busy family home is a durable fabric that can hide a multitude of spills or action without rapidly showing wear and tear. A woven fabric that is also stain resistant is ideal for this kind of furniture upholstery, as it is more forgiving than a normal plain design. Try Leckford made from space-dyed yarns where more than one colour is featured in one yarn, creating a pleasing irregularity.
Elegant can be strong. This Kari fabric on the chair is a mix of 21% cotton, 72% viscose and 7% polyester which delivers a versatile fabric suitable for both domestic and commercial use. It has a very high rub count (or Martindale rating) of 100,000 rubs which makes it ideal for upholstery as well as curtains. However, the delicate shades of oyster, fawn, blues, and greys conjure up the glamour of 50s Hollywood, which instantly delivers a luxurious touch to any home. Choosing timeless tones will add confident and long-lasting style when you want to invest in voluminous curtains or upholstery fabric.
Sometimes a scheme calls out for a bold statement, especially where there is not a lot of space in the room to accessorise or add art. This graphic Java fabric, a digital print on velvet is extremely durable fabric and offers the persistent good looks that an authentic fabric can provide through a mix of fade and crush resistant properties. A more delicate fabric on a feature piece such as this, would not be able to stand up to the visual scrutiny.
When choosing the right fabric ensuring the colours and tones harness the spirit of the mood that you are trying to create is essential. A layer up in design sophistication is to add in different patterns in a hue family. This banquette in the home of former fashion editor Sophie Doherty walks the fine line between formal and relaxed. The mix of sizes in prints, with the stripes of Hester and small repeat of Bagatelle with the complimentary tones keeps the schemed unified without being too rigid.
Casual and relaxed
The right fabric for a relaxed scheme is essentially anything that feels good and is low maintenance. Choosing fabric that is high maintenance or will easily stain is not going to encourage you to unwind. That is why a small print like our Chitgar, a hand painted design inspired by an archive document and in a durable fabric, linen, makes it a perfect fabric choice for furniture upholstery on your favourite relaxing chair. Cotton fabrics also have a natural, easy feel to them and would make the ideal natural fabric for a window blind or curtain sewing project in an informal room.
More is always more if you can manage it using opulence well. This Issa 100% cotton fabric velvet has a historical touch in both feel and print. Using it as a base for the rest of the room makes the whole scheme feel effortless, even though all the individual component parts are quite bold. Cotton velvet can become more worn over (very long) periods which can add a subtle, graceful patina to a room that has a classical edge, consider this when making choosing fabrics that you hope to become well, part of the furniture.
So, when choosing the right fabric for your home remember these general concerns. Use, practicality, mood and type. Or simply put – fit for purpose and a joy to look at will ensure you can’t go wrong. Time to start designing.
For more ideas on finding your perfect fabric looks at Interior design tips for 2023