How to Choose Quality Upholstery Fabric like a Pro

First, you check the construction of your upholstery. Is it sturdy enough? Is the frame hardwood? How about the foam?  


Here’s the tricky part as it comes to buying a sofa or chairs. You would think that it is okay to rely only on the reputation of the store for your sofa fabric, right? Wrong. When it comes to fabric for your seating, upholstery fabric, most furniture stores have a grading system. It scales from a less durable fabric to the most durable or trendy fabric. Grading usually determines the longevity of your sofa or a chair as well as the price. For example, the same model sofa can cost from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the fabric you choose.


What does it mean to you? It’s simple. Even some of the upscale furniture stores can sell you a sofa that won’t last because of the quality of the upholstery fabric. So, if you do not want to deal with trouble and expense of reupholstering, choose a more durable fabric right away. Here are the steps you should take when choosing your upholstery fabric:


  1. Choose medium or heavy use of fabric.

Ask your salesperson at the furniture store or online if the fabric is for light, medium or heavy use. Only you know your home habits and those that live with you. If you have kids, pets and your lifestyle is very active go with heavy use fabric. Fabric’s durability and sustainability are measured in double rubs. Double-rub count refers to the durability of a type of fabric. The double-rub testing method uses a special machine that passes a testing pad back and forth over the fabric until it is worn out. Each back and forth pass is known as a double-rub. Commercial grade fabrics are usually rated at 100,000 to 250,000 double-rubs. Residential is usually between 10,000 to 25,000 double-rubs.


If your upholstery fabric is between 8,000 to 10,000 double rubs, it is designed for light use and will not sustain everyday wear and tear. For example, you will not want silk fabric in the family room. Some of the fabrics that are 100% cotton are designed for light use and are good for your pillows and not the sofa. Medium use upholstery fabric is between 10,000 to 15,000 double rubs. It is very often the combination of rayon, cotton, and polyester. For example, 44% Rayon, 33% Polyester and 23% Cotton will attribute to a more durable fabric. This is the fabric that you use for a family room couch. If you are looking for high durability, your best bet is heavy use fabric that is over 15,000 double rubs. Polyesters, combination upholstery fabric, and some commercial blends are included in this category. Chenille is a popular combination fabric that has great hand a look. A blend of fibers, such as rayon, polyester, and cotton add durability of the fabric.


  1. Consider color as it pertains to the sofa’s function.

Choose a color for your upholstery fabric strategically. Ask yourself if you tend to get tired of saturated or dramatic colors quickly or you stay true to certain favorites for a long period.


If you want your furniture to stay for a long time, use solid colors or patterns with a small repeat that almost look solid. Compliment by adding more color with chairs and accessories. Color can change the look of the familiar or otherwise boring sofa. A classic or traditional sofa can turn into a fashion statement with unexpected fabric colors, such as pink, turquoise or yellow.


Use fabric color for creating a certain mood of the room. Dark blue, denim or navy fabrics are perfect for the beach house. Depending on placement, finishes, and pillows these colors will look crisp, playful and hip or understated and sophisticated.


  1. Pattern.

Many people stay away from bold patterns for the upholstery fabric and prefer to use pillows as accessories. However, current trends include bold patterns for most decorating styles as they include ethnic, geometric and nomad patterns.


If you fell in love with the certain pattern, make sure that the shape of your upholstery piece does not conflict with it. For example, a sofa with straight lines will look better if you choose a pattern with straight or geometric angles. A rounded shaped piece will look great with floral patterns or allover motif. Use patterns with large scale for a more modern, updated look.


  1. Texture.

There is no limit in the variety of different textures available today. Just remember that your upholstery will be consistently compressed and do not use overly dimensional texture as it will be altered with time. Try to get a sample of the fabric you want to use, then stretch it, compress it and see if it changes its structure.


A couple of words about planning: You are making a big investment and the more planning you do the more successful the result. No matter what fabric you choose for your sofa, chair or ottoman based on durability, color, pattern, and texture, remember to plan before you buy. There are many apps that allow you to create mood boards where you can lay out all your swatches, colors and ideas so that you see everything in front of your eyes. This is what designers do with every project and it never fails to plan and plan again.

How do you choose the right fabric for your sofa and chairs? Please let us know. all. If you have a friend that is looking to invest in new sofa and chairs, please share this post with them.


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