Niche Interiors

Selecting the Perfect Upholstery Fabric

One of the most common questions we field from our San Francisco interior design clients (and friends) relates to selecting the appropriate upholstery fabrics for their home. Choosing an upholstery fabric is an important and often overwhelming decision, which should take into account your family’s lifestyle as well as the type of aesthetic you are hoping to create in each room. Read on for our professional designer upholstery guide, which addresses casual, family-friendly spaces as well as more formal, lightly used rooms.

Casual, Durable Fabrics for Family-friendly Spaces
Modern Living room in Wine Country home by Napa interior designer Niche Interiors
Family room sofa upholstered in a cotton blend

Woven Cotton or Linen Blends. As eco-friendly interior designers, we try to incorporate natural fibers as much as possible into our projects. We love woven cotton or linen blend fabrics  – they are breathable, have a soft hand, and lend a casual, laid-back vibe to a space. If you have a very active household, it would be advisable to opt for a cotton and synthetic blend for durability, such as 70% cotton and 30% polyester or rayon blend. Look for heavier weight cottons for longer life spans for your sofa or sectional.

There are a wide range of synthetic fabrics used in upholstery, the most common being polyester, rayon, viscose and nylon. Synthetic fabrics were created to mimic natural fabrics, but with increased stain resistance and durability (and often with a less expensive price tag). Generally, synthetic fibers are rather durable and are a good option when blended with a natural fabric.

Small scale patterns. Nothing hides stains better than a little pattern! Our general rule of thumb is that the smaller the pattern the more easily a fabric can be used as a neutral, mixing seamlessly with other fabrics and patterns in a room. Some of our favorite patterns include herringbone and geometric prints such as hexagons. Patterns come in a range of fabric types, our preferred construction is a woven pattern rather than a printed pattern. These fabrics are more durable and will hold up better over the long run.

Cotton and linen blend fabrics used in high-end Napa interior design projects
A range of bouclé fabrics

Textural Wool Bouclé.  This nubby textile derived from the French word meaning “curled” or “ringed,” bouclé refers to a fabric made from a series of looped fibers. Wool is the most common fiber used in bouclés, which are very textural and typically have a high pile and a cozy vibe. Bouclés are fantastic at hiding sticky kids fingerprints and generally do not show wear as much due to their inherit variation and uneven texture. We love using a bouclé on armchairs, but you can also use this fabric on a sofa or ottoman.

Sophisticated Fabrics for Formal Spaces
velvet upholstery fabric on a custom bench designed by Bay Area interior designers
Tufted bench upholstered in a cotton velvet

Cotton, Linen or Silk Velvets. If you want a fabric that feels as luxurious as it looks, velvet is for you! The depth of the pile shows off dye really well, resulting in intense, rich tones. Blue velvet will have a much deeper color than a similarly-dyed piece of flat-weave cotton or linen. We opt for velvet when we want to create a statement with a bold, saturated color – it’s a great choice for armchairs, settees, beds and benches. Keep in mind that velvet does crush easily, even a highly durable velvet may be susceptible to marking as the pile flattens from normal use and wear. The tendency of velvet to crush is not a defect, and can even lend charm to your space as a piece gets more use.

Mohair is a soft wool that comes from the hair of the Angora goat, and is characterized by a distinct luster and sheen. Mohair has a thicker pile height and a very sophisticated appearance. It is also durable and highly resilient to crushing and creases, and may be a better choice than velvet if you prefer a uniform fabric that won’t change over time. Given it’s versatility, we tend to use this fabric on all types of furniture pieces – from sofas to upholstered beds.

Custom bed with wool upholstery fabric by California interior designer Niche Interiors
Custom bed upholstered in a wool blend

Wool. A natural fiber that comes from animal hair, wool is a durable choice for upholstery fabric. We love using wool for understated, luxe spaces where we prefer a matte finish and no sheen. Wool comes in a variety of colors and is typically blended with other fibers to avoid a scratchy feel. Look for wools with a finer, tighter weave for a more elevated appearance.

Head over to our Custom Furniture page to explore more photos of custom upholstery designed by Niche Interiors!

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