Niche Interiors

Upholstery 101: Selecting the Right Fabric

Living room in Pacific Heights San Francisco home designed by Bay Area interior designers

If you’ve purchased a sofa recently, you are well aware of the overwhelming fabric options that are available.  Here is a run down of the most common fabrics and the best ways to use them.

Cotton. I’m a sucker for natural fibers. Cotton is a good choice for upholstery fabric – it’s breathable and comfortable to sit on. If you have a very active household, it would be advisable to opt for a cotton and synthetic blend for durability, such as 50% cotton and 50% polyester (or rayon) blend. Look for heavier weight cottons, such as canvas and denim for longer life spans.

Linen. Effortlessly chic, linen has the most appeal for casual, classic homes. The downside to linen sofas are the wrinkles, which are inevitable. If you like things to look uniform and perfect this is not the upholstery fabric for you.

Microfiber or Ultrasuede. These fabrics are everywhere! That’s a great thing if you have a house full of young kids and dogs. While they are durable, relatively stain resistant and easy to clean, they can be a bit drab. A great alternative to microfiber is to treat your sofa with a non-toxic stain guard treatment, which is an eco-friendly application. For a few hundred dollars they will come to your home and treat the sofa to repel stains.

Synthetic Fibers. There are a wide range of synthetic fabrics used in upholstery, the most common being polyester, rayon, 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. The downside is that they are mostly derived from coal and oil sources, so they are not environmentally friendly.

Leather. Easy to clean and long lasting, leather has been a popular upholstery choice for ages. With the increased awareness of environmental and animal impact, this choice might be waning in popularity. If you opt for leather, make sure to look for full or top grain leathers that have been aniline dyed.

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