Interior designing is hard. It requires a lot of conceptualizing and background research. And furniture upholstering is no exception. From simple decorative pieces to large statement pieces like sofas, there are lots of decisions to be made, particularly with upholstery fabrics.
What fabrics should I choose for my sofa? This is the first question asked the moment you get into upholstering. And you are not alone in your confusion. In fact, it is only natural that you are a little lost, given that there are so many things to consider before you make a decision.
But worry not. We got you covered. This guide will tell you exactly what you need to think about before purchasing upholstery fabric.
Durability and longevity
First things first. Durability and longevity.
Before you go on to the fun part, first you have to make sure that the fabric you choose can withstand what comes its way. For this, you have to consider how and where it will be used. To make things easy, go with the following questions to make sure that you choose a fabric that fits your needs.
How do you live?
What kind of social life do you have? Do you prefer going out? Or inviting your friends over? If you are going to have people over regularly, chances are that the sofa will be used by a lot of people on a regular basis. Which means that you need a fabric with a greater rub count and a higher thread count. (don’t worry, we’ll explain what these are in a while)
Who do you live with?
The next question to tick off is this. Who do you share your sofa with? Do you have little kids running around, treating your sofa like a trampoline? Or do you have a partner with shaky hands, prone to spillage? If the answer is yes, a delicate fabric like silk won’t be a good choice for your sofa. You are better off with a fabric like cotton, which is more durable. The secret here is to opt for upholstery fabric with high thread and rub counts.
So what exactly is meant by rub count and thread count?
The rub count, or the double rub count as it is known in the furniture repair and upholstery field, is a measurement of fabric durability. The greater the rub count, the more durable the fabric is. According to industry standards, approximately 3000 rubs equals one year of residential use. So, the trick is to consider the amount of work your sofa is going to do and do the math. And here is the rub count scale for residential use.
15,000+ rubs – heavy duty. Ideal for homes with kids.
9,000 – 15,000 rubs – cost-effective. Still strong enough for little families.
3,000- 9,000 rubs – a little delicate. Great for furniture that isn’t used daily.
Less than 3,000 rubs – wears easily. Would work for decorative pieces like pillows.
If you have a busy home with a lot going on every day, we recommend you go for 15,000 and higher.
The thread count tells you the number of threads per square inch. As a general rule of thumb, the tighter the weave is, the higher the thread count and the stronger the fabric is. In fact, anything above 180 is considered to be a good upholstery fabric.
And here is a bonus tip. If you are worried about stains, there are several options you can explore. For example, you can go with revolutions fabrics that are made of Olefin yard. Crypton, Inside Out fabrics, Microfibre fabrics and Indoor-Outdoor fabrics will also let you live without the fear of spills ruining your sofa and having to go for reupholstery.
On a side note, Indoor-Outdoor fabrics are a great choice if you are going to place your sofa in a relatively open space with direct sunlight and mild drizzles coming in. Sunbrella fabrics will also do the job if what you are looking for is fade-resistance.
Next up in your fabric checklist is maintenance. This is all about how you are going to take care of your sofa once it becomes a permanent resident at your house. Are you ready to clean it regularly? Bear in mind that it takes some effort to keep your sofa in tip-top condition. You might need to dust it or vacuum it every fortnight or so. And if it has suffered a stain, you might even have to rub it with a damp cloth. Can you invest that kind of time and effort in your sofa? Does your schedule allow it?
All these things matter when it comes to upholstery fabrics. That is why we recommend you choose a stain-repellent treated fabric if you are a little tight on time and extra care. Leather, vinyl and microfibre are your friends on the stain front.
Another thing you have to consider is how your sofa will look in 5 or 7 years. Getting a sofa is a long-term commitment. You need to make sure that you are going to like it in 7 years as much as you do now. That is why it is always wise to ask your upholster how it is going to look in a few years. For example, leather can develop patina. While it does add a certain aesthetic touch to your sofa, it is not everybody’s cup of tea. So you need to visualize yourself in the future with the sofa before you make a decision. We don’t have to remind you that reupholstery and furniture repair can be expensive.
With durability and maintenance sorted out, you can now move on to the fun part!
Let’s play with some colours and patterns, shall we?
With furniture, particularly with large pieces like sofas, a lot depends on the colour and the pattern. It decides the overall feel of the space. They have the power to make your living room airy and welcoming or cluttered and crowded. So make your decisions wisely.
When it comes to style, solid colours are always winning. Not only does it make your sofa the centre of your visiting room, it also adds a splash of colour. Colours like green and red are great choices for upholstery fabric if you want to be bold and get rid of a monotonous tone.
However, in 2021, grey topped the list as the most popular colour for sofas. This stems from the fact that neutral colours are always in-trend. Soft colours like ash, beige and hues of pink never go out of style. Most people opt for a colour like this because there is very little tendency for you to grow tired of such a colour. And also, it makes it easier to style the rest of the space because there are unlimited options to explore with neutral palettes. It is true what they say, you can never go wrong with a soft neutral shade.
What you have to keep in mind here is that you can change other pieces in your space. For example, things like drapes, cushions, table runners and small rugs can be replaced. But it is not the case with sofas. You cannot go around reupholstering every time you feel like you have seen enough of that colour. So think. Think about your preferences and how that particular colour works with your space.
And no, this in no way means that you shouldn’t go for daring colours and patterns. By all means, please do! Intricate patterns and uncommon colours in upholstery fabrics make a statement and can breathe life into your visiting room. What we are trying to say is that you have to be sure. Don’t get caught up in the moment when you see vibrant colours and patterns. Instead, imagine it on your sofa, placed in your visiting room, and then only make a decision.
When you choose an upholstery fabric, you have to ensure that it is in harmony with the space it is going to be put in and the piece of furniture itself.
Harmony with the space
This concerns the theme you are following. Or the interior designing concept you are going with. If all the other pieces in the room are minimalistic, you want to go with a fabric that compliments the minimalistic theme. If not, a large piece like a sofa can create an aesthetic tension that affects the overall ambience. For example, while boho patterns are timeless, they might not go hand in hand with an industrial-edge themed space. So think about the theme you have chosen, the wallpaper, the ceiling and the other pieces in the room. It all matters.
Harmony with the piece of furniture itself.
This means that you have to take into account the piece you are upholstering or reupholstering. It can be a vintage sofa or a modern couch. It can have a larger seating area or a relatively smaller one. When you choose your fabric, take these into consideration. A fabric that accentuates a vintage frame may not work well with a contemporary piece. Fabrics with larger prints are a big no-no on small pieces. So bear all this in mind when you choose a fabric.
And now to the most important thing. Set a budget! And tell your upholstery shop very clearly what your budget range is. That way you can avoid confusions that are common in furniture repair.
And here is a bonus tip. Ask your upholstery shop for a swatch if possible. You can take it home and sleep on it. It will help with the pressure of making a decision then and there.
So, that’s it. This is how you choose upholstery fabric that will always remain a good choice. Happy upholstering!