DESIGN 101: SOFA FABRIC!

We're into our third week of Design 101 this month and it's all about sofas!  We've discussed sofa dimensions, styles, and construction.  You're almost set to pick out the perfect sofa for your home - we just need to add the fabric!  Below are our tips and tricks for figuring out the right sofa fabric.

Worn Sofa

Worn Sofa

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Durability

Life happens.  Red wine will get spilled, dogs will sleep on your sofa, and kids will drop goldfish between the cushions.  When thinking about your sofa fabric, consider who will use the sofa and the importance of fabric durability.

Fabrics that are woven patterns tend to hold up longer than patterns that are printed onto fabrics.  Also important is the thread count of the fabric, meaning the number of threads per square inch of fabric.  A densely woven fabric will last longer.  A thread count of 150 is average, and up to a thread count of 400 for upholstery fabric will help with the longevity of your sofa.

If you live on your sofa (Sunday football, anyone?), you might want to stay away from fabrics that are heavily textured.  A raised, textural pattern can wear down in the spots where you sit regularly, making your sofa look worn and dated.  (Hint: clumpy cushions can also make your sofa look dated - find out how to choose the right cushion for you on last week's blog!)

Is your sofa sitting in the sun?  When we discussed drapery fabric, we talked about fabric's ability to withstand direct sunlight.  You want to make sure your sofa doesn't fade so choose a fade resistant fabric or move your sofa so that it sits in the shade.

Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler

Kirby Slipper Chair from Jonathan Adler

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Style

Earlier in the month, we discussed sofa styles.  When considering fabrics, you'll want to ensure the style of the fabric coordinates with the style of the sofa.

Pattern: A very traditional fabric such as a damask would look better on a traditional sofa such as Camelback or English sofa.

Content: Some fabrics, like silk, tend to appear more formal while other fabrics, such as linen, tend to look more casual.

Scale: Consider the scale of a patterned fabric.  Typically, the scale of the pattern relates directly to the piece it will be applied to as well as the scale of the room.  You want to make sure the pattern isn't cut off at odd angles and that it doesn't overtake the piece or the room.  As a rule of thumb, a large scaled pattern looks best on a large piece or in a large room.

CB2 Sofa

CB2 Sofa

Movie Pool Sofa from CB2

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Color

It's easy to get swept up in color trends - just walk through any shopping area and you'll start to recognize the hot color of the season.  When buying a sofa, think about colors you can live with.  A sofa is a big investment, so make sure you choose a color that you will love for years to come!

When we discussed how to pick a paint color, we talked about selecting colors that appear as accents in the room's rug, art, or other item that you love.  We also talked about the differences between warm and cool colors, and how each affects the mood of the room.  The same rule can be applied when picking the color of the sofa.  Think about the mood you want to create for the room and choose a color that will coordinate with the pieces around it.

If you suspect your sofa will be the victim of heavy staining, consider a dark color to camouflage the stains or a fabric that is stain resistent.  (Spoil alert: If you're set on a white sofa, tune in next week and we'll give you tips and tricks for cleaning them!)

When selecting a color, think about the scale of the sofa in proportion to the room.  If you have a large room, you could choose a bold or bright color for the sofa and balance the color accent out with other pieces.  However, if you have a small room, a bold color might overpower the room (and your eyes!) so you may want to consider a more neutral colored sofa and save the bold accents for throw pillows.

Fabric

Fabric

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Content

Do you want a synthetic fabric or a natural fiber?  Or some kind of blend of the two?  There are a lot of options to choose from, but not all are suitable for upholstery.  Below are some tips to help you choose the best fabric content for your sofa.

Microfiber: Microfiber has become a popular choice for sofas because of its durability and stain resistance, both a characteristic of it's densely woven fibers.  A range of microfibers are available, some softer than others, so if you think this is an option for you make sure you see and touch a fabric sample.

Leather: Leather works with many sofa styles, and can take on a modern or traditional feel.  You may think of leather as a fragile material, but it's actually rather durable and easy to clean.  Leathers come in various grades, from supple and soft to tough and stiff.  A soft leather will "break-in" faster, giving your sofa a cozy feel.  Take caution using leather if you have pets that will jump up on or scratch your sofa.  Unless a scratched up look is what you're going for!

Chenille: Chenille can look gorgeous on a sofa, and is also durable in comparison to other fabrics.  We like to use it in rooms that are used often, such as a TV room, where you want a sofa that is soft, cozy, and luxurious.

Acrylic:  Acrylic is often blended with other fibers such as linen or wool to keep the fabric cost down.  It is incredibly durable, and resists wrinkles, stains, and fading.  Acrylic is also soft, like wool.

Rayon:  Rayon is typically blended with other fibers such as cotton, linen, or wool.  It adds a level of durability and softness.  The advantage of rayon is that it is mildew resistant, however, it's not an ideal fabric for sofas that will need to stand up to a lot of wear and tear as rayon is more fragile than other fibers.

Cotton and Linen:  Cotton and linen are the most popular materials we use on sofas. Wether in a velvet, knit, or woven form,  we love natural fibers, and the soft and cozy feel they provide on upholstery. It's important to choose a cotton or linen fabric that is upholstery weight to avoid sagging in the material.  Cotton and linen are more difficult to clean than other materials, so they may not be the best option if you can expect your sofa to receive a lot of stains.

Mohair:  Did you know that mohair is used on trains and in movie theaters?  Mohair is typically expensive, but it is incredibly durable and stain resistant.  It can feel a bit scratchy, like some wools, but can also take on a velvet feel.  Mohair also takes on color really well, so it is available in a variety of vibrant hues.

Silk: We have used silk on sofas, but we don't typically recommend it.  Silk is difficult to clean, expensive,  and it will not stand up to direct sunlight.  It is also expensive.   All that said, silk is luxurious and elegant, so it can work for a sofa that isn't used often.  We also like silk on pillows, which can more easily be taken to the dry cleaner!

Sofa

Sofa

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General Tips

  • If you or someone in your household has allergies, consider fabrics that do not attract dust such as microfiber.  You may also want to consider hypoallergenic cushion fill in place of down and feather.
  • If you live in Southern Florida, the MidAtlantic in August, or anywhere else that has a humid climate, you may want to consider fabrics (and cushion filling) that are mildew resistant.
  • If you have kids or pets, don't be afraid to try an outdoor fabric on your indoor sofa.  Outdoor fabrics have come a long way, and some of them are so soft and cozy that you'd never know they were intended for outside!
  • For built-in sofas, such as in breakfast rooms and kitchens, we often use vinyl or faux-leather.  You can wipe it down with a sponge!
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Happy Sitting.

RB.

Next Up: Sofa Care & Maintenance!  Sign up for our newsletter to be in the know!