How to Choose the Perfect Fabric for Furniture

This post is a paid partnership with Willow & Hall

I’ve always found it very strange to write advice pieces like this as I often have no idea about the topic myself. I have to do a whole heap of research before writing these posts, but that is one of the reasons why I love my blog so much. It’s kind of like a personal notebook where I am able to document all the important things I learn about interiors and how to improve them. I often find myself looking back at my past articles when I need advice for my own home. Luckily though the articles I write aren’t just useful for me and I love the fact that you guys are also able to pick up some advice and tips along the way.

So today I’ve decided to look at the factors that you should consider when choosing the perfect fabric for furniture. Now I have to admit, when we chose our new sofa last March, we didn’t actually know that there were certain factors that should influence your fabric choice. We simply jumped right in and picked the sofa we most liked the look of. I did no research whatsoever and as a result we have been living with a horrid throw draped over our sofa for fear that the kids will damage the fabric. Next time I buy a sofa I will definitely make a more considered choice based on everything I’ve learnt whilst writing this post.

When buying a new sofa, armchair or bed, many manufacturers and retailers offer a huge selection of fabrics to choose from which can be somewhat overwhelming. Having a huge variety to choose from is brilliant as it can help to ensure that you find exactly what you’re looking for. However, attempting to narrow the options down can be a bit daunting and confusing. But there are definitely certain factors that you can take into account to help you identify the perfect fabric for furniture in your home.

Willow & Hall is a company that sells handmade luxury British sofas and sofa beds, and they have recently upped their fabric offering from 130 to 259 different options with the introduction of three new fabric collections. The new collections are called House, Signature and Heritage and feature a wide range of new fabrics from practical man-made fibres to 100% natural fabrics. All the fabrics have been sourced from the finest mills in Britain, Belgium and Italy. They come in a wide selection of colours from sophisticated neutrals to opulent rich hues, and are available in a variety of patterns from elegantly designed florals, soft stripes and coastline-inspired shell prints.

But with 259 fabrics to choose from, how do we go about finding the perfect fabric for furniture? With the help of Willow & Hall I’ve put together this handy little guide.

 

Practicality

For many people, the look of the furniture will be the main consideration in their decision making process and many people fixate on colour, but this actually isn’t the best place to start. The first thing that you should focus on is practicality. You need a piece of furniture that will meet your needs and that will withstand any pressures that you may place upon it. It’s really important to consider how you live and how you intend to use the piece.

Do you lead a busy family life? Do you have children and pets at home? Will the furniture be used in a high-traffic area such as a family room or living room? Or will it be situated in a rarely used room such a guest bedroom? Where will the furniture be positioned? If it will be in a light filled room, near a window do you need fade resistant fabric? All of these factors will have an impact on your fabric choice.

Durability

Durability goes hand-in hand with practicality and is your next consideration. Once you have identified how and where the furniture will be used, you need to choose a fabric that can withstand such usage. For example, if you live with children and pets, sofas and chairs may get a lot more wear and tear. Pets with sharp claws could snag fabrics so silk probably isn’t your best bet. Textured fabrics also aren’t great when pets are around. Instead maybe opt for a microfiber fabric or leather because these can withstand extra wear and tear.

If you have children you may have to deal with a lot more spillages and sticky little fingers. Therefore you should be looking for a fabric that is easy to clean and more resistant to stains. It’s important to think about how much time and effort you are willing to put into protecting and maintaining your chosen fabric. Removable covers like those offered by Willow & Hall are a big bonus when it comes to keeping your furniture clean.

I would always recommend removable covers that are cleanable, meaning that if there should be a stubborn stain that can’t be spot cleaned it can either be put in the washing machine or dry cleaned. It also means that if the sofa is looking a little grubby, the covers can be washed and refitted for a fresh look, time after time, and if needed new custom made covers can replace old, tired covers.

Sarah Massouh, Founder, Willow & Hall

Most of us will have no idea how hard-wearing a given fabric is, so it’s likely we’ll have to do a bit of research on that front too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the showroom. The staff should be able to advise you on the best materials for your needs. Also make sure you check the label for care information. In general though, woven patterns are more durable than printed ones and fabrics that have tight weaves and higher thread counts are also considered to be more durable as they are normally denser than other fabrics with lower thread counts.

The choice of fabric durability all depends on the piece of furniture and how often it will be used. Thicker, more hard-wearing fabrics are best used on everyday furniture such as sofas, whereas more delicate, lightweight materials are better suited to an occasional chair and footstool.

Sarah Massouh, Founder, Willow & Hall

Another important way to tell how durable a fabric is, is to find out the Martindale Rub Test rating. This is an internationally recognised test which measures the durability of a fabric and can therefore tell you the suitability of that fabric for its intended use. The test is performed by stretching a piece of fabric between two disks and oscillating sandpaper or wool across the fabric until it starts to show signs of wear and tear. The rating that is given refers to the number of times that the discs oscillated before these signs became apparent.

As a general rule, a fabric with a Martendale rating of 10,000 or less is considered to be decorative and can be used on cushions or decorative accents. 10,000 to 15,000 is great for light domestic use, so for occasional furniture, headboards or dining chairs. 15,000 to 25,000 is appropriate for everyday use on your main furniture. 25,000 to 30,000 is for more high use furniture or light commercial use and over 40,000 is considered to be suitable for commercial environments.

As an industry standard, most companies trial the fabrics with a rub count test to gauge how hard-wearing the upholstery is. The majority of fabrics come with at least 20,000 rub counts, anything near 100,000 is considered very resilient.

Sarah Massouh, Founder, Willow & Hall

 

Comfort & Style

Comfort is obviously another important consideration, especially if your furniture is going to be used every day. Think about how the fabric will feel against your skin. You don’t want to choose anything too rough or itchy if you you tend to sit on your sofa with bare legs for example. You may want to avoid leather if you don’t like sticking to your armchair in the summer months.

Once you have made a decision on all those more boring elements above, then comes the exciting part. From your narrowed down selection you can choose a fabric that complements the style of furniture you have chosen and the interior decor of your home. Decide whether you are looking for a casual fabric or something more formal?

If you are opting for a patterned fabric, ensure that the scale of the pattern is appropriate for the piece of furniture it will be covering and for the size of the room the piece will be located in.

Colour

Now for the colour. Whilst you probably already have a good idea of the colour you want, this choice may have been slightly affected by the criteria above. The colour you go for will have a significant impact on your decor and the mood of the room, especially if the furniture piece is quite large.

Decide whether you want a warm or a cool colour and try to settle on a colour that you won’t go off a few months down the line. Neutrals have more longevity and are easier to decorate around. But bold colours and patterns definitely make more of a statement.

Darker colours may be more practical if you have kids and pets at home as lighter colours will show stains and marks more easily.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you love.

If you’re in the market for a new sofa, chair or bed, why not check out the selection from Willow & Hall? Along with the new fabric collections they have just launched, they have also increased the wood frame guarantee on all items from 10 to 25 years, and increased their 14 day hassle free returns policy to 30 days. They also offer free nationwide delivery within four to five weeks. If you can’t get to a showroom to check out their products you can always book a video appointment with their showroom staff. Isn’t technology amazing? Who knew you could choose a sofa by video appointment?

 

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This post is a paid partnership with Willow & Hall

28 Comments

  1. September 5, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    I’d never heard of the rub test before, how interesting! Thanks for sharing all these great tips with us.

  2. September 4, 2018 / 3:17 pm

    Such a useful post Stacey, thanks for sharing. I bought durable and practical leather sofas about 10 years ago – but I’d love a fabric sofa now the girls are older. There’s still so much life left in the leather ones though it doesn’t seem right to replace them x

  3. September 4, 2018 / 2:56 pm

    Such a useful post as always! Velvet sofa here, but two careful kids!

  4. September 4, 2018 / 10:51 am

    Making the most of not having children yet to satisfy my velvet cravings! Really insightful post Stacey!

  5. September 3, 2018 / 10:50 pm

    Martendale rating was always a mystery to me until recently. This was a very useful post, thank you Stacey! I totally get why people go for function more than aesthetics, I really do, but you know what? Life’s short, buy the velvet sofa! ;)))

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:04 pm

      I agree Jenny, just make sure it’s a stain resistant, fade resistant velvet sofa lol 😁

  6. September 3, 2018 / 6:17 pm

    what a fantastic guide , i often go with practical solution as i am so afraid that the fabricin the color i love wont last 5 min in our crazy home – but i need to get more braver knowing that i can have both colour and durability

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:05 pm

      There are so many options available today Pati and so many treatments for fabrics. I’m sure you can find both!

  7. September 3, 2018 / 4:52 pm

    This is really informative Stacey. And what lovely sofas from Willow and Hall too! Might have to trade mine in. x

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:06 pm

      They are gorgeous aren’t they? Glad you liked the post!

  8. September 3, 2018 / 4:50 pm

    This is so interesting!! I keep reading that darker colours are better if you have children but I find them more annoying to live with as they show every speck of dust. That drives me more insane than if the children spill anything. I can wipe up spills, but I can’t constantly vacuum the air around my sofa ;)

  9. September 3, 2018 / 4:04 pm

    Great tips Stacey! It’s such a big decision but so important to consider all the practical aspects of fabrics as well as the more appealing aesthetics xx

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:09 pm

      Thanks Kate. I definitely learnt a lot writing this post! I won’t make the same mistake again!

  10. September 3, 2018 / 3:04 pm

    Thank you for this comprehensive article on Sofa fabric and gorgeous inspirational pictures! As far as I am concerned, I like when I can easily wash the fabric or change it entirely because with two cats soon or later, this may be an option to consider. We just got a new sofa and I like it very much.

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:11 pm

      Glad you found it interesting Marlene. In hindsight I totally should have opted for a sofa with removable covers. Kids and cats eh! Who’d have ’em? Lol

  11. September 3, 2018 / 9:43 am

    This is such a good post, Stacey! You’re so right, practicality and durability are the two most important factors in choosing fabrics, but they’re so often overlooked. Really informative! x

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:12 pm

      Thanks Hollie. I won’t be overlooking them again. Sofas are a huge investment and it pays to consider these aspects and not purely aesthetics.

  12. September 2, 2018 / 9:57 pm

    These are such helpful tips, I’ll be in the market for new sofas in the not too distant future and will definitely need to pay attention as to what’s best for our grubby cat and dog! X

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:13 pm

      Glad you found it helpful Lins. Good luck finding your new sofas!

  13. September 2, 2018 / 10:29 am

    I have this ongoing internal battle with practical over aesthetic especially as a mum and a wife to a husband who spills everything!! These sofas are gorgeous and such a great informative post for those like myself looking at a new sofa or two.

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:14 pm

      Thanks Maria, glad you found it helpful. It’s a delicate balance but armed with the information I’m sure it’s relatively easy to find the perfect sofa. There are just so many options to choose from.

  14. August 30, 2018 / 8:57 pm

    I never thought about what the sofa was made from when we purchased ours! I wish I had got a more practical fabric with kids! This is a really useful post and perfect when looking for a new sofa

    • August 31, 2018 / 5:24 am

      Same Stephanie. And I hate having a throw on the sofa to protect it from the kids.

  15. August 30, 2018 / 4:56 pm

    Great tips. Its such an important decision to make when buying a new sofa. I have been obsessive about loose covers since my sons were babies so that I can wash them but now that they are that much older and rarely actually spend any time with us in the living room, I am considering going for a more grown up sofa. How I would choose from the amazing choice on offer from Willow and Hall though !

    • August 31, 2018 / 5:25 am

      I probably should have gone for loose covers in hindsight. Would be great to be able to remove and wash them.

  16. August 30, 2018 / 9:17 am

    So many gorgeous sofas in this post (and room sets!!)! I admit, I’m the worst for this. Aside from knowing my cats would destroy anything with a woven looped fabric, I tend to just go by what I like the look of! I have decided, however, that I really want a stain-resistant velvet for my next sofa – at least I hope that will make a bit of a difference IF we let the dog sit on the sofa with us! Ha! xxx (who am I kidding, we are such softies, of course we’ll end up letting him – gah!)

    • September 3, 2018 / 11:17 pm

      Stain resistant is a must with kids and pets. Hope you manage to find your dream sofa and that its practical too.

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