HOW TO: Choose the Perfect Fabric

Investing in a sofa or chair is a big decision that requires consideration and research. Once you choose the perfect frame design, the next step is selecting the upholstery fabric. Here are five simple steps to determine the right material and color, how to care for your upholstered piece once it is installed, and more. For additional insight, feel free to contact your ID Concierge via email—they are a wealth of information as well—or call 872.802.4119. Please reference the Swatch List for the entire fabric collection (aside from our leather options).

1. COLOR

What color to choose is the first and (perhaps) the most important part of the equation. If an interior design professional (who can help guide the style and aesthetic of your space) isn’t in the budget, these questions can help guide you to the right fabric for your lifestyle:

  • Who is going to be using your upholstered sofa or chair? If the answer involves pets, small children, or couch-crashing college buddies, darker fabrics are best for hiding stains and spills. Greys are very popular right now, and are great neutral options. Blues and greens are livable colors that act as bold neutrals. Look at a few of the other elements in the room (the wallpaper, the rug, the accessories) and draw inspiration from them.

  • In what room will the sofa or chair be placed? Casual spaces usually require darker colors, so snack debris and dirty shoes don’t leave a mark. If it’s a media room or lounge area, where there isn’t a lot of natural light, moody colors like browns, dark blues and blacks are best.  For a children’s room, a game room, or another space that’s more relaxed, consider bolder colors like red, green or even yellow. If you’re using the sofa as a showpiece in a more formal area, lighter colors are more sophisticated in a traditional way—creams and light grays are popular for these lower traffic spaces.

2. FABRIC CONTENT

The fabric content of a textile explains which specific fiber threads are included when they are woven together to form the fabric. Natural materials such as cotton, linen, silk and wool are softer to the touch but less durable. When they are combined with synthetic threads such as acrylic, polyester and viscose, those soft properties can remain but they are strengthened by the combination of natural and man-made materials. All of our pet-approved and kid-friendly fabrics are sytnthetic, which allow them to stand up better to spills and sticky fingers. In terms of the softness of the material, interior designers refer to the “hand” of the fabric when discussing the content and how it feels to the touch. Heavier, thicker weaves tend to be a little more textured and less smooth, and are great for more casual rooms. For a more formal setting, choose a more luxe-looking material with a soft “hand” and a slight sheen to it, such as velvet.

3. CLEANING CODES

Many times, upholstered pieces have a tag on the bottom of the piece that includes a letter coding system. Sofas marked with a “W” must be cleaned with a water-based cleaner only; distilled or bottled water is recommended. Do not saturate, and blot dry to avoid leaving a water ring.“S” means the upholstery must be cleaned with professional-grade cleaning solvents and will not react well if water is applied to it. Some store-bought upholstery cleaners are acceptable—be sure to read the label and test beforehand. Spot cleaning is only advised if the product is meant for home dry cleaning use. Lastly, “S/W” means a combination of dry cleaning solvents and water can be used.

4. RUB COUNT

The durability of a fabric is best defined by the rub count, which is determined by a machine that runs back and forth over the fabric until the fabric is worn down. 20,000 or higher rubs is a great place to start for residential upholstery. Rub count is a good way to gauge how much wear and tear your sofa can handle before you start to see slight changes in the fabric.

(viewing the abrasion and pilling (Martindale) testing process at our fabric supplier)

5. FABRIC WEIGHT (grams per meter)

This is another way in which fabrics are classified. Simply put, it’s a way of measuring the thickness of the material, and differentiating between lightweight, medium-weight or heavyweight fabric. Most often, the fabric weight is measured by placing a standard meter of fabric on a scale. The weight is recorded in grams and the fabric is then classified by its weight. The thicker or more condensed the material, the better it will hold up to frequent use.

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