15 Oct How to Choose the Right Fabric + My Top Picks High to Low
Choosing fabric—drapes, furniture, pillows, duvets—is no doubt one of the most fun things about interior design. The right kind of fabric brings the perfect pop of color or texture and is one of the best ways to add some major personality. There is nothing quite like a table full of fabric samples. Oh the possibilities.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that choosing fabric is often the most frustrating parts of the design process. Options are endless—velvet, mohair, damask, linen, cotton, canvas, texture—and let’s not even begin to talk about pattern, color and durability.
When picking fabric here are the top three things to consider. Type, Color and Price. Too often price is the primary consideration, but really good fabric is worth the extra $$, and usually you can find somewhere to cut in your budget—accessories, lighting, etc.—to get the fabric you can’t live without.
Type + Thread Count
Drapes, sofa, chair, pillows all require a different type and durability. Kids and pets? Get something bullet proof and easy to clean like leather or microfiber. Woven patterns are more durable than printed.
For drapes you want something with heft and weight so they hang beautifully. For pillows you want something soft and tactile. Nothing is worse than a hard-as-a-rock pillow.
Thread count is also important for durability. The more tightly woven the fabric, the higher the thread count, which means it’s more durable, stain resistant and spill resistant.
Neutrals are fine, but find something with texture. Color options are endless, so start by looking at some safer colors, then branch out to more intense ends of the spectrum, and finally, choose a few samples that really light up your brain.
The good news is that today you don’t have to worry about white and beige in high traffic homes (i.e. kids and pets). Today “outside” fabrics are being used inside, and even traditional indoor fabrics are loaded with nutrients that make them bomb-proof. My white, cotton linen blend sectional is 10 years old…kids, dogs…you name it.
Dare yourself to dream big, then decide if you love it enough to cut back on other areas of your design. Fabric is no place to pinch pennies. Cheap fabric looks cheap. A few more dollars per yard can mean the difference between something you love and something you feel totally indifferent about.
Fabric Buying Tips
There are a few tried and true tips on how to choose the right fabric for your project.
- Consider how formal your space is. Silk and velvet look best in a more formal sitting room, while cotton, canvas, mohair or linen are perfect for a casual living space. It’s all about the blend.
- Don’t be afraid of bold. Recovering a sofa every few years is a lot less expensive (usually…depending on the fabric of course) than buying a new one and one of the best ways to transform a room, so give yourself permission to play with color and pattern.
- If a room gets a lot of light, avoid bright colors that will fade easily. I say this with one caveat…a lot of fabric today has been treated to withstand fading. But you have to make sure you are buying the right blend with the right kind of treatment.
- Linen, silk and velvet are the best choices for windows because they hang beautifully. This is not a place for a thick synthetic or cotton panel.
So what’s the takeaway?
The old rules of fabric buying are pretty much out the door. The most important thing is to give yourself permission to get outside of the box. Want a white sofa? Go for it. Want a big, giant, bright pattern in a tiny little room. Knock yourself out. The bright green velvet will look dynamite in your formal sitting room, I promise.
Favorite Sources High and Low
Just because a fabric is less expensive, doesn’t mean it’s any less fabulous. There are definitely options for every budget. Here are some of my favorites in high and low.
Bright and Bold
Right: $$, Élitis, Volupte collection
Love it Because: Quilted. Check. Red. Check. Awesome. Check.
Left: $$$, Ethnic Chic, Dominique Kieffer
Love It Because: How can you not?
Right: $$, Romo, Saphira Collection
Application: Drapery & Upholstery
Love It Because: This is a non-floral floral. It’s not too girly because the pops of acid green make it hip and a little edgy.
Left: $$$$, Designer’s Guild, Martineau-Berry
Love It Because: This is an exciting, vivid floral that’s a total throwback to calico in raised velvet…not your grandmother’s floral.
Right: $$, Harlequin, Polka
Love It Because: The dots aren’t perfect and the subtle sheen in the raised pattern gives the neutral background longevity. This fabric comes in several color ways that are all totally fabulous.
Left: $$$, James Dunlop Textiles, Molokai Gold
Love It Because: The hand of this fabric is supple, the dots are chaotic and loose, and the use of tone-on-tone makes it feel like a modern animal print.
Right: $$, Dorian Bahr Textiles, Flurry Petal
Love It Because: The brilliant base color gives an unexpected twist to an otherwise neutral faux fur. Totally cool for pillows and bedding.
Left: $$$$, Zinc Textiles, Shadow Mountain Furs
Love it Because: Faux fur is so real these days you can hardly tell the difference from real. I’m obsessed with the idea of covering a big sink-into-it chair with this textile from Zinc.
Right: $$, Designer’s Guild, Metallo Platinum
Love It Because: This is a seriously sexy basic! Rather than using flat linen or cotton as the base, it incorporates a mild iridescence that makes it edgy and still a perfect background for color.
Left: $$, Sahco, Pamira
Love It Because: This is simply dreamy. It has a gorgeous hand (meaning a healthy weight) to the fabric, and is a beautiful modern take on a traditional print.