How to Choose the Best Upholstery Materials

How to Choose the Best Upholstery Materials

Interior Design
Decoration and Design
By Alex Mikayelyan December 03, 2021

“Upholstery” is another very important bit of interior design terminology that opens up a world of opportunities to get creative. These are the bits of fabric that line various surfaces of your interior, be it your sofa, bed, chairs, or any other piece of furniture. Many homeowners take upholstery for granted, settling for whatever is the most cost-effective or remotely complements the room’s design. But in reality, the upholstery you choose will have a massive impact on how your furniture looks and feels.

Choosing the wrong material will leave you with stained upholstery that is very hard to maintain. It can also clash with the rest of the interior and may even be uncomfortable to sit or lie on. But if you take the time to pick out the upholstery material, you will end up with a more stylistically wholesome interior and furniture that is easy to maintain. So, upholstery is not only about style and design, but it also determines the functionality of your furniture and ultimately the room.

Linen

The Rustic Appeal of Linen Upholstery

The Rustic Appeal of Linen Upholstery

It’s always good to start off with a more environmentally friendly material as nowadays, many homeowners are pushing for more sustainable interior design. Linen upholstery is environmentally friendly thanks to how easy it is to produce. It is made of flax plant stems, which are stripped down to their fibers, and spun into the textile material that is used for all manner of applications, from upholstery such as sofa slipcovers and pillowcases to bedsheets and blankets.

One of the most visually descriptive aspects of linen upholstery fabric is the looseness of its weave. It is not as tightly woven and you can see little holes in between the threads. This does not mean it’s any less warm or comfortable, but linen has been known to be a little rough initially after purchase. But even if it’s not the softest material, it does soften up significantly after regular use.

Durability

Being made of naturally strong fibers, linen is quite durable and makes for excellent upholstery for high-use furniture. It lasts for a very long time and thanks to how easy it is to clean, is very easy to maintain. Thanks to this longevity linen is also cost-effective, as it won’t need to be repaired or replaced as often as other materials. 

Maintenance 

If you’re looking for something that is very easy to maintain, look no further than linen. To wash it, simply throw it into the washing machine. You can also easily wash it by hand if you’re only freshening up a single piece of upholstery instead of the whole set.

One thing to take note of, however, is that linen is prone to shrinkage when washed. This is very important with upholstery since if one piece of it shrinks, it will no longer be usable. To prevent this it is recommended to avoid the dryer entirely, as this will completely ruin the size of your upholstery. Instead, dry it as much as you can by hand until the linen is damp and place it back on the furniture. This is especially important for slipcovers and pillowcases as they need to retain their size and shape to properly fit. Leave the damp material there to completely dry on its own and this way you can also prevent shrinkage. 

Wool

Why Wool Is Great Upholstery

Why Wool Is Great Upholstery

Another sustainable fabric you can use for upholstery is wool. Much like linen, wool is a natural material, created by shearing sheep fur. The dense fur has several advantages when it comes to being used as upholstery. Unlike linen, which can be a little rough and rigid initially, wool is very soft and retains this softness for quite some time. This is why wool works so great for chair and sofa upholstery, as well as bedding.

Wool is also a very versatile fabric to work with as it can be dyed and threaded in a variety of ways. This means it can be used in almost any type of interior as long as you can match the colors and patterns of the upholstery with the other interior details. While wool can be stylized to suit a slew of designs, most woolen fabrics have a distinct grainy texture that evokes feelings of rustic comfort.

Durability 

Unlike more processed fabrics out there, wool is very heat-resistant. You’d think that this isn’t a particularly essential factor for upholstery, but a few unhappy accidents will prove otherwise. If you put candles or put hot baking trays on the dinner table, you’ll find yourself sighing with relief every time your woolen upholstery shrugs off heat damage that other fabrics wouldn’t endure.

Wool upholstery also does not allow for any buildup of mold and mildew, something that can cause allergies and increase the risk of you and your household getting sick. Considering how busy sofas and chairs can get, especially if you regularly have guests over, it is very important that your upholstery is not susceptible to contamination. 

Maintenance 

As with pretty much any other fabric, wool upholstery fabric needs regular cleaning. Being a natural fabric, it doesn’t have to worry as much about hardening from old stains and smears. Because of how rich and fibrous wool is, dust can easily build up inside. This means you will have to regularly vacuum the upholstery to get rid of all the dust hiding deep inside the fabric. Especially if you have kids who like to jump on the sofa, blowing all the dust out into the air, which could be a real health hazard, it’s important to clean out this dust and keep your household safe from all those nasty air particles. 

Cotton

The Soft and Cozy Cotton Upholstery

The Soft and Cozy Cotton Upholstery

Commonly used as bedding and pillowcases, cotton makes for great upholstery. It is a natural material that is soft and is very popular with seating upholstery because of how well it complements plush furniture. To some extent, cotton upholstery actually resembles linen, in that the weaves are quite large and the gaps in between are visible. However, unlike linen, cotton is a lot softer, making for more comfortable seating right from the get-go. 

Durability 

When it comes to durability, there are definitely stronger and longer-lasting alternatives to cotton on the market. Cotton is soft and very comfortable to use as upholstery, but it’s not very strong or elastic. This is why in the case of cotton bedspreads, for example, they may get worn out and tear after too many high-powered rinses in the washing machine. The same goes with upholstery, as lower-quality cotton fabric may not last too long. So, be very attentive when purchasing a set of cotton upholstery for furniture that is going to be used a lot.

Maintenance 

While cotton can easily wrinkle, this is not a permanent problem for the upholstery. After washing cotton fabrics, you can simply iron them out and they’ll be as smooth and unwrinkled as before. Another downside to cotton sofa fabric is that it does absorb spills, stains, and smears rather easily. This means it will need to be washed more often than other, less absorbent fabrics. But maintaining the fresh appearance of cotton is actually quite simple, especially since cotton is very easy to wash. 

Velvet

How Velvet Brings Luxury Into Your Interior

How Velvet Brings Luxury Into Your Interior

Now we enter the more suave and luxurious side of upholstery and how it can turn any room into a more glamorous space. For the longest time, even dating back to Ancient Egypt in 2000 BCE, velvet has been considered the fabric of luxury, typically found in the homes and palaces of the rich and upper-class individuals. While velvet today still carries this notion of elegance and glamour, it is far more widely available than it was a few centuries ago.

Durability 

Those gorgeous hues that velvet upholstery fabrics come with are a true marvel, as they can last for ages, given that they are properly maintained. Velvet has a rich and vibrant color that you’ll want to keep fresh for as long as possible. Food and dirt stains are very easy to get rid of velvet’s sleek surface, but wash them off right after the spill and don’t let them get absorbed. If you let the fabric absorb these spills, they will penetrate into the deeper layers and this will require you to get the velvet upholstery professionally drycleaned. Deeper cleans usually mean risking the color and the smooth texture of the material. So, while you shouldn’t panic about spilling food or getting dirt on velvet, ensure that the spill is cleaned as soon as possible. 

Maintenance

The bright surface of velvet is prone to attracting a lot of dust and dirt air particles. They settle on the surface and mute the otherwise vibrant and rich color of the velvet. This means the majority of the maintenance you perform on the velvet upholstery will be cleaning it and ensuring that the dust does not get a chance to settle. 

Silk

The Many Benefits of the Regal Silk

The Many Benefits of the Regal Silk

Finally, there’s silk, which seems to bring together the best of both worlds. While silk has that regal aesthetic similar to velvet, with its vibrant and bright surface, it is also very strong and is a versatile fabric used for a variety of upholsteries. Cushions, bedding, pillows, blankets, and plenty more — silk offers the most elegance and durability, but it does come at a cost. Silk is by far the most expensive fabric on this list and while the price does certainly justify itself, it might not be suitable for many homeowners. 

Durability 

Silk is renowned for how durable it is. When it comes to natural fabric that is strong, few can match the power of silk. It is very strong and can withstand a lot of wear and tear, and yet, it still retains its elegant appearance. It makes for perfect upholstery on busy sofas and armchairs, where there’s going to be a lot of traffic, but these pieces of furniture are also going to be in the center of everyone’s attention. Also, silk does not stretch, meaning it retains its size throughout the years.

Maintenance 

Silk requires a lot of care to properly maintain. While it is physically durable, its color is still prone to fading. For example, if you leave a liquid stain on silk and it dries up, it could indefinitely ruin the color. You should be very careful when washing silk so as to not damage the color or the weave of the upholstery. General maintenance for silk should include a low-powered vacuum (don’t use high air pressure as this may damage the fabric). You can then wash the upholstery with cold water and very light detergent to give it a proper cleaning that won’t damage the color of the upholstery. Do this regularly and your silk upholstery will retain its color and look fresh for years to come.

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Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan

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