Upholstered furniture is one of the best ways to instantly elevate a room and give it a tailored, designer look. Custom upholstery may seem unattainable because so many fabrics are “to the trade” only, but if you are willing to do some searching there are some great options that are available to everyone. Some of my favorite sources for fabric that are not “to the trade” are Caitlin Wilson, Ballard Designs, Decorators Best, and Lynn Chalk. However, regardless of the source, upholstering furniture is never cheap and you want to make sure that you will love whatever fabric you pick for years to come and that you stay away from major trends so that it doesn’t make a room look dated.
Selecting the perfect fabric can be harder than it sounds, especially when there are so many beautiful options out there. Four major things to consider are: material, color, pattern, and scale. This probably goes without saying, but also try out a sample of the fabric on the furniture you are upholstering.
Select what kind of material you want. This is where the location of the furniture and your lifestyle need to be taken into consideration. If the piece is going to be in a high traffic area, you want to stay away from silks and linens and instead opt for a durable, resilient fabric like Sunbrella or my personal favorite, Crypton. Crypton is not cheap but if you want a fabric that is virtually pet and kid proof, it is worth every cent.
The next step is deciding what color (or colors) you want to use. Do you want the fabric to transform your furniture into a bright accent piece that adds a pop of color in a room or do you want something more neutral? As vague as it sounds, this is where you need to go with your gut. Oftentimes, it’s much easier start with neutrals and then add in pops of color, layering with pillows or window treatments. If decorating color is your strength, go with it! Colorful rooms pack a punch and leave a last impression whenever someone walks into the room.
Once you have selected the material and color you want, its time to narrow down your pattern. For larger furniture like sofas a solid, textured or large scale print is best. If a solid sounds boring, you can still get it in a textured material that is a little more interesting to the eye. By selecting a solid color for larger pieces, you are less likely to get tired of it in a matter of months and it won’t overwhelm the space. I tend to save fun patterns and bright colors for smaller pieces like accent chairs, pillows, and ottomans. This is also an easier way to save money because you are using less fabric.
If you are using a patterned fabric, scale is crucial. The traditional rule with scale is the larger the item, the larger the print. I tend to agree with this rule but there are exceptions to everything and its good to break the rules of design every now and then!
Lastly, always order a sample cutting of the fabric. One reason is because if you have selected a fabric with a pattern it gives you a better idea of how it will look and help you decide which direction you want the pattern to go. The main reason to order a cutting though, is to check what is called the dye lot. Factories make a large batch of bolts of fabric every few months and as a result each dye lot will never be exactly the same, so you want to make sure the fabric you are ordering is cut from the same dye lot as your swatch. In other words, if you order a cutting now and then buy the fabric 6 months from now, order another cutting right before placing your order to make sure the color currently being printed still works with your space. You could also call and ask if it is from the same dye lot.
Below are a few everyday fabrics that are fan favorites. Many of the beautiful fabrics you see in magazines and online publications are quite expensive. If investing in quality fabrics is something you can do, it is well worth it. Even if you can’t afford to do an entire chair, even a pillow or small ottoman with custom upholstery will make a huge impact in your room and is a great long term investment. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
1. Blue Spot // 2. Crypton Twig // 3. Green Diamond // 4. Green Vines // 5. Blue Flowers 6. Grey Flowers // 7. Coral Print // 8. Fretwork // 9. Abstract Black Dots // 10. Aqua Ikat // 11. Tan & Blue Print // 12. Elephant Print
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