Did you know that when it comes to selecting upholstery for your new sofa, chair or sectional there are more things to think about beyond “What colour should I get”? Questions such as “What are the best sofa fabrics for kids and pets” or “What is the most durable upholstery for long term use” are certainly in the top list of questions.
Having additional choices can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming, yet exciting! Read below as our resident fabric expert breaks down the other things you need to think about when investing in your custom upholstery piece.
Choices, Choices, Choices!
So many every day purchases we make come with additional choices:
- Do you want fries with that?
- What size do you want?
- Which colour speaks to you?
From your simple fast-food order to your new car, there seem to be an endless amount of options to choose from to customize your purchase – and purchasing upholstered furniture for your home is no different!
However most people aren’t aware of the seemingly simple decisions you make when customizing your new sofa (or even the fact that you can customize a sofa!). These decisions are often times overlooked and they can have a lasting impact on the long-term performance of your new upholstered furniture.
Wait a minute, performance of my furniture!?
What does that mean and how do I make the right choice?
Don’t worry, it isn’t as daunting as it may sound. One of the key aspects when selecting your new furniture piece is selecting the right upholstery fabric. There is no secret formula, it all comes down to selecting the right fabric for you and your lifestyle.
Based on price and performance, there are many different grades of fabric. The higher the grade, the more expensive the fabric. However, the highest grade does not necessarily mean that it will be the best fit for you.
So how do you pick then!? There are some key questions to start with:
- What fabric do I like the look and feel of?
- What is the best sofa fabric for kids and pets? How durable and stain repellent do you want it to be?
- What room is the upholstered piece meant for, and how often will it be used?
What fabric do I like the look and feel of?
When selecting a fabric ask yourself these 2 questions:
- What room is this piece going into?
- What colour, texture or pattern do I envision in the space?
Typically, but not always, the softer the feel and more luxurious the look the more expensive a fabric can be. Natural fibers (such as velvet, silk, wool and linen) have an inherent beauty to them and they often cost more money to manufacture due to the availability of the natural resource and the delicacy of working with certain fibers. Even though natural fibers can cost more, they can also in some circumstances break down faster over time because they are a natural fiber. These fibers can be more susceptible to sun damage and abrasion than a synthetic fiber.
Synthetic fibers are man-made and for upholstery fabrics are most often polyester. Although synthetic fibers are more easily manufactured, are more durable in most fabric constructions and are more cost effective they don’t always look and feel as nice as a natural fiber.
As you move higher in the fabric grades, you will begin to notice the presence of more natural fibers or fabrics with some natural fiber content (for example, 35% linen, 65% polyester). The best way to make your initial selection on upholstery fabrics is to narrow down the look and feel you like.
What is the best sofa fabric for kids and pets?
When looking to see how durable a fabric is, check out the ‘Double Rub Count’ of the fabric. Essentially, this just means how many times can you sit on a piece of fabric before it starts to wear down? The higher the rubs, the more durable it will be. But how many ‘double rubs’ are considered acceptable?
As previously mentioned, synthetic fibers often are more inherently durable than natural fibers. They will have a higher abrasion rating than natural fibers. There is a misperception in the industry that an upholstery fabric must have a double rub count of 100,000 to be recommended. This is not the case. Industry associations agree that for residential use a minimum of 15,000 double rubs is recommended. In simplified terms, you could sit on a sofa 15,000 times before the fabric would start to wear down. When you look at many of the lower grade, 100% polyester items you will typically be over 50,000 double rubs. You will typically notice a lower double rub count on a fabric that is a 100% natural fiber, like linen. It is rare that a furniture manufacturer would offer an upholstery fabric that is below 15,000 double rubs so do not be discouraged by this number!
Many furniture manufacturers also offer a stain repellent or performance finish option in their higher graded fabrics. These stain repellent options not only ensure stains are easily cleaned but they often increase the durability of the fabric as well! Gone are the days of Teflon spraying your upholstery with harsh chemicals. Today’s performance finishes are applied prior to manufacturing the furniture piece and are typically baked in to seal the fabric. Imagine every fiber in the fabric coated in it’s own piece of plastic wrap. This helps stains pool on the surface for easy clean up and adds an extra coating of protection against everyday wear. The addition of the performance finish moves the fabric up to a higher grade.
What room is the upholstered piece meant for, and how often will it be used?
Now that you have narrowed down your fabric choice based on look, feel and basic performance needs let’s consider where the furniture item will go, who will be using it and how often.
If you love the look and feel of a 100% linen upholstery fabric and it is for a formal dining chair that will only be used a couple of times a year then it could be a perfect choice for you. If you like that same fabric but you want it on a white sofa in your living room and you have 3 small children with constant sticky fingers and a few animals with long nails that shed a lot, it probably isn’t the right choice.
The less durability and stain performance you require, then the more options you have. The more heavily used furniture requires more durable higher performance fabric. If you can find the look and feel in a lower grade upholstery fabric and you do not require high performance or stain repellency then go for it! Often there will be a similar fabric available without the performance finish so you need to determine whether the additional finish is worth the investment based on how much you will be using the furniture piece and how hard the use will be.
Anything else I should know?
There are other things you could consider as well based on what is important to you.
Does the material have any recycled fibers, is it suitable for outdoor use, if it is going in a very sunny location does it have a high UV rating?
Hopefully, we haven’t scared you! Once you consider the look you want and the lifestyle needs you have to consider you will be able to make the right choice for you. As always, our expert Retail Designers are available for a free consultation to help you make the right decision for your home and your lifestyle!
If you have any questions on selecting fabric for your new furniture don’t hesitate to comment below or send us an email!