Saturday, September 5, 2009

4 Considerations When Choosing Upholstery Fabric

Who, What, Where and Why of Upholstery Selection

When purchasing upholstered furniture, you will make two major decision that directly affect the longevity of the piece. The first is where to purchase determining the quality of the inner workings of your piece. The second is the upholstery fabric you choose to use.When selecting fabrics for use in your home it is important to understand realistically how different fabrics will perform.

This is a process I call the "Who, What, Where and Why" of upholstery selections.
WHO will use your space? Will this piece be used by a family with growing children? Are there pets in the space?
WHAT will you use it for? Will this fabric be used on dining chair seats? Will it placed on a sectional in a family room? Perhaps an ottoman?
WHERE will you use your piece? Will it be exposed to a great deal of sunlight?
WHY all these considerations?

All of these factors are directly related to the fiber content and weave of the upholstery fabric you choose. A wrong decision at this time may greatly diminish the life span you hope to get from your piece.

  • For durability choose fabrics some synthetic content. Synthetics tend to have excellent abrasion resistance and can increase the abrasion of natural fibers when used together.
  • Polyester and nylon have great dimensional stability and will not stretch. Used alone or in conjunction with natural fibers will help your seat and back cushions maintain their shape and resiliency.
  • Fabrics with some cotton or rayon will grab moisture from the air counteracting the static effects such as hair clinging sometimes experienced by synthetic fabrics.
  • Cotton and rayon fibers easily absorb dyes and are offered in a beautiful array of colors but are also very susceptible to sun fading. Polyester is more difficult to dye limiting the color choices but is relatively sun resistant.
  • Tight weave fabrics work best with animals since their claws usually cannot penetrate the fabric. Micro denier (microfiber) suede cloth is the most cat resistant.

A reputable furniture consultant should be able to guide you through this process ensuring you that your fabric selection is best for your application.


  1. I found that I was able to buy good family room furniture for a great price at the It was less costly than elsewhere.

  2. Thank you for your comment but style and price are only two aspects of furniture purchasing. A good price and interesting style does not mean good quality, wearability, durability or comfort. You also do not mention who will be living in this space, how often it is used and whether there are any pets.

    I am avid internet shopper myself and am well aware of the convenience it offers. However, I would not recommend ordering furniture online for several reasons:

    • Every frame style sits differently no matter who the manufacturer is. Comfort can only be determined in person.
    • If there is a problem with your purchase returning furniture is very difficult and time-consuming
    • Online color rendering of fabrics is often very different than in real life.
    • Construction descriptions can be vague and misleading.

    I did review this site and I am left with several unanswered questions and not enough information.

    • Fabrics are in different grades but what is the fiber content and wear code?
    • Is the leather used top grain, full grain or split grain?
    • Is the leather upholstery 100% leather?
    • Not all leather is easily cleanable or wears well as I can personally attest to.
    • Frame descriptions talk about “sinuous coil” which is not the same as drop-in coil construction associated with 8-way tie.
    • Hardwood frames are good but engineered hardwood plywood frames are better. Engineered plywood is stronger, resistant to changes in temperature, and does not have “knots” in the wood which often cause squeaks.

    The Internet can be an extremely powerful tool for consumers providing pertinent information to make informed decisions. However, you would not purchase a car without test driving first. Considering how much time one spends using their furniture (hopefully more than in your car) furniture shopping should require at least that amount of attention.