Most people fall into two categories of furniture shoppers. Some people are happy with what they see on the showroom floor—even if they search through multiple stores to find it—while some shoppers want to customize every aspect of their bed, sofa, or dining room table set. Whichever furniture shopper you are, it is important that you know how to choose the perfect fabric for your furniture so that you can keep your new sectional or loveseat for a long time.
Upholstered furniture is easily damaged by pets, children, and things that can snag fabric. While it is important to choose an item that will look and feel amazing in your home, you will want to think about more than appearances when it comes to the main furniture pieces in your home.
What Is Furniture Upholstery?
Upholstery is a term used to describe all the materials for constructing furniture. It includes everything from the fabric to the springs, boards, padding, and webbing. You want to choose furniture made with high-quality materials so that your sofas, chairs, and beds last longer. Much upholstery can’t be seen or customized, but when it comes to the fabric, you often have some choices. Common furniture upholstery fabrics include:
Pick the Best Fabric Color
The first thing you see when you look at your upholstered furniture is the color. The appearance of a piece of furniture is the determining factor of whether you’ll actually buy it. If it doesn’t go with your décor or simply does not look good, you won’t want it in your house. While vibrant colors are attractive and tempting, you should think about how each piece you buy will fit into future spaces in which you will reside. Pay extra close attention to the color you choose for larger upholstered pieces that will be a main focal point of your room.
Neutral tones are a safe choice, especially when picking out larger upholstered furniture. Find shades of brown, gray, and cream that you enjoy. Warm shades provoke a peaceful mood; use accents of burnt orange and deep red to give your living or dining room an inviting atmosphere. On the other hand, if you enjoy blues and greens, and your décor is already designed around a cooler color scheme, you can start adding neutral pieces that you may never want to replace. As you move into bigger—or potentially smaller—spaces throughout your life, your most durable furniture will stay with you, and you will want it to match.
Pattern vs. Plain Print Fabric
In addition to the color and shade of your fabric, you can choose between patterns and plain prints. The general rule of thumb is to use plain prints on larger pieces—like sofas and sectionals—and patterns on smaller pieces, such as ottomans and chairs. Patterns may help you conceal stains and spills. If you have clumsy housemates or young family members, patterned upholstery might be wise if you prefer fabric.
Pro Tip: Consider washable furniture covers—especially if you clean your couch often. You can change the appearance of your couch often while protecting it from minor spills and damage.
Choose a Durable Fabric
If you are going to spend so much money that you must budget for what you’re buying, you want the item to last a long time. It is important that the fabric on your furniture is durable enough to withstand your lifestyle. Woven fabrics hold up better than printed ones, and denser fabrics with a higher thread count will last longer. If your furniture will be kept in a sunny room, you should consider fade-resistant fabrics that will hold their color.
Pro Tip: If you dream of velvet and silk but have pets or kids, save those luxe fabrics for pillows and linens in your bedroom.
Choose Pet-Resilient Fabrics
Leather and microfiber are generally recommended for homes with pets because claws and teeth cannot easily tear through these fabrics. You should avoid delicate fabrics as well as ones with a lot of texture that your pet could snag with their teeth or claws. Pets like to play with tassels and strings, which could become damaged when your cat or dog gets carried away.
Pro Tip: Most furniture stores do not offer a warranty for furniture damage caused by pets, so choose wisely when you buy.
Choose Allergy-Resistant Fabric
If you have allergies, choose upholstery fabrics that will not irritate you. The best allergy-resistant fabrics are silk, linen, cotton, and sheepskin (unless you are allergic to wool). Microfiber is also a good option because it is lint-free. If you live in a climate with a lot of humidity, you may want to consider mildew-resistant fabrics like nylon, acrylic, and acetate. Mildew is caused by a combination of poor ventilation and a buildup of moisture. It can lead to dangerous black mold, which can cause all sorts of breathing problems and other health complications.
Budget for Your Furniture
The first thing you should consider before buying furniture is how much you want to spend. You’ll have more options if your budget is higher. More fabric and customization options are available the more you are willing to spend. However, even if you are working with a limited budget, you can still get the fabrics you are looking for. Your color options may be limited, though, especially when it comes to larger-scale furniture.
Clean Your Fabrics
The last thing you probably want to think about when purchasing furniture is cleaning it, but accidents happen to everyone. Whether you live alone or with kids or pets who will inevitably make a mess, you will eventually need to clean your upholstery. Different fabrics require different cleaning techniques; some must be professionally cleaned, while others can only be spot cleaned. Further, if you improperly wash your furniture covers, they may shrink.
Pro Tip: If you must clean often due to kids or pets, choose upholstery that is low-maintenance such as cotton or leather to make cleaning up a breeze.
Depending on the furniture manufacturer and fabric type, you will likely receive a cleaning kit with your upholstery purchase. At the Great American Home Store, our designers can show you how to choose the perfect fabric for your furniture and guide you to the options that suit your needs. Our professionals will help you stay within your budget and identify pieces that come with fabrics you can easily manage. When shopping for living room furniture in Memphis, TN, be upfront with your salesperson about your limitations and needs so they can find upholstery that you can afford, and which will hold up to the demands of your specific household.