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How To Choose the Right Upholstery Fabric

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When the inside of your favorite chair or couch still provides comfort but the outside looks tired and dirty, it may be time to consider reupholstery. Your first task is to choose the right material to use for recovering your furniture. These tips on how to choose the right upholstery fabric should help get your project off on the right foot.

Durability, Stain, and Fade Resistance

First, determine how much use your piece gets. If you’re working with a sofa or chair that someone sits on every single day, or if you have a pet that has commandeered the piece, durability and stain resistance are going to be important. Many fabrics have a rating that is supposed to clue you in to how long it will last. Tighter weaves and woven fabrics hold up better, as do higher thread counts. Learn how easy (or difficult) it is to clean any fabric you’re considering. Some types of fabric, like polyester, may resist stains better than others.

Where your piece sits in your house is another important consideration. Think about how the fabric may look after several years in direct sunlight, and whether the piece is exposed to humidity or splatters near the kitchen.

Size of Your Piece

Getting a large sofa reupholstered is a considerable investment. It’s not something you’ll want to have to do every few years. That’s why it’s best to choose a neutral color and a durable fabric for large pieces like sofas and setees. Avoid trendy patterns and colors, because trends pass, and you’ll be stuck with a dated looking piece.

Color and Pattern

Accent chairs can handle more color and pattern than large, dominant pieces in a room. Think about how stripes or patterns will land on your chair: will the shape of the pieces make stripes look off-kilter? A huge floral print might overwhelm a small side chair. Think about the scale of any pattern you choose. The piece you cover should display the entire pattern at least once.


Sometimes it’s fun to take an old-fashioned piece and cover it with a vibrant, modern color or pattern. But if the shape and historical period of your furniture is what makes it unique or cherished, stick with something that expresses the era the piece fits into naturally.

The Mood of the Room

Formal, informal, calm, or colorful—match your choice of upholstery fabric to the mood of the room the piece will occupy. A side chair done in a colorful pattern adds some zip to a sunny, casual room, but your more formal spaces may need a more toned-down selection. Upholstery shops can help you narrow your choices to fabrics that may work well on your piece.

Choosing the wrong fabric is probably the biggest upholstery mistake you could make. Select something that will hold up well, complement and blend with the room, and keep you happy for years to come.

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