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How to Choose the Right Upholstery for Your Sofa

Jan 11, 2019  By Thomasville

A quality sofa is built from the inside out, with experts choosing the construction methods and materials. The final choice, though, is left up to you: the upholstery. Given almost limitless options, how do you choose the right one? You can narrow the field by asking yourself these questions:

1. Is this a luxury moment? Luxury upholstery fabrics—silks, linens, fine stitching and weaving—are delicate. If you intend to put your sofa in a private spot where you will curl up and pamper yourself, or where it’s meant to look beautiful in a seldom-used room, maybe this is the time to indulge in luxury. Exclude everything utilitarian. If your sofa will be used anywhere else, however, exclude those delicate fabrics, no matter how much they tempt you with their beauty.

2. What’s your budget? Cotton is not considered a luxury upholstery fabric, but is does have one quality in common with them: it’s prone to wear quickly. Like a pair of jeans, it stretches and sags, and the fibers wear quickly with the abrasion of heavy use. It’s usually inexpensive, though, and easy to wash, which makes it ideal for slipcovers. If your budget is tight and the sofa is going to get lots of pet and kid use, washable cotton slipcovers may be the answer.

3. What’s your durability flavor? A new sofa is a substantial investment. If you’ve ruled out both luxury upholstery fabrics and inexpensive cotton, chances are you want upholstery that will keep your sofa looking great for a long, long time. The good news is that you have lots of options today and you can choose a category that suits your lifestyle, décor, and taste:

  • Woven upholstery fabrics with tight weaves, such as jacquard and tapestry—dense, with high thread counts, made of high-quality synthetics—hold their shape and color and resist wear.
  • Polyesters resist fading and stains, and are more durable than ever today.
  • Microfibers, whether smooth or velveted as Ultrasuede, are durable and almost impervious to spills and stains.
  • Chenilles and synthetic velvets feel plush and luxurious, while remarkably durable.
  • Top-grain and full-grain leathers become only more supple and beautiful with age, require little special care, and offer the bonus of being lint-free if you’re concerned about allergies.

4. What’s your style? If you’ve narrowed the field to durable upholstery fabrics, you can narrow it further by focusing on upholstery that fits with your design style. The leather that’s beautiful in a mountain-lodge-style design, for example, can be ruled out for a contemporary monochromatic room. This is a good time to consult with a designer if you’re at all unsure of what will work in your overall design.

5. What’s your color palette? For something you know you’ll be happy with over the long term, it’s a good idea to stay away from distinctive prints or patterns in upholstery. Save those for accent chairs, ottomans, or pillows. That doesn’t mean you can’t have color (especially with bold-colored sofas being a trend that will last a while), but be clear about whether your palette is warm or cool, pastel or bold, clear or muted, and look for a uniform level of color saturation across your design.

With a clear eye for what you need and want, you can choose upholstery with confidence and know you’ll end up with the perfect sofa for your budget, your home, and your heart.

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