I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love a good glass of red wine, especially when I can drink it out of an Olivia Pope, over sized, wine glass! That said, there is nothing worse than watching as that glass of wine gets knocked over, and splatters all over your favorite new sofa or bar stools. I wish I could say that story is just hypothetical, but I have been the person responsible for those spills in my house many a time. My boyfriend, Matty, likes to say, “this is why we can’t have nice things,” but he would be wrong, as he often is when it comes to these sorts of things!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with upholstery fabrics, I should note that there are many different types out there. Upholstery fabrics can be made of natural and/or synthetic materials and crafted using various weaving techniques. Needless to say, each type of upholstery fabric comes with its own set of unique characteristics; and as a designer, it is these characteristics that help me identify which type of fabric I decide to use where, and why. For years, there was a big separation between commercial grade fabrics and residential fabrics and this, more or less, remains true today. In short, commercial grade fabrics are designed to last. They typically wear better than most residential fabrics do and they prove to be a smarter investment for commercial spaces long term. I’ll put it to you this way, spills at a restaurants are not uncommon; in fact, they probably happen a few times a night. Now, can you imagine if a restaurant owner needed to reupholster the bar stools every time someone spilled some red wine on the seat? Its just not practical.
So, if commercial fabrics wear better, why aren’t they used more often in residential design?
Well unfortunately, since commercial grade fabrics are designed to be more durable, they are, often times, significantly stiffer and less soft than those used for residential. Now, that type of fabric maybe fine for a chair in a hotel lounge, but it is likely less desirable for the living room chairs you sit on multiple times a week.
So is it possible to invest in a fabric that is durable without sacrificing that sought after residential feel?
Luckily, there are some cozy, high performance fabrics out there that are great for home upholstery and many of them also double as fabrics that can be used outdoors! While not entirely stain resistant, upholstery fabric lines like Sunbrella and Perennials offer fabric options that won’t make you choose between comfort and performance. Made of primarily solution dyed acrylic and other recycled fibers, these fabrics mimic the look and feel of typical linens, velvet’s, and countless other popularly used fabric types across residential design. Its really the best of both worlds!
The best part?
Conveniently, you don’t need to be working with an interior designer to get your hands on an upholstery piece with these high performance fabrics. Retailers like Room & Board and Ballard Designs offer custom upholstery pieces with Sunbrella fabrics, while other retailers like Restoration Hardware offers Perennials fabric options for many of their custom pieces. Even retailers like Pottery Barn have come out with their own line of performance fabrics! So whether you have a dog who you can’t keep off the sofa, new baby who is spitting up everywhere, or someone like me spilling wine all over your furniture, I definitely recommend giving these performance fabrics a chance to come in from the outside. After all, why not make life a little less stressful?