Furniture Upholstery: The Best Fabrics For Sofas & Chairs
There are countless ways to update the way your furniture using fabrics and upholstery. From patchworks to prints and plains, skirting to slip covers, or simply choosing a great base cloth and adding textured or bold cushions. Here’s your guide to furniture upholstery…
Tip 1: Invest in a Well-Constructed Frame
Reupholstering furniture is the secret weapon that interior decorators and stylish home owners turn to for simple but effective room transformations. But the key is having a great frame and base to work with. If you invest in a well-constructed frame, your sofa can last a lifetime. “A really well constructed sofa may have a metal frame that has bolts and springs and should last 15 years or sometimes much longer,” explains Chrissie Jeffery, Creative Director at No Chintz Textiles & Sift Furnishings, who specialise in furniture upholstery and fabrics. “Good timber frames are often made using dowel can be repaired really easily and are strong for years. If something is cheap, you can bet your bottom dollar that when you pull all the top off, what’s underneath is as cheaply put together as the fabric on it.”
One chair, two looks: No Chintz reupholstered this well-constructed antique chair using Cashew Nut Love in Orange, $97/m, a hand-woven Ikat in a medium weight that also works well as a lampshade, curtains, blinds, cushions and bedheads. It looks great as a dominant fabric in a room or as an accompanying pattern. Image one, with curtain in Peony Garden in Cumquat/Taupe, $126/m. Image two, with curtain in Allsorts Stripe in Vanilla, $46/m. Cushion on chair in Flowers on Water in Parrot, $77/m.
Tip 2. Choose the Best Fabrics for Your Furniture Usage
The biggest mistake people make is choosing a fabric because they like the look of it, but is it suitable for its intended use? Some fabrics can be used on chairs of sofas for ‘occasional use’, but they may not have the durability of a backside bouncing on and off them every day, or children leapfrogging between them, or even pets leaving their fur ball trademark behind. So what do you look for? “It’s not so much the weight or type of the fabric that you need to worry about, it’s the construction, fibres and how tight the yarn is – the tighter the yarn, or higher the thread count, the higher the rub test,” explains Chrissie. “The rub test indicates how many times someone can sit on it before the fabric starts to break down. Whereas you can get very thick fabrics but they can rub down or pill very easily. As long as the yarn is well woven, you can use almost any yarn.”
Tip 3. Consider the Cleaning
Use linen, cotton and a blend of linen-cotton-polyester or viscose for slip covers if you want to wash them. “If I’m doing a full fixed upholstery, I tend to ‘up’ the synthetics and ‘drop’ the natural fabrics for long term cleanliness, rub and easy cleaning,” explains Chrissie. “Linens and cottons do not steam clean well on fixed upholstery, they stain. A good upholstered fabric sofa can last a lifetime. If it is cotton and you don’t care for it, you’ll get five years, while linen might last eight years. Some fabrics can still look great after 10 years, but people tend to want a change by then anyway. And that’s the good thing about a fabric sofa – it’s easy to change the fabric. There are amazing upholstery fabrics in plains that look like linens but have a percentage of polyester in them, which are great when you have children. If you do have children, opt for a darker modern textile fabric that can be steam cleaned regularly.”
Tip 4. Choose Plain Fabrics If You Want To Play it Safe
“A great quality printed fabric sofa or slip cover looks fabulous with printed and coloured cushions, but that’s a clever person or interior designer who can pull the look together,” explains Chrissie. “A much simpler look people tend to go for is a plain fabric with printed throw cushions, which can easily be updated with new cushions.”
A light coloured upholstered sofa with bright throw cushions. “The inner spring is located in the deep base of this Italian designed sofa,” explains Chrissie. “The Italians are the masters of getting great strength modern square frames with inner springs, which are very comfortable.” Bench chairs upholstered in ikats.
A solid boxy timber frame upholstered in bright red is easy to mix and match with while making a striking feature piece. “This would sit nicely alongside a sofa with a skirt on it,” explains Chrissie. “It’s a very square and retro look.”
Tip 7. Add a Print for Pizazz
If plains feel a tad safe, go for a single print for a striking look. Bright stripes and ikat polka dots add a playful feel while sophisticated weaves with smaller patterns look uber stylish.
One sofa, two looks. “We reupholstered this elegant Swedish retro sofa in Lomondra in Jade, $77/m,” says Chrissie. Lomandra can add warmth to a room with a darker colour palette cushion layer or playful with green and white stripe cushions and pom pom trims.
Loveseat upholstered in No Chintz Multi Stripes, available from a selection. Cushions made using Cashew Nut Love in Blue, $97/m, or available ready-made (cushion left and right), $100 each. Center cushion made-to-order at the No Chintz Cushion Program – available in a range of shapes and sizes.
Tip 6. Go For Multiple Fabrics to Spice Things Up
“There is a big movement towards covering chairs with multiple fabrics,” explains Chrissie. “You can choose two fabrics or multiple and cover it with a patchwork. It has to be suitable for the use it’s going to have though – you wouldn’t patchwork a family sofa that going to be used every day, but you could do it on an occasionally used chair in a bedroom.”
One sofa, two fabrics. Chair upholstered by No Chintz in Zanzibar in Citrus, seat cushion made-to-order using Cabana Stripe in Berry, $61/m. Curtain is made-to-order using Australiana Collection, Iron Bark in Coral, POA. Lampshade in Australiana Collection, Gumnut, $110/m; Cushions from left to right all made-to-order at No Chintz Cushion Program: Twill stripe in Yellow, $87/m, (bottom); Fine Twill Stripe in Yellow, $87/m; Gumnut, $110/m; Zanzibar in Musk, $56/m; Zanzibar in Sea, $56/m.
The multi-fabric trend sees people opting for one base fabric and adding a bit of pizazz with a contrasting cushion fabric. Sofa with printed cushions on patterned fabric upholstered using No Chintz fabrics and upholstery service.
For wow factor, go for a patchwork in clashing prints and bold colours. You’ll never have to worry if your prints, patterns and colours match again.
Tip 7. Slip on a Slip Cover!
They may sound old fashioned, but when made well and to the sofas specifications, you can’t even notice your sofa has a slip cover on it and they are super practical. “If you have children, pets, or intend to eat food on the sofa, fabric slip covers over your sofa are the better option,” explains Chrissie. “Animal hair is difficult to remove from fabric, whereas slip covers can be easily washed. Slip covers are also great if you want light coloured fabrics because these need maintenance. White covers need to be cleaned endlessly and even bleached in some cases. Get a removable fabric or slip cover that can be washed in good quality cotton or linen. It can have a slightly sloppy look over time, but if you love white, a slip cover is the only way to go.”
A slip cover with skirting and contrast piping. “This is very contemporary with the skirt,” explains Chrissie. “I wouldn’t put a skirt on a sofa next to it though for balance – I’d place a boxy, square style contemporary sofa with it.”
Tip 8. Add a Skirt
Skirts on legs are always in fashion, it just depends on how they are used. You don’t want a whole room full of legs on furniture. A sofa might need a skirt or be upholstered to the ground because you may want that solid look, then have legs on the chairs, or vice versa. “There should be balance in a room for how many legs you want on show,” explains Chrissie. “That’s the beauty of sofa frames – the look can often be altered by adding skirting, you can change an old fashioned sofa’s quilted back by adding a modern flat back, or if the arms are gathered, you can cap them. Discuss your options with an experienced designer or upholsterer.”
Tip 9. Mind the sun!
“Australian’s tend to place their sofas next to uncovered windows, but the harsh sun sucks out the colour very easily,” warns Chrissie. “If you don’t cover your windows and the sun streams in, it’s also deadly on your carpet, timber and will dry and fade fabrics. You can opt for outdoor fabrics and that’s a very sensible choice for fading and durability if you have children, and a great alternative to leather.”
An indoor/outdoor chair upholstered by No Chintz, who are leading specialists in indoor and outdoor fabrics and upholstery.
Hello sailor! Nautical outdoor fabrics look fab and are water repellent, have UV filters and stain resistant. Check out the No Chintz Outdoor Fabric range.
Tip 10. Speak to Upholstery Experts
If you are having your sofa upholstered, choose pre-shrunk fabrics, as some fabrics like linen are moisture absorbent and can shrink over time. “Have your fabrics upholstered by an experienced person who knows what they are doing,” suggests Chrissie. “If you’re ever in doubt, speak to the qualified team at No Chintz. We recover furniture at all different levels and want you to make the right decision for you, your home, your style and your practical requirements. Tell us if it’s used by children, animals, or going to be placed in the sun. Don’t just choose a fabric because you like the look of it – you need to choose a fabric that will perform. And we can help you do that.”
Sofa with an inner spring built into the base for extra comfort and cushioning. Upholstered by No Chintz.
x Miss Stitched