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Upholstery imbibes a sense of character to the furniture. Moreover choosing the right fabric ensures the longevity of the furniture. Fabrics can be of two types based on the source; organic and synthetic.

1. Leather

Leather Upholstery. Source

It is a commonly used upholstery fabric. Mainly due to its comfort and the feel of grandeur it imparts. They are easy to maintain and thus are expensive. The material is durable as it is resistant to certain chemicals and is stain proof. The absorption rate for leather is low and thus no odour is present after the spill. Leather has tanned skin due to which it can split or crack and can get damaged easily with sharp objects. Since the material is harder than other fabrics, comfort is compromised. It is a great option for high traffic areas and is recommended for those having animals and pets.

2. Polyester

Polyester Upholstery. Source

It is a microfibre that is best when blended with cotton as wrinkle protection. It is available in many colours, thus perfect for any theme. Similar to leather polyester upholstery looks attractive and gives an expensive feel to the furniture. Polyester is a very soft and comfortable fabric and easy to clean. In case of any spill, the fabric dries quickly.

It is resistant to stain and abrasion making it durable. The upholstery fabric is only slightly breathable and doesn’t absorb the smell. When exposed to extreme or fluctuating temperatures the fabric can crack. Moreover, the tensile nature of the fabric makes it stretch over time. Polyester is flammable which is a safety hazard.

3. Olefin (Polypropylene)

Olefin is a synthetic petroleum-based fibre used for sofa upholstery. It is used by interior designers in areas where furniture undergoes heavy wear and tear. The material is durable and resembles the look and feel of wool. It is water-resistant as it is made from melted plastic and thus can be cleaned easily. Olefin is resistant to chemicals and fire and also doesn’t fade with time.

The colour of the fabric is consistent throughout as the dye is added to the melted plastic. Olefin doesn’t provide much variety and thus is not used much for indoor furniture such as sofas and ottomans. They are susceptible to oil, light and heat as oil stains are difficult to remove and too much exposure to the sun tends to make them brittle.

Designing Upholstery for Furnitures. Source

4. Rayon

This semi-synthetic material was developed as an imitation of silk cotton and linen. It runs parallel with natural fabrics in terms of comfort level. It is available in a variety though not durable. It is a non-expensive fabric that provides a soft and comfortable texture and is moisture resistant. However, rayon is vulnerable to wrinkling and doesn’t retain its original appearance for long. It is not scratch-proof and tends to lose its original feel when wet. It has low elastic recovery.

5. Wool

This natural fabric provides a large variety of upholstery fabric; however, though not commonly used. Wool is a sturdy and durable material. Since it’s resistant to pilling and stains, it is best suited for areas of high traffic. However, they are expensive and bring out an odour when wet. Wool blend upholstery tends to be very comfortable. This eco-friendly material is fire and water-resistant. Insulation properties make it weather appropriate and it doesn’t fade or wrinkle.

6. Cotton

Cotton is a commonly used upholstery fabric. It is easier to handle i.e. can be dyed easily and is available in a variety. Since it is present in different grades it is compatible with the budget. The fabric is pure, natural, soft and comfortable. It is resistant to pilling and abrasion thus having a long life span. However, cotton fabrics wrinkle easily and can catch colour. It is not resistant to stains and spills.

Different colour samples of cotton upholstery. Source


Other fabric materials include linen and velvet which are eco friendly, popular and affordable and can be printed on, however, needs to be taken good care of as they wrinkle easily. Jute furniture is commonly used for ottomans and carpets.

They add a texture to the exterior and go well with leather upholstery. It is prone to wrinkling and loses strength when exposed to moisture and sunlight. Numerous options in furniture fabrics for sofas, carpets, curtains etc. are available in the market. Fabric selection for furniture is critical in order to align with the theme and yet attain the required aesthetics and comfort within budgetary restrictions.

Explore more upholstery fabrics on Material Depot.

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