The Best Upholstery Fabrics And Some You Should Never Use!

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

The other day I received a real Dear Laurel letter about wanting to know about the best upholstery fabrics

and especially with pets.

Dear Laurel,

First, thank you for your time reading this note. I’m hoping my question may be of relevant blog material or perhaps a quick response, but if not, I understand the (not so) gray space of offering free advice, especially for those of us in creative fields!

I’m 33 weeks pregnant and in the middle of a home renovation (ha!). It’s time for me to select fabric for a classic, tight-back English roll arm sofa with 2-3 seat cushions. My head says Sunbrella or a sturdy equivalent, but my heart says cotton velvet. This will be the primary, high-use sofa, but dog and food stay off (not wishful thinking- just how we are). I know a true cotton velvet is quite durable, but there is something about a resilient indoor/outdoor fabric that’s grabbing my attention.

Pilling of synthetic fibers drives me nuts, much more so than any patina a velvet may develop over time. I mentioned I’m pregnant; this is our first child, so of course there are lots of unknowns about how our family life will unfold in the living room. I do not plan to reupholster any time soon after making my choice, unless there is some type of disaster, in which case we probably have bigger problems.

Would you mind sharing your experience with this, and any preferences you may have?

Thanks again,
Emily

 

My first reaction to this was–

You’re having a baby?

And you want to buy a sofa?

A good sofa?

I see…

That’s fine, if you don’t mind it covered with buckets of baby barf.

 

Both of my sons projectile vomited their milk

 

all over everything within 3 feet of wherever they happened to be for seven full months.

And then one day, like a spigot that got turned off– it stopped. Sure, go ahead and laugh. It’s funny– now, that is.

We even have it on video. One such scene demonstrated the shower which landed all over me and the white cotton duck upholstered sectional.

And no, it does NOT come out.

I realize however that Emily is going to have a perfect baby that comes home from the hospital sleeping through the night, never throws up and is potty trained at 18 months.

Ha!

But what alarmed me in her note was the word “cotton” followed by the word, “velvet.”

The most durable?

no.

 

It only took one experience some 23 years ago to convince me that cotton velvet is not one of the best upholstery fabrics.

 

It was in the days before I started my business and worked for someone else. We weren’t sure, so we did the ol’ coffee test.

Yes, I dumped a cup of coffee on the sample. Let it dry a little. Then washed it.

The once lovely cotton velvet was now a big bloody, crumpled mess.

After that, I decided that a 100% cotton velvet was not a great choice.

And well, you can’t very well dump your sofa in the washing machine.

 

However, there’s a sofa that makes my heart beat faster every time I see it.

 

 

one kings lane sutton right-facing sectional harbor blue velvet - best upholstery fabricsThe Sutton Two-piece sectional in Harbor Blue from One King’s Lane.

 

How inviting and pretty this sectional is to me. Oh, please be a polyester velvet. Pretty please?

I checked it out.

MADE OF:

frame, alder; upholstery, 79% cotton/21% polyester velvet; fill, feather/down

 

It made me wonder if 21% poly would be enough to make it okay, so I decided to do a little experiment.

Here’s what I did.

I went into my library of fabric samples and within one minute found a lovely velvet from Duralee that is the exact same break-down – 79% cotton/21% poly.

 

And then I put it through my Laurel Test.

 

This just happens to be a velvet from Duralee that’s 79% cotton and 21% poly. I put the tape measure there to see if it shrunk after I had put it through its paces. (It didn’t.) The faded parts are where the tag was.

And then I found an almost identical velvet from Duralee that is 100% poly. While poly is an amazing fabric for upholstery and the cushions are machine-washable, it does have a tendency to hold onto dust, hair, lint, etc.

 

One important thing for ALL fabrics is that they need to be dusted and/or vacuumed regularly. Ground in dirt, is no bueno for fabrics.

 

First step, is I got both fabrics wet to about a third of the way down.

The cotton-poly above

The 100% poly.

Immediately, the poly was practically dry with no evidence of it being wet.

The cotton/poly I zapped it with the hair dryer and then I set them both out on a sunny window sill.

After an hour or so, both looked fine.

 

But now it’s time to bring out the big annihilators.

 

COFFEE

AND PEANUT BUTTER

The cotton/poly is on the right.

I then took the tag off of the 100% poly but left a staple in to tell them apart.

Then, I washed everything out in soapy sudsy water.

rinsed.

hmmmm… Can you guess which one is the cotton/poly? Yes, the one on the right.

I dunno… It’s not looking too promising is it?

But… it’s wet.

I let that dry for a good long while, but the poly was nearly dry to begin with!

Sat them again on a sunny window sill.

and then lightly ironed them to hasten the drying and take out the wrinkles.

 

Two hours later…

It’s difficult to tell here, because of the nap but both fabrics were spotless and looked better than how they started out! There was no evidence of coffee or peanut butter. The cotton/poly is on the right. So it did hold up very well after all. It just looked scary in the middle.

I still probably wouldn’t do cotton on a sofa that kids are hanging out on watching TV. But the moral of the story is just like paints, please test your fabrics before shelling out big bucks for it.

 

I have used synthetic velvets, chenilles  and ultra-suede for clients for years and years. Those are my favorite upholstery fabrics for durability.

 

The new polys don’t have that shiny, cheap look. They look like linen or cotton now.

I have not had any issues with pilling with 100% polyester.

What about pets, Laurel?

 

What about them? ;]

They wreck just about everything. Many of you will recall that I had the most beautiful kitty that ever lived…

My darling Peaches in our old living room with WHITE FURNITURE. This photo is about 15 years old!

I have always adored white furniture and I did this with two grimy little boys, too!

Peaches was good with everything but the wing chair fabric. He had that for snacks in between feedings. It was a synthetic woven fabric– quite durable except for the cats claws.

The linen velvet upholstered sofa and wicker chair that he slept in– all-the-time held up very nicely too.

 

Velvet IS a great fabric for cats.

 

Laurel Bern living room in Bronxville NY

But, after I moved he was making a mess of my hand-painted Windsor Smith Malu Ikat which was backed with a performance waterproof backing. This is interesting, because he did very little to the white cotton chair in my old living room or the white linen slipcover. I didn’t want him to die, but if he had lived a few more months, those chair arms would’ve been history.

And he made a bit of a mess of the chenille sofa arms. That fabric is 100% poly but it’s a chenille, so not as smooth as velvet.

I trimmed the loose threads and then put the arm covers on until Peaches passed in early December 2014.

 My beautiful Peaches October 2014

 

So while Polyester is a terrific fiber for upholstery fabrics, some are better than others– with pets.

 

Indoor/Outdoor Fabrics and Other Performance Fabrics

 

These are usually known by their brand-names Sunbrella™ for the former and Crypton™ or Crypton Home™ for the latter.

Lauren Liess wrote an excellent post about her experience with an indoor/outdoor fabric. It’s commonly known as sunbrella™ which is a brand-name for a solution-dyed acrylic.

One small correction. This fabric is inherently able to be washed. There is no coating that can rub off.

Does outdoor fabric stain?

uh huh. It can.

But, it is stain resistant and pretty much everything can come out because you can even use diluted bleach and other strong cleaners on it. Here’s a cleaning guide.

 

So, if they are both performance fabrics, what is the difference between Sunbrella and Crypton Home and which one is the best?

 

Gosh, you guys ask the best questions!

It’s a different technology in terms of the fiber of the cloth. (or fibre if you prefer) ;]

The main difference is that Crypton Home (the residential version of Crypton) is strictly an indoor fabric where Sunbrella and its clones can go inside or outside.

Aside from that, Crypton Home is uhhhh…. rather cryptic about what is actually the make up of their fiber. Family secret recipe, I guess.

In addition, there are actually, three products related to Crypton.

Sunbrella™ is solution dyed Acrylic.

I have used both fabrics with terrific results.

The indoor/outdoor fabrics have come a long way since they first came on the market in the early 1960s.

One of my favorite indoor/outdoor brands is Perennials. It’s more expensive than some, but the fabrics are beautiful and do not in any way look like outdoor fabric.

Serena and Lily carries a whole bunch of ’em— both solids and stripes and there are several more than shown above. They are awfully good-looking.

And all of S&L’s upholstered furniture is available in their performance fabrics.

Serena and Lily sofa with indoor outdoor Perennials Fabric Stripe - Best Upholstery Fabrics

Serena and Lily Barton sofa in a Perennials stripe.

The striped rug is also indoor/outdoor!

serena and lily dining chairs with perennials stripe outdoor fabric - best upholstery fabricsOutdoor fabrics like Perennials are fabulous for dining chairs like these from Serena and Lily.

On the left – Serena and Lily Riviera Side Chair in Natural (seat cushion sold separately)

On the right – Serena and Lily Ames Dining Chair

 

But, these performance fabrics also make it safe(r) to have white furniture.

 

Here are some of my favorites

 

Spruce Street Chair from Serena and Lily is slipcovered in a Perennials outdoor performance fabric.

It also comes in two sizes of sofa. A true classic.

Massoud sofa has a slipcover look.

Whatever Aerin Lauder is selling, I’m buying.

Bedford Sofa and Boyd Slipper Chair are from Williams Sonoma Home.

Another view of Emily’s classic English roll arm Bedford sofa from Williams Sonoma Home.

BTW, like almost every retailer on the planet, Serena and Lily and Williams Sonoma are having some attractive Memorial Weekend Sales. Those are two of my favorite brands.

michael smith sun room - indoor outdoor - best upholstery fabricsMichael Smith sun room with indoor out-door fabric.

A good online source to see a lot of indoor/outdoor fabrics is Decorator’s Best. They have thousands of them, all different price points and about 20 different brands, so a huge selection– solids and patterns.

As a designer, I use this online source to shop. Designers can get a better deal by going directly to the vendor. But these are excellent retail prices. Their retail price that they cross out is hugely inflated, however. I don’t like that practice, but otherwise, I think that this is a reputable, reliable internet source. I have not heard anything to the contrary and they have been around for a while now.

 

Decorator’s Best also has about 1,200 different fabrics with Crypton technology.

 

Are there any other good upholstery fabrics? Or maybe I should say anything else to avoid?

 

Yes, but it depends on usage.

For instance, for slip covers, a sturdy cotton duck or denim is a great choice, especially if they are white.

And cotton for upholstery is a great fabric, but I wouldn’t put it in a family room on the sectional.

Linen is a terrific material and actually fairly easy to clean. (but no scrubbing or machine washing). I had a linen slip-cover for some 17 years and it actually stayed quite clean for a very long time.

Most linen fabrics as well as chenilles and silks require a knit backing. Please look at this post about the horrors of what can happen. AKA – Laurel’s painful (and costly) mistakes.

I also had a linen velvet sofa for 17 years. I’m sure I’ve told the story of the baby sitter who let my 2-yr-old eat an ice cream sandwich on it just days after it was delivered. And yes, there was ice-cream and that chocolate whatever-it-is smooshed all over it.

 

After contemplating murder, I decided that a lifetime prison sentence was not setting a good example for my children.

 

It was not easy to get out and the velvet looked like ice cream sandwich rats had been nibbling on it. But after a few years, I forgot about it and it wasn’t as obvious where it had been cleaned. Self-healing, perhaps?

Wool is not my favorite. I find it itchy and it’s expensive.

And surprisingly, the one fabric that I thought would be incredibly durable — mohair, is anything but.

Silk. It needs to stay out of the sun and it needs a backing. Remember my kitchen post? The chairs in the kitchen are antique that I picked up in Newport a long time ago. I had my upholster make new seats with the little box pleat skirt. The fabric is a silk damask and it has held up surprisingly well. But I probably wouldn’t have chosen this for a client.

 

What About Leather For Upholstery?

 

Well, folks that sell leather say that it’s as fragile as silk. And yes, some of it is!

But again, it depends about your budget and the look you are going for.

Here is a terrific primer about leather and what all of the terms mean.

But know that if you see a cheap piece of leather furniture, that this is not the highest quality leather. That doesn’t mean that it won’t look good or hold up, but please be careful.

 

I found this way cool contemporary leather sofa at West Elm. Their furniture has gone higher end in recent years. It’s still relatively inexpensive, but looks great. This piece is only 34.4 inches deep which makes it terrific for smaller rooms.

As for leather being pet friendly. Well… it depends on your pet. Some pets will leave it alone and some will shred it and eat it for dinner.

 

Dogs chew and cats scratch. No, actually, they claw at it like there’s no tomorrow.

 

OCD – Obsessive Cat Destruction.

 

And if you’re looking for contemporary, (I’ve had some requests), here’s another wonderful piece, the Andes 3-piece sectional from West Elm in a delightful plush polyester velvet! It also comes stocked in a soft dove-gray outdoor fabric.This is so smart in just about every way possible!

One thing you might consider if you have a cat and I just thought of this… is to get a yard of whatever fabric you are considering and upholster a scratching post with it.

And wait and see… It might be worth a try unless you know that it’s very unlikely your cat will wreck it.

I know that some of my clients have actually put up invisible zapping fences indoors to keep pets out of certain rooms or areas of the house. I dunno..Does Anybody have any experience with that?

To recap. Most fabrics will be okay for upholstery with good care and the proper upholstery job. Polyester and performance fabrics are almost bullet proof. These are the best choices if you have a family like mine.

(not that I headed my own advice!)

But linens and cottons make fine fabrics as well.

 

Here’s a recap when choosing the best upholstery fabrics

 

Test your fabrics before choosing, so get samples first. Dump stuff on them. Run your finger across and see if it holds up. Wash them and see what happens. Ask your designer or retailer for advice.

If you do all of those things, you should be just fine.

If all else fails, here’s a superb cleaning guide to get anything out.

and a post about when I discovered Crypton Home at the Highpoint Market.

 

folex instant carpet and fabric spot remover

Also, Kat left a comment about a miracle spot remover called FOLEX. I have not heard of it, but it got superb reviews on Amazon. And I did some other research as well. The Carpet remover is a misnomer as it’s for all sorts of tough cleaning jobs– fabrics, laundry, etc. But always test in an inconspicuous spot. Although it’s a huge mess, what do you have to lose?

 

Happy Memorial Day Holiday Weekend!

I went on a beautiful historical walk today.

Here’s a pic I took of the back of a beaux- arts home in Irvington, NY. Those windows! There is a home with a garden, not to be believed! I’ll post that soon on instagram.

xo,

 

PS: If you’re looking for Father’s Day Gift Ideas please check out the curated collection I put together. Since there are so many sales on this weekend, this is an excellent time to get gifts, if you enjoy shopping online.

 

  • Kaththee - June 21, 2017 - 9:45 PM

    Mohair isn’t durable? That is not what my upholsterer, and seamstress/decorator told me. I was advised that it is indestructible. My upholster has said she has stripped antiques and the only thing still holding it together was the mohair velvet fabric. I went in search of the perfect blue velvet for my dreamy Celerie Kembel Maddock canopy bed and settled on a French blue mohair velvet from Schumacher for 300 a yard with a two yard minimum.. Now it is down to 200 a yard which kind of kills me. Still, in my search I found a very good price on a light brown mohair and scooped it up to recover the sofas in our daylight basement. I toyed with the idea of having it dyed and I boiled a sample to see if it would hold up to the dyeing process (as advised by the dye company prior to accepting the fabric) and it went through the boiling water and the dryer without a single problem, except that it no longer had a nap which I actually liked better. Even you are right and the conventional wisdom is wrong about mohair velvet being durable, no one can deny it is beautiful -prettier than any poly. The second my seamstress touched it she sighed deeply and said, “Mohair.” No one ever caressed a poly velvet sighed and said, “Polyester?” Is moth/insect damage your issue with mohair durability? Bugs do prefer organic material.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 21, 2017 - 10:17 PM

      Hi Kathy,

      Well, I’ve only used it once. I was also told that it was exceedingly durable. But it did not hold up and it was also very expensive. In fact, this was 20 years ago and the fabric was close to 200 bucks a yard.

      Of course, since I had one bad experience, I wasn’t going to chance it again.

      Some of the poly velvets these days are amazing and have a beautiful hand; you would never know that they’re a synthetic. ReplyCancel

  • Diane Stewart - June 11, 2017 - 8:08 PM

    I found two matching club chairs at a consignment store for a great price. Like new, they had been part of a set in a law office conference room. The fabric has little “fuzzy” dots all over. Very classy, neutral green/bronze/olive color. Made by Norwalk. However, the guy I bought them from told me the fabric is nylon which kind of freaked me out! He seemed to think it was a good thing. How does that fit into your assessment here?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2017 - 8:11 PM

      Hi Diane,

      Well, nylon can pill, I believe. But it is almost definitely a blend of synthetic fibers. I’ve never seen upholstery fabric that’s 100% nylon.ReplyCancel

  • Libby - May 30, 2017 - 7:05 PM

    Laurel, your post and the comments are so helpful! You have gone above and beyond testing fabrics and sharing your expertise. I remember the High Point post and I’m so glad you are following it up. The velvet info is so welcomed. Thank you so much! You are a jewel!

    It seems like we would never know whether a fabric was backed or not unless our interior designer specified it or arranged it as you pointed out in the Rolodex (I think). Or it was a custom piece and a customer or the store could check with the furniture maker. Linen blends and cottons always seem to list “light furniture use” and NO to the “backed?” question on the details when I check out fabrics.(I sure hope the $150-350 and up, up! linen and cotton fabrics are backed to provide longevity. Out of my league! )You have described the ‘aftermarket’ process before upholstering in previous posts. Plus, you did suggest checking out the rubbing test, if available.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 8:27 PM

      Hi Libby,

      Yes, “light furniture use” is code for don’t sit on it. lol I’ve backed some fabrics that say do not use for upholstery. Backing makes it possible.ReplyCancel

  • Chris - May 30, 2017 - 12:28 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Very informative post. I love the fabric on my Pearson sectional purchased in 2002 and labeled dry clean only. I know reupholstering is in my future. I just want to say Folex is the BEST. I’ve used it for years. They don’t advertise, the label is very unassuming however it is sold everywhere Usually on the bottom shelf in drug stores and grocery stores.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 30, 2017 - 12:32 AM

      Glad to hear that you like Folex. I’ve never seen it around here or even heard of it before Sunday. I’ll have to look for it, now.ReplyCancel

  • KAren - May 30, 2017 - 12:16 AM

    Hi Laurel! I LOVE the Robert Allen Crypton velvet I had my traditional sectional done in. I can’t believe the durability not to mention the food and pet friendliness of this fabric! Worth every penny and oh, the beautiful green in “pale avocado” has people agape at my color confidence. I had never heard of crypton before your High Point post, nor had I heard of BM Pale Avocado. Thank you for the guidance and wonderful products you make that are my “guiding light”ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 30, 2017 - 12:18 AM

      Hi Karen,

      You’re so sweet, not to mention talented. I can’t wait to see the dining room all finished! I believe that it is almost. xoReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - May 29, 2017 - 11:44 PM

    So we had a camel colored velvet sofa for about nine years and through two kids and lots of house guests. I’m a huge fan – I’m sure it was poly velvet but it cleaned up beautifully and even spots that had worn looked nice and part of the character. I would totally recommend as a fabric for kids.ReplyCancel

  • anne davis - May 29, 2017 - 4:11 PM

    As a cat parent for over 30 yrs. I can say that making a scratch post out of the fabric of a sofa and/or chair is NOT a good idea. They cannot tell the difference between sofa and post. Just like giving a shoe shaped chew toy to a dog. A shoe is a shoe is a shoe. Chew the toy, chew the Manola Blahnics.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2017 - 4:51 PM

      Hi Anne,

      I had a cat too for 13 years. :] I think that you misunderstood my thinking. I was suggesting that one would try the fabric on a scratch post and if the cat liked it and made a mess of it, then it would not be suitable for upholstery. Sorry if that was not clear.ReplyCancel

      • anne davis - May 31, 2017 - 8:37 PM

        Yes, you’re right. I totally misunderstood. Your idea of giving the fabric over to the cat BEFORE choosing fabric is a great idea.ReplyCancel

  • Judy - May 29, 2017 - 2:00 PM

    I just ordered 10 yards of Lee’s Glyn Linen in Antique White to have a chair recovered. My upholsterer didn’t mention knit backing; he gave me an estimate after seeing a fabric sample. What kind of cost can I expect for the backing? And should I be worried that the upholsterer didn’t bring it up?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2017 - 2:07 PM

      Hi Judy,

      I think I have a sample of that somewhere. Linen wears super well, but it can be unstable. If Lee isn’t backing it and using it as is, for their upholstery, it should be fine. With some weaves, when cut on the bias, they can unravel. There’s a solution for that. The upholsterer puts a little blue on the edge of the seam. So, perhaps ask him/her if that is advisable. ReplyCancel

  • W - May 29, 2017 - 11:17 AM

    Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, children – I have loads of all plus upholstered furniture and a nice house. It’s a well-worn home and can be nothing else. It’s not that I haven’t tried.
    The cat shredded my Antique velvet chair. The lab steals pens and chews until they explode if the wood floor and rug. The little dogs wipe their faces on the white PERENIALS covered couches.
    I do not have the perfect answer, Laurel. There is none. FOLEX is incredible. I use it on the PERENIALS covered sofas. The stains DO come out, but the fabric pills and looks shabby. I also used it on the ink covered rug. It got about 90% and we live with the rest.
    I will recover my sofas after just 5 years in PERENIALS. Their promises fall short. Think twice.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2017 - 1:17 PM

      Hi W,

      You had me 100% until you said that the fabric pills and their promises fall short. If I’m reading this correctly, you are going to use the same brand to recover your sofas that disappointed you?

      Upholstery fabric should not pill! And if it is, I would contact the vendor.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - May 29, 2017 - 9:47 AM

    Hi Laurel:

    Me. Again. Just wanted to say how lovely your living room was all those years ago. That look could have been done today!

    Have a great day!

    LisaReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2017 - 1:13 PM

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks so much. And yes, that’s always been my aim. The furniture manufacturers wouldn’t agree, but they are in the business of selling the hottest “new thing.”ReplyCancel

  • Cathlin - May 28, 2017 - 5:19 PM

    In your experience does the poly velvet have a lot of lint and pilling? I’d love to have some velvet upholstered pieces. The white crypton couch we got last December has handled real life spills (and smears and smudges and crayon and blood -!!!!) like a champ, but I need to find a solution for the pilling/lint. I might try a clothes brush first…ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 5:49 PM

      Hi Cathlin,

      I’m surprised the Crypton you got pilled and am wondering if it is a Crypton Home fabric or if it was treated with Crypton technology.

      The fabric should NOT be pilling!

      Every poly velvet is different. Mine is a chenille and it doesn’t show a thing, nor does it pill. In fact, that’s never come up before. Believe me, clients would come back and complain if that were happening and it never has.ReplyCancel

  • nancy - May 28, 2017 - 2:58 PM

    Hi Laurel- Wonderful post. But mohair, really not durable? I am currently deciding between two gorgeous mohair velvets, one by Maharam, the other by Glant, for my family room sofa. Has your experience with mohair’s durability included a velvet? Thanks for a reply if you have a chance.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 3:07 PM

      Hi Nancy,

      Too funny, but the client was also a Nancy and one of my favorites.

      We did a beautiful mohair (yes, velvet) from Donghia 20 years ago on her husband’s chair– also from Donghia. So, a very expensive piece. I thought it would be cool to trim it in a contrasting leather. It looked beautiful when it was delivered.

      In less than a year the arms were completely worn through. I felt horrible, but all it takes is one bad experience for me.

      One strike and you’re out! Sorry mohair.

      As for your situation. It’s a different manufacturer, 20 years later. I don’t know. I was told that the mohair would “wear like iron.” It did not. It wore like tissue paper.ReplyCancel

  • Kat - May 28, 2017 - 1:25 PM

    Laurel,
    Love your blog and am not usually a commenter, but wanted to share…
    There’s a product called Folex that gets anything out and doesn’t have to be rinsed…I think it’s some type of enzyme…you can get it at lowes or Home Depot.
    Obviously, test first in an unseen location, but this stuff works great on upholstery or carpet. They’re not paying me…haha! But wanted to pass this on…this stuff is great!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 2:25 PM

      Hi Kat,

      Wow! Well, like I always say… Always love to learn about terrific products. I looked it up and it has gotten superb reviews.

      Here’s a link to the FOLEX if anyone wants to try it out. It says carpet cleaner, but that is a misnomer. It is definitely for fabrics and laundry too. But always, always, always test before using any cleaning product! I’m going to put a link in the post too. Thanks again Kat!ReplyCancel

  • Mel - May 28, 2017 - 11:27 AM

    Oh dear, I have just ordered a 100% cotton velvet sectional in light grey. We are past the baby stage but still … Perhaps I should return it. Your blog is so informative. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 12:25 PM

      Hi Mel,

      Well, I can’t say. I would talk to the store/vendor first and maybe they can put it on hold until you do a fabric test.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - May 28, 2017 - 11:19 AM

    Oh!!!!!! That’s an excellent post, so very very useful..it appears that I had a total mambo-jumbo in my head, regarding upholstery..now I have some sort of more clear understanding. Won’t be afraid of poly velvet anymore.
    (I need to reupholster a lot..chairs, armchairs..I’m not in the mood for it right now, but that day will come)
    but I still don’t like West Elm ..they’re overpriced for what they are. They do look like higher end..but are they made like higher end? I’m really not sure about that.
    Bought a daybed from them..huge sale-I waited for months:) I bought it for the third of the price.
    So..it’s not that it’s bad. For the third of the price. But if I’d to pay what they wanted for it initially, I’d be upset.
    Well, I think though it’s a common tendency nowadays..prices just go up and up. Quality rarely follows.
    Amazing post. And I read the other one, the one you linked too-you have wonderful, gorgeous boys, Laurel (knocking on the wood, spitting three times over my left shoulder, and the whole superstitious shebang I usually perform..:)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 12:24 PM

      Hi Jenny,

      Relative to other vendors, West Elm is still cheap. The quality in the stores looks okay to me and I ordered some a while back for a college aged young man’s room.

      But yes, it’s wise to get stuff on sale as much as possible.

      There is a thing in the furniture biz.

      Good, Fast, Cheap. You can only have two of them.

      Good + Fast = Expensive

      Good + Cheap = Slow

      Fast + Cheap = Inferior

      ReplyCancel

  • Linda Campbell - May 28, 2017 - 10:11 AM

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have two sofas and chairs that need upholstery. I also have a cat and dog. Years ago both sofas were upholstered in white, but were behind french doors so I didn’t worry too much. Now they are used constantly so I was thinking slipcovers. (my border collie loves to sleep at on one end of one sofa). I still want white! Of course my kids and husband call me crazy, but you only live once right!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - May 28, 2017 - 10:06 AM

    Two things. My kitties wear PetSafe collars that keep them from going out the dog door. You’d need to position the main unit in the room they are banned from, but the collars work well. The boys don’t mind them. Also, what fabric is on the pillows in the yellow Windsor Smith chairs? Beautiful. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 12:13 PM

      Hi Lisa,

      That’s good to know and it is a good idea to keep them safe.

      I love those pillows too. Alas, that fabric no longer exists as far as I know. I got it nearly 21 years ago at Clarence House after seeing it on Ina Garten’s sofa in the Hamptons. I only got a few yards, but even at my designer’s discount it was bloody expensive, but worth every penny!ReplyCancel

  • Christine March - May 28, 2017 - 9:46 AM

    Hi Laurel: Thanks for this post. Very timely. We are in the midst of a major life overhaul: sold the family home in the city and are moving north to a quaint little village called Creemore. Here’s the good news/bad news part: the new home comes furnished. A mixed blessing. But let’s just say there will be a LOT of re-upholstering of sofa and chairs in the coming months. (We’re going to take our time before we settle on a colour palette and overall look so the house will look crazy pants for the first few months, but hoping in time it will be gorgeous.) I will revisit this post when we reach the Looking at Fabric stage. 🙂 BTW, I ALWAYS enjoy your posts. Even if it’s a topic I’m not interested in. You are informative, smart and funny as hell. My blogging hero.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 12:11 PM

      Hi Christine,

      Thanks so much for the compliments!

      Slip covers are also a great way to save some money, if you’re keeping pieces you don’t want to shell out as much to reupholster. Slip covers are usually about half the price, for the labor, anyway.ReplyCancel

  • Dianne - May 28, 2017 - 9:42 AM

    Best post ever! Had to comment and usually never do.ReplyCancel

  • Dean Malambri - May 28, 2017 - 9:32 AM

    Wow that’s comprehensive! Meredith Heron’s collection of Crypton fabrics by JF are great if you need some pattern in your life + stain resistance. That category is hard to find!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - May 28, 2017 - 8:54 AM

    Great post! I did several sofas this past spring for clients in Villa Nova’s Cambay fabric- it’s incredible. Feels/looks like linen and super durable- their easy clean velvet is just as gorgeous and upholsters beautifully. Romo started charging a really reasonable uncharge for adding Crypton to their fabrics, too. I always tell clients to vacuum and flip their cushions monthly, no matter the fabric… it’s still fabric at the end of the day, keep those expectations in line. 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 9:02 AM

      Hi Elizabeth,

      So true. “Performance” doesn’t mean care-free. I’m not familiar with Villa Nova but just looked it up and see that it’s a UK company. I wonder if it’s available over here.ReplyCancel

      • Elizabeth - May 30, 2017 - 4:53 PM

        Villa Nova is part of the Romo Group of fabrics… I purchase through my local trade showroom. I rarely do a project without using something from Romo or one of their sister brands… and they have lots of fabrics that can be washed. Okay, I’ll stop gushing! 😉ReplyCancel

  • Celeste - May 28, 2017 - 7:27 AM

    Timely! We have a senior cat and are deciding between reupholstering our flex steel sofa and loveseat in crypton ($2900 if we do both at once), getting a new set during the Memorial Day or July 4 sales, or I actually found some nice Henredon/Hickory White sofas on Craigslist. For dirt cheap. I have three children. 3,5,and 7 and I don’t think we are quite past the super sloppy stage. (2/3 of mine had reflux and can cornfirm Laurels horror story, we were pickled in vomit nine months x 2. It was insane. You cannot fathom the mess unless you’ve experienced it.

    We were looking last night and are torn.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 7:46 AM

      Hi Celeste,

      Pickled is a great word!

      As for reupholstery. That’s not a bad price for two pieces fabric and labor. Here, it would be much more.

      It depends how much you like both the furniture you have and the Crypton fabric.

      If you love the furniture and the new fabric, then do that, otherwise, if the furniture is a train wreck and you just need something that looks nice until they’re older and less apt to destroy, then get the dirt cheap furniture.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Brede - May 28, 2017 - 2:10 AM

    Thanks for the gift guide for Father’s Day – and for taking the time to share your great ideas.ReplyCancel

  • Lori Payton - May 28, 2017 - 12:42 AM

    I am wondering about Viscose in fabrics. My designer said no more than 30% viscose because it pills or something. Do you agree with this assessment, Could you perhaps mention this in your next Blog. Good info about fabrics. Thanks
    LoriReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2017 - 1:10 AM

      Hi Lori,

      There are a lot of fabrics that are blends. In fact blends are often the very best because it’s like taming the bad qualities. Like a little poly in linen will keep it more stable.

      Sometimes I’ve seen blends of cotton, linen, viscose and nylon.

      I can’t say that I’ve ever paid much attention to the percentages. But if I know that a piece is going to get a lot of abuse, I would look to see if there are any double-rub tests.

      That’s done with a machine that does just what it says. So, if you see a fabric and it says that it passed 40,000 double rubs, that’s going to be quite durable.ReplyCancel