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Upholstery Magic

Decisions, decisions, decisions — when it comes to upholstery, the endless amount of choices can make choosing the right fabric quite daunting. Pattern or solid? Bold colour or neutral? Fabric or leather? There are infinite possibilities to express yourself while setting the tone of a room with upholstery.The right upholstery is an investment, so unless you have an endless upholstery fund, you better plan on finding something you’ll love for the long run.

But not to fear, I'm here to help tackle this process. I recently covered my own sofa and happy to share with you the goes.

I bought this amazing 1940's era club sofa....a classic and timeless shape that I really love. The shape is timeless and lends itself well to my eclectic tastes. This furniture is very robust and has a frame that will well and truly survive beyond my lifetime. You can feel the quality in the weight of the lounge. It will undoubtedly outlive me!

Choosing upholstery can be both fun and challenging. The first thing I take into consideration is where the piece is going — if the item is going into a high-use room, then I try to opt for a fabric that is durable and will wear well, and often in a darker colour palette. If the item is larger, then I like to choose a more neutral fabric so that it doesn’t dictate the rest of the room. Smaller pieces are where I like to add both pattern and texture. Using bold fabric on accent chairs can really transform a room, but are easier to change as trends change.


Functionality is key. Assessing the level of abuse the upholstered piece will endure over its lifetime is critical in determining the right type of fabric for a commercial or residential project. Most upholstery fabrics come with ratings to help narrow down this decision. The fabric that I chose for my own lounge has a heavy commercial rating so will provide great longevity and superior robustness. This lounge is used on a daily basis in our living room so this was an important factor. The range of commercial grade fabrics are much improved these days, giving us greater options. Once we answer the functionality question, then it is onto the fun stuff - colours, textures, patterns - all of which are dependent on our design concept and other elements in the room.

Vintage furniture has enjoyed a resurgence in the past 5-10 years so considering re-upholstery has come to the fore once more. When I'm looking for fabric for a vintage piece like this one, the first thing I consider is the colour. For more sculptural, quirky pieces there are two ways it can be approached.

To use neutral colours (grey, black, white) to make them look a bit more subtle and elegant or to make a real statement with bright colour or bold pattern. If I have a simpler piece of furniture and I want a pop of colour, I'll opt for something with a bit more vibrancy. So you have to have the colour palette of the room figured out before you choose fabric to maintain balance for the room and have a clear direction for the whole space. The next consideration I make is texture. I try to mix up the upholstery styles in the room. So if there's a lot of velvet in a space, I'll opt for linen, canvas, or leather to achieve a contrast. Finally, I take material and durability into account. If the piece is going in a highly trafficked area, I'll opt for something that has a lot of polyester in it (which is more durable and repels stains). For items that are rarely used/sat upon, I'm less concerned with durability and make the choice mostly on colour and texture.

I did quite a bit of sampling considering many surrounding factors in the room before making a final decision for my 3 piece lounge. Here's a link to Warwick Fabrics. You can order samples on line or if you're working with your interior designer, free samples can be provided before final choices are made.


The contrasting piping accentuates the curves and provides a salute to the era of this lounge while still providing a modern result, it provides good contrast and a modern result while maintaining the vintage appeal. I am very pleased with the outcome and happy to hear that my upholsterer was raving about the fabric selection! This sofa will last me another 10-15 years in this robust and timeless fabric.

When you’re choosing upholstery for a large piece of furniture, such as a lounge suite, it can be an investment so I always recommend sticking with a solid fabric in a colour you’ll never tire of. Prints tend to be trend-driven and although that bold print you love might look awesome now, there’s a good chance it will feel dated in a few years, whereas solids are always timeless. Plus, you can always accent your sofa with a mix of cushions in colour, prints or patterns as I have done to give it some personality.


Cushions, throws, rugs, artwork and other decor add life to a room and provide lots of comfort and visual softness.When choosing upholstery, you need to take all of these into consideration to avoid having to change the whole decor. In a perfect world, your favourite existing accent pieces will work with the selection immediately once the piece is delivered into your space. INSTANT GRATIFICATION!

Be practical....Other considerations are the "livable" factor. Do you have kids or pets? Choose an upholstery that is fitting to the space. A formal room that doesn't get a lot of traffic may be able to handle a light coloured fabric, while a well loved family room might need something that is more durable and functional, like leather. You might love the look of a light-weight white linen upholstery, but if you’ve got little kids, a dog, or a spill-prone spouse, you may want to consider a more heavy-weight fabric that can withstand the constant wear and tear.A well-thought-out upholstery choice can lead to a piece of furniture that you will love for years to come!

After considering the function, pay close attention to tone and texture. I find that to achieve an airy feel, it is best to stick with light textures like linen or cotton. For a more collected look, mix various textures together in one space - look for velvet, wool, and leather to pair with your light pieces. Upholstery is an investment, so I tend to prefer solids on the big pieces and will incorporate prints on accents like ottomans or chairs. Successful pattern mixing is another interesting subject which has a detailed story of its own (there is another whole article) I'll save that for another day.

You need to understand that reupholstering a large piece of furniture is an expensive exercise, so you must be sure that you firstly have a quality piece of furniture to warrant the time and cost. It is definitely not a cheaper way to go when compared to buying a new piece. You will not save money by reupholstering but you will get great satisfaction form it. The result will also be a bespoke item that nobody else has which complements your own decor and with the right fabric selection will provide great wow factor.

If you get stuck on your own fabric selection, you always have your favourite designer to help ; )

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