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Best Fabrics for Your Sofa

By The Inside

What fabric you choose for your sofa matters as much as the size, shape and cushion choice (we might actually say it matters more!).  Here we’ll detail our top choices for the best sofa fabrics to help you ensure your sofa meets all your comfort and practicality needs.

Shop the look: Modern Sofa in Azul Ticking Stripe

Sofa Fabric 1: Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber that is a sofa staple for sofas for several practical reasons. First, cotton is among the most cost-efficient options around – always a plus. Second, cotton takes patterns and colors well, making it highly versatile. From crisp white to deep indigo, leopard print to cabana stripe, cotton comes in a nearly endless array of colors and patterns. Lastly, cotton resists fading, which is key if your sofa will be in direct sunlight.

The downside of cotton is that it is susceptible to stains, so we recommend getting any cotton sofa professionally treated before you bring it home to keep it looking fresh. Or, opt for an intricate pattern whose stain resistance lies in the sheer fact that it’s an expert concealer.

Shop the look: Slipcover Sectional in Husk Linen

Sofa Fabric 2: Linen

Linen has a slightly looser weave than cotton, giving it that characteristic texture that can range from smoothly and lustrous to chunky and nubby. The tricky thing about linen is that – like linen clothing – it can wrinkle and stain fairly easily. That’s why performance linen is our go-to choice for sofas that need to stand up to high traffic. If you’ve got kids or pets (or any messy ice cream eaters in your household), performance linen is a great durable fabric option for you.  It is a more structured fabric than regular linen, so it holds its shape well while still feeling soft and comfortable.

Linen is also a common choice for slipcovers, as it holds up to everyday life without sacrificing style. Not only does it offer the extreme convenience of a quick toss in the washer, but it is customizable should you crave experimentation or a quick change-up with the seasons.

Shop the look: Midcentury Sofa in Moss Velvet

Sofa Fabric 3: Velvet

Velvet is sumptuous, silky and fabulous to the touch. It takes color exceptionally well, producing uniquely rich hues with lots of depth and richness. The downside of expensive silk velvets is that they stain easily and are, well, expensive. For velvet sofas in pretty much anyone’s home that will get regular use, we love tight weave performance velvet, which stands up to everyday wear and tear. Specifically look for velvets that are woven of cleanable, high performance polyester to resist fading, crushing, stains and heavy traffic. All the tactile benefits, none of the headaches.

Shop the look: Modern Sofa in Platinum Velvet

Sofa Fabric 4: Chenille

A cousin to velvet, chenille has closed loops rather than an open nap. While still extremely soft and cushy to the touch, chenille is chunkier than velvet, offering additionally durability. Just as with velvet, we recommend seeking out a performance chenille for stain resistance. However, cat owners beware: the tufted pile the comprises chenille can be easily snagged by the claws of scratchy cats (or dogs!).

Sofa Fabric 5: Microfiber

If you love the feel of suede, microfiber is an excellent alternative fabric choice that is both cost-effective and highly resistant to stains. The one caveat is that it can be a magnet for hair and fur, so it’s not an ideal piece of furniture for homes with pets in them unless you love lint-rolling your sofa several times a day.

Shop the look: Modern Sectional Sofa in Classic Saddle Leather

Sofa Fabric 6: Leather

A high-quality leather sofa takes the prize when it comes to luxe fabrics. There’s a reason why some of the most iconic pieces of furniture are done almost exclusively in leather. Leather is sophisticated, durable, and resistant to stains. It is highly versatile and can work in pretty much any style home, from ultra-modern to old school traditional. Plus, leather wears beautifully. Like a favorite leather jacket, it grows softer with each use and takes on a gorgeous patina over time. As an added bonus, leather resists allergens, which is ideal if you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies.

Having said that, leather is more costly than fabric. If you’re working with a limited budget, this is something to consider (faux leather may be worth a look). If you’re someone who likes to change out your décor every few years, it will cost a lot more to swap out leather upholstery than fabric. Leather also comes in a more limited range of colors.

Shop the look: Slipcover Sofa in Porcelain Coquina by Scalamandre

Other Upholstery Fabrics

Two options we don’t recommend for everyday sofas:

  1. While wool is highly durable and can be gorgeous (a flannel gray couch is always a winner in the looks department), it does have that characteristic scratchiness to it. Plus, like winter hats after a snowstorm, when it gets wet it can hold onto that wet wool smell for longer than you’ll probably like.
  2. A visual knockout? Absolutely. Practical? Not if you plan to sit on that sofa more than once a year and only while wearing pristinely clean clothes! Save silk for scarves and choose another fabric that’s less likely to snag from the choices above, so you won’t be afraid to sit on your sofa.

Still need more guidance?

Order a handful of different swatches for a true look-and-feel test, to see which sofa fabric ultimately wins out. We recommend anywhere from 3-5 swatches that you view in different light sources throughout the day, and test against your lifestyle. Go ahead and rub them on the back of your dog, or on your bare skin, to ensure that the material exceeds your sofa expectations.

By: Debra Goldstein, Staff Writer at The Inside

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