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When it comes to buying chairs and sofas one has to either become a furniture expert or trust the manufacturer and shop who are providing the item. This is particularly true when you are considering the hidden internal parts of the furniture. (That’s why we are here to help you!) In contrast it is much easier and more fun to pick your own fabric.

Although choosing upholstery fabric can be straightforward, you must think about a few important points to avoid costly mistakes.

Here are a few points to consider..

Brand & reputation

There are dozens of manufacturers of upholstery fabric. Some are household names but many will be mostly unknown except to those working in the trade. However much you might desire a leading famous brand don’t close your eyes to other options especially if durability and value for money are important.

Style and appearance

Remember that any fabric should complement the style of your chair and add to its character. You will also want to be aware of the room size as you don’t want to choose an overwhelming pattern for a small space. Make sure the fabric fits the mood of the room too, and coordinates with other soft furnishing. Some fabrics appear casual, while others might look more formal. Remember to consider, colour, sheen, and pattern as well as texture to the hand. Always work with manufacturers’ fabric samples, not photographs, brochures or computer screen images.

Technical performance

Sometimes this gets overlooked in the home environment but it is central to choices for contract work such as hotel and restaurant seating.

Fundamentally you should consider:

  • Durability – wear resistance (ask about the Martindale rub test) and colour fastness. If your pets will also be sharing your sofa with you, consider a contract grade fabric as they can withstand heavy use.
  • Protection – fabric can be treated so it resists stains and spills but nowadays some are now pre-treated (e.g. Linwood omega velvet)
  • Maintenance – how easy is it to remove dirt, pet hairs etc
  • Fire safety – most fabrics need to have some protection to meet UK fire safety rules but some come pre-protected. We can give you all necessary advice and make arrangements for treatment if required.  Wool is a good choice as it meets domestic fire regulations without chemical treatment.

Fire Regulations

In the UK fire safety of upholstered furnishings has been subject to legislation that originated in the aftermath of cigarette-related fires. Discuss the options with your upholsterer or furniture maker – if fabric treatment is required we can make the necessary arrangements for you.

Some fabrics can use what is known as an interliner rather than treatment to meet fire specifications. Nowadays some modern fabrics are treated at the fibre level before they are woven which makes the fabric inherently fire protected.

If we are doing re-upholstery for you or providing replacement loose covers we will take care of all the details for you.


Though physical durability is a factor in longevity, other issues also come to the fore. If you want a “timeless” piece of furniture, avoid uber-trendy colours or patterns, unless you happen to really like them. Style trends in fabrics come and go so be careful. Will you be able to live with a colour even when its popularity wanes, or would you be willing to re-cover your chair or sofa – when you invest in quality construction this is a sensible option. Please don’t throw away a perfectly serviceable frame on account of worn out or out of style fabric.

We have several thousand fabrics on display in our Design Studio that are suitable for upholstery. To pick your choice why not make an appointment to see us and speak to our experienced team.  We’d be more than happy to help.