Well dressed!

Fashion for sofas, armchairs & co.

Staging rooms! If this is your motto, you will be working a lot with fabrics. And of course with many other interior design elements. However, hardly anything is as essential for the ambience of a room as the choice of fabrics. Whether at the window, as furniture or as home accessories. Taking a closer look today at upholstery fabrics.

Upholstery fabrics or furniture fabrics - synonyms for one and the same type of fabric: fabrics that cover furniture completely or partially. The upholstery is therefore an integral part of the furniture.

The structure of an upholstery

Upholstery itself consists of a simple foam base, available in any desired size and thickness. Depending on the use, this foam is glued to a wooden board cut to shape and only then covered with fabric. No limits are set to the imagination.

The case is different with armchairs or sofas which are covered completely with fabric. Here, a support frame, usually made of wood, is fitted with the shaped foam upholstery. Then the chosen fabric is cut to size and the parts are sewn together according to the design specifications. There is a wide range and variety when it comes to seams alone.


Dress for success

The almost finished "dress" is then fixed onto the armchair, the stool, the upholstered panel, etc. and adjusted so that it fits perfectly and tightly. Now it will be obvious whether all the individual work steps have been carried out precisely and with perfect craftsmanship.


Haute couture for furniture

Patterned upholstery fabrics constitute a particular challenge. Specialists in upholstery possess the expertise to visualise even large patterned upholstery fabrics on furniture in their mind's eye.

They then draft the pattern in such a way that it makes sense on the finished furniture. Either the check matches seamlessly or the patterns merge into one another in a meaningful way. Very rarely, there is nothing else to do but to make a visual leap. This is when experience and craftsmanship become particularly important.


Material World

Apart from the weaving technique, the material of which the yarn is made is decisive for the durability of the textiles.

Furniture with little contact with human skin, such as the seat of a chair, often use synthetic fibres or blends with a high proportion of synthetic fibres.


This ensures textiles that are easy to care for, which is particularly important for seating furniture and sofas. This is important in the private sector, where the furniture is used by families, as well as in the hospitality sector, where the wear and tear on furniture and fabrics can be very high.

If the skin has contact with the furniture fabrics, for example on the sofa when you are comfortably lounging, textiles with a natural feel and a high proportion of natural materials are generally preferred. These can be cotton, linen or wool mixed with synthetic fibres.

Cleaning fabrics

Synthetic fibres make furniture covers easy to care for and hard-wearing. Stains are more easily removed from fabrics with blended fibres. Often, the entire furniture cover is washable by the user, or it is at least suited for professional dry cleaning.

Furthermore, some furniture fabrics have a special anti-stain finish, which means that the entire fabric is impregnated. This prevents stains from penetrating the yarn and fibre and becoming impossible to remove. With fabrics treated this way, it is usually sufficient to dab off stains with a damp cloth. When the stains have dried, they can often easily be removed with a soft brush.


What comes around, goes around

Upholstery fabrics are functional fabrics. This means that they have to perform far more duties than decorative fabrics and are exposed to far greater stress. Accordingly, upholstery fabrics are classified according to standardised tests.

Key to this is the so-called Martindale abrasion test. In this test, a section of fabric is clamped in the device and rubbed against a standardised fabric. The number of abrasion cycles, i.e. the number of rotations until two threads of the test fabric break, indicates how durable the fabric is. The higher the value, the more abrasion-resistant and thus durable a fabric is. It therefore pays to take the number of abrasion cycles into account when choosing a fabric. The unit for abrasion is usually stated in Martindale.


A look in the mirror

Not the mirror on the wall, but on chairs, armchairs and sofas. On seating furniture, a so-called seating mirror can develop under certain circumstances.


A seating mirror develops when a fabric with a pile (such as a velvet or velour) is constantly exposed to pressure, moisture and heat over a long period of time.

This is the case with seating furniture. The pile, which is standing vertically, is squeezed into a horizontal position as a result and is often no longer able to rise on its own. The visual result is a different colour shade of the fabric, depending on the angle of the light.

A seat mirror is not a defect of a fabric. What is important is to consider whether you like it or not. In any case, it does not affect the quality of the fabric or its durability.

Change the seat regularly – this helps to prevent a seating mirror in the first place or to give the fibres enough time to straighten up again. We will be happy to share tips for treating seating mirrors another time.

Colour & light

Upholstery fabrics are also tested for colour and light fastness. Colour fastness indicates the circumstances under which a fabric loses its colour. This can happen from washing, sun exposure, perspiration and ordinary use.

Light fastness is particularly relevant when furniture is placed in sunny locations. Sunlight changes colours, which must be considered when choosing fabrics. Light fastness is indicated on a scale from 1 to 8, the higher, the better. From a level of light fastness of 4 upwards, fabrics perform at an acceptable level for upholstered furniture.


Upholstered furniture is currently in vogue. The Milan Furniture Fair has shown this one more time.

Large, soft and round shapes and fabrics which are nice to touch - add up to statement piece in a room and are inspiring elements for the interior design.

We have explained in this blog post how important it is not to be carried away by the beauty of a fabric alone, but also to examine its technical properties.

Images: home Interior; Dominik Rossner