Fabric Friday: How to Pick Out the Perfect Fabric

Design by Meg Braff


Upholstered furniture is one of the best ways to instantly elevate a room and give it a tailored, designer look.  Custom upholstery may seem unattainable because so many fabrics are “to the trade” only, but if you are willing to do some searching there are some great options that are available to everyone.  Some of my favorite sources for fabric that are not “to the trade” are Cotton and Quill, Lulie Wallce, Caitlin WilsonBallard Designs, Decorators Best, and Lynn Chalk.  However, regardless of the source, upholstering furniture is never cheap and you want to make sure that you will love whatever fabric you pick for years to come and that you stay away from major trends so that it doesn’t make a room look dated.


Design by Brooke Crew


Design by Meredith Ellis


A question I get a lot is how to select what fabric to use. When selecting your fabric I would say there are four main things to consider: Material, color, pattern, and scale. Lastly, ALWAYS try out a sample of the fabric on the furniture you are upholstering.


  1. Select what kind of material you want. This is where the location of the furniture and your lifestyle need to be taken into consideration. If the piece is going to be in a high traffic area, you want to stay away from silks and linens and instead opt for a durable, resilient fabric like Sunbrella or my personal favorite, Crypton. Crypton is not cheap but if you want a fabric that is virtually pet and kid proof, it is worth every cent.


Design by Amy Berry


2. The next step is deciding what color (or colors) you want to use. Do you want the fabric to transform your furniture into a bright accent piece that adds a pop of color in a room or do you want something more neutral? My best answer is go with your gut. I am much better layering with neutrals or with monochromatic palettes like varying shades of one or two colors. If color is your strength, go with it! I adore colorful rooms, but creating them without making them too busy simply isn’t my forte.


Design by Ashley Whittaker


3. Once you have selected the material and color you want, its time to narrow down your pattern. For larger furniture like sofas I usually recommend a solid color. If a solid sounds boring, you can still get it in a textured material that is a little more interesting to the eye. By selecting a solid color for larger pieces, you are less likely to get tired of it in a matter of months and it won’t overwhelm the space. I tend to save fun patterns and bright colors for smaller pieces like accent chairs, pillows, and ottomans. This is also an easier way to save money because you are using less fabric.


Designed by McCann Design Group


4. If you are using a patterned fabric, take scale into account. The traditional rule with scale is the larger the item, the larger the print. I tend to agree with this rule but there are exceptions to everything and its good to break the rules of design every now and then!


Design by Mark D. Sikes


5. Lastly, always order a sample cutting of the fabric. One reason is because if you have selected a fabric with a pattern it gives you a better idea of how it will look and help you decide which direction you want the pattern to go. The main reason to order a cutting though, is to check what is called the dye lot. Factories  make a large batch of bolts of fabric every few months and as a result each dye lot will never be exactly the same, so you want to make sure the fabric you are ordering is cut from the same dye lot as your swatch. In other words, if you order a cutting now and then buy the fabric 6 months from now, order another cutting right before placing your order to make sure the color currently being printed still works with your space. You could also call and ask if it is from the same dye lot.


Design by Summer Thorton


Below are a few of my favorite fabrics lately. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that they are almost all blue, green, or neutral. Also, a quick word on fabric cost. Fabrics are where I really believe it is worth the splurge. Even if you can’t afford to do an entire chair, even a pillow or small ottoman with custom upholstery will make a huge impact in your room and is a great long term investment. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Have a great weekend!





1. Blue Spot // 2. Crypton Twig // 3. Green Diamond // 4. Green Vines // 5. Blue Flowers 6. Grey Flowers // 7. Coral Print // 8. Fretwork // 9. Abstract Black Dots // 10. Aqua Ikat // 11. Tan & Blue Print // 12. Elephant Print






  1. Lauren
    August 10, 2018 / 11:18 am

    Great article! I’ve never heard of Crypton. I’ll have to check it out!

  2. August 11, 2018 / 10:10 am

    Fabrics are my life! No, literally. Because of that, I wanted to share an option for regular folks to obtain to-the-trade fabrics without working with an interior designer. Because I make and sell designer throw pillows, I have accounts with many of the high-end fabric houses. Basically, I can act like a broker for the public to obtain trade-only fabrics in the same way Decorator’s Best does. If you need a small amount, a pillow make like myself might have enough of the fabric on hand if it’s one I stock for my pillow shop, or if you need more, I can order on your behalf from the manufacturer and have it shipped straight to you. You can peruse the websites of Schumacher, Kravet, Quadrille, Thibaut, Clarence House, etc, without being a trade member, so don’t be afraid!

    Also, one live and learn tip regarding choosing whether to go with a pattern or not. If your sofa is a solid, why not choose a fun pattern for living room chairs? I chose a textured solid Crypton fabric for a pair of vintage swivel chairs I had reupholstered. They’re okayyyy … but would have been stunners in a fun print. I will definitely reupholster them at some point because they have the potential to be amazing.

    • August 11, 2018 / 10:51 am

      Thank you for sharing Hollie. I am excited to say that ordering fabrics for non trade readers is also a service I will be providing the near future and will have a blog post about it coming soon!

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