Long gone are the days when sofas were a purely practical piece of furniture: they now provide style and comfort,and play a key role in decorating our homes.
Buying a sofa is a big decision so it pays to carefully consider your choice of furnishing fabric. The right decision for your home comes down to price and personal taste plus a range of practical factors, particularly if your household includes accident prone little ones or pets with dirty paws.
Your choice of sofa fabric also needs to suit the room, as what works for an occasional-use study may not be suitable for a heavy-use living room or sun-flooded conservato-ry. A sofa is an investment and the right pick of furnishing fabric will ensure it gives value for money and long lasting quality.
Sofa upholstery generally falls into two camps: leather and fabric. Both have pros and cons, plus a wealth of different options, so it pays to familiarise yourself with each one to make an informed choice on your sofa fabric.
Leather upholstery has a unique, timeless look that ages beautifully with natural creases over time. It is durable, versatile and suits a range of interior styles. Black leather is perfect for a sleek contemporary look, while warm caramel brown lends itself to rustic style and classic button-backed oxblood suits a traditional scheme.
Leather sofas are fairly low maintenance, which makes them incredibly child and pet friendly. Easy to clean, they simply require a regular vacuum behind the cushions and wipe with a damp cloth to remove surface dirt and pet hair from the leather. Stains like ink can be trickier to remove and leather needs occasional care treatment to keep it supple. The downside of leather is that is can be cold in winter and hot in summer, and is one of the most expensive sofa options.
Fabric sofa upholstery presents a huge variety of choice in colour, pattern and texture, making it easy to find an option to suit any interior style. The durability of different fabrics varies considerably, so be realistic about the amount of wear and tear your sofa is likely to get and pick a fabric accordingly. If you choose patterned sofa fabric, con-sider that those with a pattern woven into the fabric will wear better than those where the pattern is printed.
Fabric sofas tend to come with removable covers to aid simple cleaning. This also gives the option to transform the look with a different set of covers, which can prolong the life of your sofa if your tastes change or you redecorate.
So lets look at the main sofa fabric options available on the market.
Sumptuous and tactile, velvet upholstery begs to be stroked and is perfect for creating a luxurious, elegant feel in your home. It is available in a range of beautiful shades and lends itself to a variety of interior styles.
The downsides of velvet upholstery are that it is expensive, not as hardwearing as other fabrics andis more difficult to clean, often requiring professional attention. It also marks easily, making a velvet sofa not ideal for high traffic areas or communal rooms with young children and pets around.
In this case, a better option to introduce velvet upholstery fabric into your home would be a chair in the office or loveseat in the bedroom, for example.
Suede is a type of leather created from the underside of animal hide. The fibers are buffed and raised to give it a soft plush touch, making it a great cheaper alternative to velvet. Like leather, suede is durable; however like velvet, it can be high maintenanceand tricky to clean. Water can stain suede yet it is possible to protect suede sofas with a treatment that will cause spills to form beads rather than soak into the fabric, and make marks easier to remove.
Suede sofas tend to come in natural shades of brown, stone and cream, so perfect for neutral interior schemes but less suitable for those wanting to inject colour through their sofa choice.
Faux suede is a manmade fabric that resembles natural suede leather. It is considerably cheaper than the real thing, although varies considerably in quality. It is not as dura-ble as genuine suede, but offers several other benefits.
The main advantage of faux suede upholstery is that the fabric is manufactured so that it can be cleaned with water and water-based fabric cleaners. The fabric is also tightly woven to repel stains and spills – making it the perfect fabric solution for busy family homes.
Vinyl is a manmade fabric and more affordable alternative to leather. It is available in a wide range of colours and is incredibly easy to clean, making it particularly suitable to high-use areas and bustling family households. Although fairly durable, vinyl is prone to rips and tears that can be difficult to repair.
Vinyl is super practical but undoubtedly inferior to leather. It can have a plastic feel and does not age well, which is reflected in affordable low prices.
Corduroy is a cotton fabric made up of twisted fibers that lie parallel when woven together. It is effectively a ridged form of velvet so feels soft and tactile, yet is considerably harder wearing due to the unique ribbed texture.
Cord fabric is much easier to maintain and clean than velvet and suede, making it a great sofa solution to deal with the rough and tumble of family life. It creates a casual, rustic look and is perfect for chilly houses as the ridges create insulated pockets of air, making it the one of the warmest sofa fabrics around.