How to choose your sofa upholstery fabric

Upholstery is one of the most important parts of a sofa or armchair, not only in terms of its aesthetic but also its comfort level and durability. You may be buying a new item of furniture or trying to refresh an older piece; either way, you need to carefully consider your options before deciding on the upholstery fabric.

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The long history of upholstery highlights just how many fabrics can be used in different types of furniture.

Velvet is soft but durable and generally resistant to stains. Wool is resistant to both fire and water and remains resilient and breathable. Most notably, its temperature-regulating qualities ensure you remain warm in winter but can stay cool in summer. Leather, which you would expect in a vintage sofa from a specialist such as, is sturdy and long-lasting. Linen is cooler and more laidback, although it can be more delicate. Some fabrics are potential allergens.


Your choice of colour will depend on the rest of your room and the atmosphere you are trying to create. Do you prefer warm, earthy tones or cool and calming? A standout feature piece or something that blends with the rest of the décor? Eye-catching or understated? Traditional or contemporary? Think about complements and contrasts and the strategic use of neutral tones. Patterns may be more suited to an armchair than a full sofa to prevent them from becoming overwhelming.

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Some materials are easily cleaned, while others need more intensive maintenance. Slipcovers can usually be washed fairly easily – just check the label for laundry instructions – and vacuum attachments are available for fixed covers. If you are in a house with children or pets, you probably need to be extra aware of the risk of spills and damage. The climate is also a consideration, as excess sun may lead to fading or excess moisture to mould.

There are many things to consider when choosing both the fabric and colour of your upholstery. If you are still in doubt, seek the advice of a professional.

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