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Home & Garden

How to Choose a New Upholstery Fabric, According to the Experts

© Plumbs

Savvy homeowners looking to revive rather than replace existing sofas and chairs will find a wealth of fashionable upholstery fabrics to take them from weary to wow but how to choose one that will last as well as look good?

Plumbs, the nation’s number one name in recovering and reupholstering sofas and chairs, has a checklist for anyone wondering where to start…

What is upholstery?

Put simply, it’s the process of taking the upholstery off your existing furniture and replacing it with a new weight fabric.

Whether you want to do your bit to help the environment or have inherited a chair from a much-loved relative, it’s a great way to have it looking good as new so you can enjoy the ‘wow’ factor of having something new all over again.

See: 10 Inspiring Ways to Introduce Eco-Friendly Interiors into Your Home

How to Choose Upholstery Fabric 

Consider Your Current Colour Scheme

First, look at your current colour scheme. Do the centrepieces (coffee tables, carpets, etc.) share certain shades? Could your space do with an injection of colour, or would a softer tone be more suitable?

Amalfi offers a great choice of natural, calming tones in faux velvet for those looking to go bold while the Cardinal range includes everything from bright fuchsia to deep burgundy for making a ‘statement sofa’.

Patterned or Plain?

Once you’ve got to grips with colour schemes, it’s time to further narrow the choice between patterned or plain.

With patterns, it’s wise to choose a design which demands attention without standing out like a sore thumb.

Think about what the current décor needs: if its minimalist, a funky floral sofa could be the eye-catching focus that’s needed. Similarly, if the space is already busy, a sofa with clean lines and subtle motifs ties together a lounge’s main features beautifully.

Check the rub count

A great way to gauge the durability of any upholstery fabric, the ‘rub count’ is a measure of how many times a machine can ‘rub’ away at a fabric’s fibres until they break down.

The longer the fabric takes to wear down, the higher its rub count. The benchmark for most domestic fabrics is 20,000 rubs, but fabrics with 20,000+ rubs are usually recommended for high-traffic areas.

Plumbs’ Amalfi upholstery fabric has a rub count of 60,000, which makes it ideal for family lounges.

Check the weave

A top tip is to keep an eye out for fabrics with woven patterns; they tend to be harder wearing than those which have printed patterns.

To find a durable weave just look at how tightly woven its fibres are. Twill is among the most tightly-wound weaves, hard-wearing and distinguishable by its pattern of diagonal parallel ribs, made by interlacing closely packed yarns.

This results in a more durable and water-resistant material. Likewise, chenille is an extremely robust fabric, made from a woven cotton-polyester blend – so ideal for high-traffic areas.

Plumbs’ Hendon Plain is a hard-wearing chenille which has a whopping 40,000-rub count!

Check the Material Type

While it’s easy to get carried away by the prettiest fabric, it’s essential to consider how hardy the material is before reaching a decision. For the perfect balance between eye-catching and practical, consider polyester.

A strong synthetic fibre, polyester is abrasion-resistant, while also offering a versatile  colour selection. Alternatively, a cotton-polyester blend is a great choice for anyone looking for a fabric which feels luxurious but doesn’t cost the earth.

The 100% polyester Mull collection is available in a range of patterns that are both stylish and easy to clean.

See: These Stylish Sofa Covers Can Update and Pet-Proof Your Furniture in an Instant

Consider the environment and use


Consider your lifestyle along with the people and pets who live in your home.

This will have a real bearing on how to choose upholstery fabric that works for you. A houseful of toddlers and lively pets might mean a stain resistant fabric (such as Aquaclean) would make life a lot less tense!

Similarly, resilient synthetic fabrics (such as Kentash) are ideal for households with pets and small children, while sofas with luxurious natural fibres are better suited for special occasions.

Where a sofa is showing signs of damage, you can use a sofa cover to protect seat cushions, arm rests and other high-traffic areas.

Be sure to use tightly woven fabrics if you have pets who like to snooze on the sofa. Any loose threads could get caught in their claws and cause snagging.

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Plumbs is the UK’s number one name in furniture recovering and reupholstery, based in Preston, Lancashire and still owned and run by the family that established the company over 60 years ago.