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Upholstery Fabric Styles

There are many different types of upholstery fabric available on the market, each with its unique benefits. They generally fall into two categories; natural and synthetic. In some cases, a combination of the two is combined, but these are usually considered synthetic fibers.

When choosing fabric styles, there are a few things to consider, including the material, weave, and pattern.

In this article, we’ll break down these three considerations to help you figure out which fabric style is best suited for your home.

1. The Different Types of Fabric Material

The different types of fabric you use for upholstery will need to be considered for a few reasons.

The first is the overall style of your piece. You want it to match the rest of your decor, but you also don't want it to be too out there.

The second reason is comfort. Upholstery fabric can range from stiff and uncomfortable to incredibly soft and plush.

And finally, you'll need to consider the use case of the furniture piece.

Different fabrics have different benefits and drawbacks so let's break these down below.


The natural fiber is sourced from plants or animals. Examples of natural fibers include cotton, wool, silk, and linen. Regardless of how they are modified, they are still classed as natural unless a fully synthetic fiber is added.

Here are some of the most popular natural upholstery fabrics:


Cotton is a natural fiber produced from the cotton plant. It has good resistance to pilling, wear, and fading but isn't so great when it comes to stains, stretching, or fire. You may lessen these drawbacks by using blends of cotton. The weave and finish are pretty closely linked with the cotton's longevity. Damask (a formal weave) and canvas (a more relaxed weave) are two weaves to look into.

Cotton Blend

The durability of the cotton improves with most blends, but sometimes the formality is decreased. It all depends on what you'll use the furniture for and where it will be located. If you’re looking for formal, make sure to go for a blend that is more on the higher end of the price scale.


Leather is a natural fiber sourced from animal skin, typically cowhide. It has excellent resistance to wear and fading and isn’t damaged by water, heat (up to a point), or sharp objects. But with that comes a price, and leather is one of the most expensive upholstery fabrics on the market.


Because linen wrinkles easily and isn't highly durable, it is best kept in houses without small children. Additionally, because it resists pilling and fading well while giving a nice overall feel to the skin, it is primarily used in formal living rooms.


A Fine Fabric: Keep this one confined to formal rooms and always have it professionally cleaned since it's delicate. Not very durable and can easily be damaged. But it's the pinnacle of luxury!


Wool is a naturally occurring, biodegradable natural fiber produced from sheep. It's long-lasting and simple to maintain, but it's expensive. Pilling, stretching, and staining is less of an issue with wool. Wool mixes may improve the fabric even more.


Synthetic fiber is made from chemicals instead of being taken from a plant or animal. They are generally considered less-expensive options and can come in a variety of colors and textures. Often they are made with some form of hydrocarbon such as petroleum.

Here are some of the most popular synthetic upholstery fabrics:


Acetate is a strong and durable synthetic fiber made from wood pulp. It's easy to clean and resists pilling, stretching, and fading quite well. However, it can only offer modest resistance to stains and tends to wrinkle when in continuous sunlight over time.


Acrylic is a low-cost, lightweight, soft, and simple-to-care-for material that can be less durable and may pill over time.


This cloth has a velvet-like feel and a remarkably similar appearance to genuine velvet, with more durability than its natural counterpart. It can stand up to spills and stains, won't fade, and is perfect for high-use areas.


Nylon is commonly combined with other materials to create a very robust and long-lasting product. It does not soil or wrinkle easily. Ideal for families who have a lot of visitors.


Olefin is a synthetic fiber made from polypropylene that, like many other man-made fibers, is very durable and can withstand high usage without any changes in external looks. It resists stains, mildew, sunlight, and abrasion. This fabric is often used in the garden or for outdoor furniture.


Polyester is a versatile, inexpensive synthetic fiber that may be blended with other materials. It's long-lasting, easy to maintain, and resistant to stretching and shrinking. However, it can pucker over time and fade with exposure to direct sunshine.


While rayon was created to be a cheaper alternative to silk, it doesn't feel like it. Rayon has the same smooth texture as silk but is more durable and resistant to wrinkles, making it a fabric that is also a great luxury choice.


Vinyl is a type of plastic that has been treated to look and feel like leather. It has excellent resistance to wear and fading but can be damaged by heat or sharp objects.

2. The Different Types of Fabric Weaves

The fabric's weave can have an overall effect on the durability and the texture of the upholstery. Therefore different weaves give off not only different aesthetic looks, but some weaves fit certain furniture use cases more than others. Without getting too deep into textiles, here are a few different weaves to look at.

Plain Fabric Weave

A plain fabric weave is the simplest and most popular, made up of a single thread that goes over and under each subsequent thread. It is a strong weave and can be used in any furniture. It's durable and versatile.

Some variants on the plain fabric weave depend on how the threads are interwoven and the number of fibers that are used. Poplin and percale are two examples of a plain weave with a higher thread count, meaning that there are more threads per inch. The higher thread count gives the fabric a softer feel but may hinder other attributes.

Examples of Plain Fabric Weaves

  • Linen

  • Denim

  • Ticking

Twill Weave

The twill weave is made by interweaving the threads in a diagonal pattern. This design gives the fabric more strength overall and is often seen in outdoor furniture or heavy-use pieces. It also has a distinct look, with a “woven” appearance that can add visual interest to a piece of furniture.

There are different types of twill weaves, depending on the direction of the diagonal pattern. A right-hand twill weave will have a diagonal pattern that slants to the right, while a left-hand twill weave will slant to the left. A herringbone twill is made up of two colors and has a “V” shaped pattern.

Examples of Twill Weaves

  • Canvas

  • Gabardine

  • Corduroy

Satin Weave

The satin weave is made by interweaving the threads to create a smooth surface with a glossy sheen. This weave is often used for decorative purposes and is not as strong as other weaves. It’s often seen in lighter-use furniture, such as chairs, that are not used daily.

There are different types of satin weaves, depending on the number of threads used. A four-harness satin weave uses four threads and creates a very smooth surface, while an eight-harness satin weave will have a less smooth surface but will be more durable.

Examples of Satin Weaves

  • Silk

  • Most synthetic fibers

The above are just the main three weaves used. There are, of course, lots of variations in each and a lot of other weaves used too. When choosing your upholstery, it's important not just the look and feel of the fabric but also how it will wear over time. If you are unsure, always ask your retailer for more information on the best weave for your needs.

3. The Different Types of Fabric Patterns

Again we are teetering on textiles and embroidery. Still, the patterns on your upholstery can set the tone for a room: floral, geometric, ikat, or even just a simple solid color. The options are endless, and you can find something to fit all styles.

Choosing the right upholstery fabric pattern is essential when furnishing your home. There are many factors to consider, such as your style and the overall look of your current space. Are you going for the Hollywood glam look popular in the late 1900s or maybe a more classic Art Nuevo look?


When it comes to upholstery, there are three main types of fabrics: natural fibers, synthetic fibers, and blends. Natural fibers include wool, cotton, linen, and silk. Synthetic fibers include acrylic, polyester, and nylon. Blends are a mix of natural and synthetic fibers. Each type of fabric has different benefits and drawbacks that you should consider before making your final decision.

The weave of the fabric is also important to consider. The three most common types of weaves are plain, twill, and satin. Plain weave is the most basic and most popular weave, made up of a single thread that goes over and under each subsequent thread. It is a strong weave and can be made with different types of fibers.

Twill weave is made by interweaving the threads in a diagonal pattern, giving the fabric more strength overall. This type of weave is often seen in outdoor furniture or heavy-use pieces. Satin weave is made by interweaving the threads to create a smooth surface with a glossy sheen. This type of weave is often used for decorative purposes and is not as strong as other weaves.

When choosing your upholstery, it’s also essential to consider the fabric's pattern. The options are endless: floral, geometric, ikat, or even just a simple solid color, and you can find something to fit any style. Take your time in choosing the right upholstery fabric for your home. It’s a big decision and one that you will have to live with for years to come.

Need a Helping Hand?

The Hauss is here to help. If you’re struggling in taking your first steps into the interior design world, or maybe you're just looking for a bit of inspiration, we've got your back. Check out our website or give us a call today, and one of our design experts will be more than happy to help you on your journey to the perfect home.

The Hauss offers a unique interior design service that is done totally from the comfort of your own home. You'll get access to their team of professional interior designers who will use computer simulations to help you see what your home could look like. They'll help you with everything from choosing the right furniture and layout to picking the perfect color scheme for your space.

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