By Design

Make way for colorful patterns! Boring fabrics are out

by Patricia Cove
Posted 9/7/23

It is no secret that how fabrics are incorporated within a space is basic to the success or failure of the design of that space.

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By Design

Make way for colorful patterns! Boring fabrics are out


It is no secret that how fabrics are incorporated within a space is basic to the success or failure of the design of that space. Since most seating is upholstered, the choice of fabrics plays a key role in both the form and the function of a room.

For many years, thanks to Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, fabrics have been pared down and limited to nubby neutrals that may or may not exhibit true wearability, but certainly contribute to the minimalistic vibe that seems to have been the trend since the turn of the millennium.

If you have invested in pieces that meld into that basic, clean-lined aesthetic, and love that look of moderation, great! But as those nubby neutrals start to show some wear, let’s think about some options.

Whether you are open to reupholstery, or in the market for a new, more up-to-date atmosphere, one of the key ways to accomplish that is with the selection of your fabric.

Even if you purchased your furniture from Mitchell Gold or Crate and Barrel, any upholstery’s status can be raised substantially by choosing the right fabric. But first, you must consider the function of the piece. 

Because informality has been the name of the game for so many years, nubby neutrals fit that bill perfectly. But so many were made of such inferior fibers that they never held up to daily use.  Textured fabrics, like chenille, corduroy, or herringbones can still elevate a space if they are woven with natural materials like cotton or wool. Synthetics can be incorporated to add some strength, but 100% polyester, can easily show wear – or even lose its texture and become a worn sliding board….not fun to sit on!

So, instead of repeating that old boring solid, consider something a bit more tried and true. A bit of color, and even pattern, can add some needed interest and elevate a space to a more Avant Garde appearance. 

So many modern fabric companies these days are re-introducing velvets, for example, that are nowhere near your grandmother’s velvet chaise lounge.  These velvets incorporate modern designs like a Greek key pattern, minimalistic animal prints, or striking ethnic motifs. Basic cottons are also being used, ornamented with lurex threads and a subtle but striking pattern that can be appropriate for any room with any purpose – and provide some individuality to that otherwise cookie-cutter space.

One textile company that has endured the test of time, and is experiencing a strong resurgence is the Italian company, Fortuny. The fabrics originally graced timeless garments, but in 1922, it opened a textile company that was geared to the production of home furnishing fabrics. 

The base fabric was often cotton or silk, but the real star was the brushed or sponged-on damask design, completed with metallic pigments, which added richness and depth. It has never been imitated and became a hallmark of the uniqueness of Fortuny textiles.

Many of the patterns today are based on Fortuny’s original damask designs. But because of the fabric’s popularity, more modern genres in geometrics, stripes, and even stylistic Renaissance patterns are being added to upholstery pieces to give more contemporary spaces that needed individuality, color, and a focal point that so many cookie-cutter interiors are lacking.

So, if you are up to creating an interior that becomes more of a personal space, can speak to you on a more individual level, or a space that is truly reflective of your own personality, consider adding a fabric that is more striking, either in an entire sofa, or simply as accent pieces like an ottoman or bench, or maybe even some pillows. 

Boring is over, so start by investigating all that is out there in the form of interesting textiles with patterns and colors that can set your room apart. 

Patricia Cove is the Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill and can be reached at