Tip: Choosing a Fabric for Upholstery

There are those of us that have great difficulty visualizing a makeover, be it with interiors, paint color, or even upholstery. I often hear the musings from our customers, “I love this fabric, but what would it look like on my chair/sofa/ottoman?” For a quick illustration, check out the two different sets of dining chairs below.

Wood Chairs After 4.JPG

Dining set with a subdued, small -scale pattern.

Angelone Dining Chairs After 4.JPG

Dining set with a medium, bold, and graphic pattern.

Let’s think critically. Looking at the two sets, consider the two fabrics’ pattern size and color. One is muted in tone but with sheen, and the other is larger in pattern scale with definite contrast in color, creating a more graphic presence. Consider if the two sets were to trade their fabric. You would see a lot more pattern and blue if the fully upholstered chairs carried the circles fabric, and the wood framed chairs would be decidedly more conservative.

For those of you who are not that familiar with fabric and its qualities, think about something called a “repeat.” You can find it by measuring between where the pattern repeats, either horizontally or vertically or both. You can see it initially with your own eyes, as well. If you’re looking at a small sample of fabric, try your best to figure out what the repeat is, so there are no surprises. Below are a few examples of how different fabrics from medium to large pattern scale behave on (virtually) the same chair.

Dessain Chair After 2.JPG

This chair has a combination of small and large pattern; various circles in different grey-scales come together to make up an ombre effect. Throw in some sheen, too!

DeAngelis Chair After.JPG

Wing chair with a medium, all-over organic print and saturated bright color.

Heller Wingback After3.JPG

Large pattern in two high-contrast hues makes a visual impact.

You could ask yourself questions as we do with our clients here in the shop:

What do you like? (Floral, organic, masculine, feminine, etc. All can describe fabric, too!)

What do you loathe? (Maybe you just have a thing against polka-dots?)

What room will it live in? Will it harmonize or clash with its roommates? (Or your actual roommates?)

Here’s another lineup of chairs with different fabric pattern qualities:

Atkinson Rocker After 4.JPG

Small scale pattern with saturated color, shiny velvet texture.

Cooper Chair After.JPG

Large organic pattern in bright color.

Arthur Chair After 3.jpg

Fully upholstered arm chair in a large, quiet stripe. The stripe only happens once every 18 inches creating a focal point to all that it dresses.

Brooke Chair After.JPG

Large focal graphic in calm and neutral color scheme.

Jennifer Baby Rock.JPG

This fabric is like two in one for a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde effect! Large scale pattern in two colors happen in two halves all the way up and down the print of this fabric. I love it.

Let’s look at some sofas! This is where you are going to spend the most for upholstery and fabric, so choosing a textile can often cause even the most decisive of us to pause.

Barrow Sofa After.JPG

Small - medium scale muted pattern. Classic, dignified, and refined.


Larger scale than the last in gold tones, creating an ornate and traditional effect.

Paup Sofa After 2.JPG

Large scale, lively velvet in undulating lacy lava shapes! What an original. The vertical repeat is almost a yard long!

Here’s hoping that a smattering of pictures will help you decide on how to treat your new upholstery project. If you still can’t opt, there’s nothing wrong with a solid or a texture with no pattern.  We’ll see you all here at Spruce and be happy to mediate!