LK Design of Durham bedroom interior design

Here at LK Design, we maintain a large fabric sample library.

We recently received a fresh set of new upholstery textiles, and they inspired us to share some tips on how to choose the perfect fabric for your sofas, chairs, sectionals, loveseats, and anything else that can be covered in a textile.

We hope that our insights will be helpful to you. If you need any assistance in putting together a fantastic design that includes upholstery pieces, we are always available to chat with you.


Colorful upholstery samples red yellow green blue grey black beige fabrics

Choosing the best fabric for sofa upholstery?

Whether you’re reupholstering your sofa or selecting a new piece of furniture, choosing the right upholstery fabric can be a daunting task. But with a few key considerations, you can select a fabric that suits your design style, color preferences, durability, and performance requirements. Here are some tips to help you to make a good choice.

LK Design textiles teal velvet and ornate embroidered fabric with hand holding a round hardware finial

Consider the overall style of the space.

It's highly probable that you already have a preferred design style in mind. If you're leaning towards a traditional style, then you could mix solids and patterns of different scale and intensity. On the other hand, a modern aesthetic is likely to include a combination of neutrals with occasional textured highlights. Combining various fabrics can be exciting; layering solids with unexpected patterns can give your space a charmingly eclectic and unique vibe.

family room interior design open concept transitional style beige sofa white chairs patterned rug wood coffee table
A modern look: soft neutrals and textures are accented by patterned pillows

Colors and patterns.

Think about the overall look and feel you want to achieve with your upholstery fabric.

What’s the color scheme or the “color story” of your space? Will the fabric complement it? Also consider the amount of natural light in the space. As you can see in the example below, the abundance of light in our clients' home allowed the use of dark upholstery without making the room appear gloomy.

Living room design light color walls dark upholstery of the sectional yellow leather ottoman unique art on walls
Blending styles in this room: this space has a lot of natural light which allowed the use of dark velvet on the sectional. A mid-scale abstract pattern was used on the accent chair. The accent pillow with a beautiful and colorful print adds a bit of traditional flair.

Show-stopper fabrics draw your attention and can serve as a great conversation piece.

Although I would suggest using such fabrics for layering: you may want to consider going for a solid fabric for the large piece of upholstery and accent it with some bright pillows in fun patterns. By doing so, you'll have more flexibility to play with colors in the rest of the room. Also, you could switch up the look with colorful curtains, throw pillows, and rugs.

LK Design of Durham living room interior green and blue chairs and sofa and colorful pillows
An updated traditional casual family room: a solid velvet (cat friendly!) and a bold geometric pattern on the chairs create a happy vibe!

You can use bolder patterns and textures on accent chairs or ottomans to add interest to the room. Also, it’s okay if everything doesn’t go together or match- it makes the space look more fun, unexpected and interesting!

A colorful living room featuring bold accent colors in ottoman, pillows and wall art
A colorful living room featuring bold accent colors in ottoman, pillows and wall art

Conversely, if you choose a bold or trendy color for your main piece (like the sofa), you may find it challenging to change the entire look of the room if the color falls out of fashion. After all, most people don’t re-upholster their furniture every few months, so it might be good to choose a timeless color.

A traditional blue and white living room look: solid color furniture in neutral and deep blue accented by the bright and bold patterns of the accent pillows, patterned rug
A tailored traditional look: solid color upholstery in neutral and deep blue accented by the bright and bold patterns of the accent pillows

In addition, colors have the ability to create a certain ambiance and address particular issues. For instance, if you want to design a calm and inviting atmosphere, consider using light to mid-tone colored fabrics. On the other hand, if you're worried about dirt and stains, selecting a darker color may be more practical.

LK Design Home library beige armchair black lamp pillows custom window treatments curtains
A durable neutral textured fabric was used on the sofa, and the accent pillows add color and texture. The first pillow features tucked velvet, while the second one is done in a tight weave fabric with gentle stripes.

Print and scale.

Are you torn between choosing a bold or a subtle pattern? Large prints can overpower a small room, while small prints may not make enough of a statement in a larger area. The scale of the print should be in proportion to the size of the furniture piece. Also, think about the direction of the pattern, as this can affect how the fabric is used.

This room has a relaxed and casual feel. The neutral sectional is very comfortable. The bold yellow chair echoes the colors in the rug. A small scale floral pattern on the ottoman adds some elegance to the overall design of this modern room.
This room has a relaxed and casual feel. The neutral sectional is very comfortable. The bold yellow chair echoes the colors in the rug. A small scale floral pattern on the ottoman adds some elegance to the overall design of this modern room.


Is your sofa going to be used daily by your family? Is it your pets’ favorite hang-out spot? For high-traffic areas such as a family room or an entryway, you may need a more durable fabric. A less frequently used space may allow for a more delicate fabric.

Look for the number of rubs competed on the abrasion test. A fabric of less than 15,000 rubs is suitable for low to moderate use. You can use those fabrics for pillows, curtains, dining chairs or accent chairs. For daily use look for textiles that are 15,000+ rubs.

Usually, woven fabrics last longer than prints, and so do fabrics with tight weaves.


Performance fabrics are designed to withstand spills and stains. Of course, such fabrics aren’t bulletproof, so you still need to clean your furniture. But most of these textiles can be cleaned with soap and water. Consider using a performance fabric in areas that are prone to accidents, such as the kids’ playroom or the family room sofa.

LK Design pet friendly upholstery dog on sofa

Pet-friendly fabrics.

For your feline family members, upholstery in a performance velvet or a tight weave fabric would be a good choice. For instance, velvet doesn’t have woven texture for the claws to catch on. So it is a surprisingly cat friendly upholstery choice. And tighter weave textile makes cleaning dog hair off your furniture easier to handle. Choosing a fabric that is machine washable can make maintaining your dog's bed much easier.

Fade resistance.

If your upholstered piece will be located in a room that gets a lot of sun, you may want to choose color-fast fabrics like UV polyester or olefin.



Look for mildew resistant fabric for areas that have high humidity. Nylon and polyester are man-made fibers and are considered mildew-resistant.


Thanks for reading this far! I'm hoping that this advice helps you choose an upholstery fabric that meets your design style, durability, and performance needs. Before making a final decision, I would recommend getting a swatch of the fabric to see how it looks in your space and how it relates to other elements in your space.

LK Design Laura Koshel sitting on sofa


Laura Koshel, lead interior designer

LK Design


LK Design is a full-service interior design firm serving clients in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Apex, Cary in North Carolina.

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How to Choose the Best Upholstery Fabric – Expert Advice