Picking the Right Upholstery Fabric for a Busy Home

You are proudly inspecting the redone home décor and the new silk cushion covers are clearly the showstoppers.

Looks like you’ve earned boasting rights in the neighbourhood and you are itching to show it off to your friends. But there’s one thing that you didn’t account for, your child’s favourite Yoghurt tube.

There it is; a fist-sized stain right in the middle of the cushion. Oh wait, there’s more. Marvin, your pet Siamese has tracked in the best dirt of the yard into your home and right onto the cushion.

Your heart sinks as you see it and realise that no amount of paper-towel scrubbing is going to get rid of that.

The fact is that silk, despite its luxurious appearance is not the best of choices for everyday use especially if you have kids or pets in the house.

What you need is a resilient upholstery fabric that’s going to withstand an onslaught of staining liquids, dirt, dust, scratches and just about anything else that children or pets can subject it to.

Contrary to what most people believe, you do not need to compromise on the aesthetics.

Engineered vs. Natural Upholstery Fabric

For a long time, there were a limited number of resilient upholstery fabric choices which were mainly natural fabrics like cotton and jute. That’s no longer the case.

Today, engineered fabrics are a much better choice for everyday use and they are designed to mimic the appearance of their natural brethren. So there’s no tradeoff in aesthetics either.

They are waterproof, do not fade even when used in the sun and stains can be washed right off.

Does that sound like outdoor fabrics?

Well, you are not entirely wrong, because outdoor fabrics are slowly making their presence felt in living rooms.

We are not talking about the hard and waxy Sunbrella range of fabrics, though.

Viscose, polyester and solution-dyed acrylics are some of the upholstery fabrics in this category with polyester being the cheapest of them all.

One of the newer additions is Sensuede, an eco-friendly fabric made from recycled fibres that are almost impervious to wear and tear. So is vinyl which is so easy to clean no matter what you spill on it.

If you wish to go the natural fabric way, then leather is your best choice.

However, it does require frequent upkeep that may include conditioning using a leather conditioner at least once or twice a year. Scratches can be a problem if you are using leather upholstery with a smooth finish. Distressed leather is a better bet because small scratches will blend right into the natural crevices that are formed on it.

Also, it acquires a natural patina with time which accentuates the look of the fabric.


With an endless array of colours, textures and patterns to choose from, no matter what upholstery fabric you pick, styling should be the least of your concerns. However, it does pay to spend some time making wise colour choices because you will be living with it every day, possibly for a long time.

Trendy colours are voguish and will most likely look dated in a year from now. So, unless you plan to redo the cushion covers again next year, stick to timeless colours. Neutrals are the safest of them all. They are versatile and can be used anywhere in the house and have a pleasing and positive vibe about them.