Whether it's intended for the family room or the living room, your sofa represents a major investment of time, money and decorating sense. One goal of choosing fabric for the sofa, therefore, is to maximize wear. Different fabrics meet the needs of different room settings and sofa styles. Giving some time to defining the place of your sofa in your decor and in the activities of your family will help you choose fabrics that keep your sofa good-looking for a long time.
The "Everything" Sofa
The heart of the family room or relaxed living room, the "everything" sofa serves many purposes. Users snack, watch the game, nap, wrestle, lounge, read and — no matter what anyone says — play with the dog. An everything sofa needs smooth-finish, tightly woven fabric, preferably one that's pretreated with stain repellent. Fabrics that mix natural fibers with synthetics often have greater thread strength than those made of a single material. A small print or tweed-like pattern in medium-tone colors provides a better defense against spills and scuff marks than a solid color.
The Living Room Classic
If the challenge of the everything sofa is to survive high levels of activity, the task of the living room classic is to last as long as possible under routine wear. Smooth-finish fabrics with high thread counts lead choices, but solid colors may meet your needs and prove visually less tiring than a pattern. Light and dark colors can be included in your choices, with two caveats: fading and fashion. Fabric choices need to make allowances for possible fading and sun damage, especially if window treatments let in lots of daylight. Whether solid or print, colors should stay in the neutral range if possible. An impulsive tangerine, no matter how long-lasting, will make your furniture seem dated long before the fabric requires replacement.
Depending on your family's activities, you may wish to choose from fabrics pretreated with stain guard. You should also become familiar with the furniture industry's cleanability code, adopted in 1969. This code specifies the recommended cleaning method for the fabric you have chosen, from Code W — spot-clean with water-based cleaners — to Code X — vacuum-clean only. Prompt treatment of problems can contribute greatly to long wear.
The Luxury Sofa
The names of fabrics suitable for a high-fashion sofa evoke years of elegance: satin, damask, velvet, jacquard, tapestry and shantung. Knowledge of the Cleanability Code is critical if you want to purchase a luxury sofa — as is the name of a good upholstery cleaner. Smooth finish is no longer essential, although you may wish to avoid weaves with loose threads that catch easily on jewelry. Fading remains a concern because luxury fabrics are expensive to replace, and flaws seem to stand out as though spotlit. For a showpiece, the ability of fabric to hold color well is important.
Although knowledgeable fabric selection is the best guarantee of durability, a few strategies may be used to support good wear. Regular vacuuming and brushing of all surfaces will keep fabric clean and attractive. In areas where fading is a frequent concern, upholsterers may offer hemmed throws of fabric identical to that on the furniture, a particular asset in situations where a throw might look silly or unstylish. Upholsterers can also make floor pillows of identical fabric, expanding seating and lessening the stress of overcrowding on fabric. Regular professional cleaning or cleaning with a commercial machine helps fabric look consistently good.