Ideas + Advice

Living + Office

How To Choose The Right Fabric

Choosing a fabric for sofas or chairs can seem overwhelming. With so many fabric options, how do you pick just one? Here are our 5 easy steps to selecting the right fabric for you:

Step 1: Look At How You Live

How do you use your furniture? More importantly—who uses your furniture? Here are some key points to consider:

Busy Households: If you have kids, pets, roommates or entertain frequently, your furniture is going to get a lot of wear. Avoid delicate fabrics, light colors (like white), loosely woven patterns that might snag (like bouclé) or ornamental items that might pull (like button–tufting). Instead, aim for thick or tightly–woven fabrics like canvas, twill, microfibers and performance velvet, and consider slipcovers. Leather is very durable and easy to wipe clean, making it ideal for kids, but not suitable for pets with sharp nails.

Low-Traffic Households: If your household is pet– and child–free, and you entertain moderately, your fabric options are nearly limitless. From lightweight linen to decorative tufting, feel free to choose the fabric you like best.

Keep in mind that sofas, sectionals and ottomans are likely to get the heaviest daily use.

Step 2: Color, Pattern or Neutral?

If you're trying to decide whether to go for a pattern or stick to a neutral solid, think about what the piece needs to coordinate with and how many years of use you'd like to get out of it. Patterns are fun, but you may outgrow them more quickly than a solid.

In general, it's a good idea to stick with solids, textures or woven fabrics on your largest furnishings, like sofas and sectionals, and save patterns or stronger colors for smaller pieces like accent chairs.

Keep in mind: You can liven up a solid—colored sofa or chair with patterned pillows or throws, which are much easier (and less costly) to replace than furniture.

Step 3: Factor In Your Timeline

How quickly do you need your furniture? If you need it ASAP, look for our Quick Ship fabrics, which arrive in 2–4 weeks. If you have more time, you can choose from any of our Special Order fabrics, which arrive in 8–10 weeks and are made just for you.

Keep in mind: Because Special Order items are custom-made, they cannot be cancelled or returned. Quick Ship items may be returned within 7 days of the order receipt date.

Step 4: Explore Our Fabrics

To see up–close images of our fabrics and material content info, see our Upholstery Guide. You can also click directly on swatch options on any upholstered product page for basic details. Here's how our most popular upholstery fabrics compare in terms of texture and thickness.

    The best west elm fabrics for heavy use include:

  • Marled Microfiber
  • Faux Suede
  • Performance Velvet
  • Tweed
  • Twill
  • Yarn-Dyed Linen Weave
  • Leather

Step 5: Stock Up On Swatches

We always recommend looking at actual swatches of fabrics you're considering before placing an order. Swatches let you see the colors in real life and feel the texture before making a decision. Each of our stores has a wall of swatches that you can take home for free. You can also order free swatches online.

Once you have your swatches, compare them not only to one another, but also with your existing furniture and decor. Pick the material that best complements your room's other colors and patterns and will stand up to the wear and tear of your household.

Did You Know?

  • You can also order our upholstery fabrics by the yard, say, if you'd like to make matching throw pillows or reupholster a cushion.
  • We sell a great fabric comb to remove pills, fuzz and pet hair and keep your upholstery looking like new.

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