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How to Decide on the Ideal Upholstery for your Sofa

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Buying a sofa can be made simple with the right help. One part of buying a sofa is picking the right upholstery, be it leather or fabric. But when you make it to the store, and they show you your options, how will you decide which is best for your lifestyle and asthetic preferences?

Read on to embark on your journey of upholstery wisdom, because here is your guide that will have you "sew" ready to select the perfect upholstery for your home!

Step #1: Examine Your Lifestyle

Before venturing to a furniture store, you should have a general idea of what kind of lifestyle you want your sofa to endure. Lifestyle definitely plays into much more that just the upholstery aspect of your sofa, but for this article, we are going to focus on upholstery alone.

Lifestyle questions to ask yourself:

  1. What room is the sofa going into? If the sofa is going to be in a heavily trafficked area, such as a main living room, look for a durable and stain resistant fabric/leather. If the sofa is in a low-traffic sitting room/tea room, you may be able to focus more on getting the right looking fabric, even if it isn't the most durable.

  2. Do you have children or pets in the home? While well mannered adults can manage a more delicate upholstery, children and pets may not be well-suited to following that lead. The result can be staining, residue buildup, cosmetic damage, and more.

  3. What are the environmental factors of your home? Will the sofa get a lot of direct sunlight? Perhaps consider going with a fade resistant upholstery. Do you have low humidity in your home? Keep that in mind if you decide to go with leather, which will need to be conditioned regularly in dry environments.

Got your list of lifestyle considerations ready? If so, it's time to move on to step #2.

Step #2: Evaluate Suitability

Once you've determined your lifestyle, go through the list below to make sure each aspect of your upholstery will be appropriate for the amount of use the sofa is expected to endure.


Look for fabrics that are durable and can withstand everyday use. Fabrics that are tightly woven and made of high-quality materials like microfiber, leather, or heavy-duty cotton blends tend to be more durable and can withstand wear and tear over time.


Comfort is crucial for upholstery. Avoid a "scratchy" feeling fabric; consider fabrics that are soft, plush, and pleasant to touch. Velvet, chenille, and tweed are known for their comfort and can provide a cozy feel to your sofa.

Stain Resistance

Opt for fabrics that are resistant to spills and stains, especially if you have pets or children. Look for upholstery fabrics with stain-resistant properties or treated with a protective coating that can make cleaning up spills easier and prevent stains from setting in.


Consider the maintenance requirements of the upholstery fabric. Fabrics that are easy to clean and maintain, such as those that can be spot-cleaned or machine-washed, can save you time and effort in the long run.

Fade Resistance

If your sofa is exposed to direct sunlight, choose upholstery fabrics that are fade-resistant. Fabrics that are fade-resistant will maintain their color and appearance even when exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods, helping to prevent fading and discoloration.

Abrasion Resistance

Fabrics that are abrasion resistant are less likely to show signs of wear and tear, making them ideal for high-traffic areas like sofas. Look for upholstery fabrics with a high abrasion resistance rating, which indicates that they are more resistant to fraying, pilling, or other forms of abrasion. A double-rub count of 15,000 should be sufficient for heavy use, and if you're interested in reading more on double-rubs, this article by Amy Blitchok at summarizes the subject very well.

Style and Aesthetics

Consider the style and aesthetics of the upholstery fabric in relation to your room's decor. Choose a fabric that complements the overall aesthetic of your space, including the color, pattern, and texture that align with your design preferences and existing furniture.

Ecological Considerations

If environmental sustainability is important to you, look for upholstery fabrics that are made from eco-friendly materials, such as organic or recycled fibers, and are produced using environmentally responsible manufacturing processes.

Step #3: Make Your Purchase

Once you've assessed the categories in the previous section, it's time to start shopping. When you come across some fabrics you like, just go through the list above and ask yourself... "how does this fabric meet my ______ needs" while filling in the blank for all the above suitability categories.

Of course, when you're shopping for a sofa, its about much more than the upholstery. It's about the frame, dimensions, suspension, cushions, and so much more. This is why we recommend a quick debrief by reading our articles under our Sofas and Upholstery blog category.


Selecting the perfect upholstery for your sofa involves considering various factors such as your lifestyle, durability, comfort, stain resistance, and more. By evaluating these aspects and making informed choices, you can ensure that your sofa's upholstery not only meets your aesthetic preferences but also withstands the demands of your lifestyle, providing comfort, durability, and easy maintenance.

The result of taking these considerations into account? You'll have a sofa that takes great care of you and your family for years to come, with less worry about needing to replace it in a few years of time.

Happy sofa shopping! And as usual, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have along the way.

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