Fabric findings – a guide to choosing the right upholstery fabric for your next project

Colorful upholstery fabric samples in a furniture store.

Reupholstering furniture can be downright impossible for some people, but just as hard can be settling on an upholstery fabric for your next project.

Colorful upholstery fabric samples in a furniture store.Let’s say you’ve decided on an armchair, your fabric question will decide whether it’s a 70’s style armchair, a leather armchair, a cushioned armchair, a spring-supported armchair, and so on.

The fabric debate is an important one, and one that should not be taken lightly when you’re in the process of making furniture that you will stamp your maker’s mark on. To help you in this tricky quest, we’ve written up a guide to choosing the right upholstery fabric for your next project.

Consider usage

The biggest question we have to address in this complex rabbit’s warren of concerns is what the item will be used for. Is it a display piece that will rarely be used? Is it intended to be used everyday for years to come? Is it more of a “guests only” kind of deal?

A heavy-use item needs to be upholstered with hard-wearing, yet comfortable fabrics. You won’t want to sit on uncomfortable materials for years to come just to justify your choice of them, so find comparable objects to the one you’ll be making and see what they’re usually made of and why.

Colour schemes

It should go without saying, but the colour scheme of your item will need to match your interior decoration, but also needs to be common enough to match several different designs throughout yours and others homes. This is because you may want to give the item away, or sell it in a few years.

A gaudy, shiny gold-painted leather might work in some places, but not in most, and that kind of design principle can be avoided by thoroughly exploring this question before settling on an upholstery fabric. 


What does this piece need to say to anyone who walks in? Do you need it to communicate an air of class and refinement, or are you ok with it announcing that you take great comfort in your work and your handmade furniture items?

Remember that our homes tell the stories of our lives visually, so if you’re going for class and sophistication, buy a classy and sophisticated fabric to complement your overall room feel, instead of a fun and easy-to-work fabric that might undercut those sought-after tones.


The placement of your piece needs to be considered carefully, as the environmental factors of its placement can affect its lifespan. A couch placed in a spot that catches direct sunlight, for instance, will degrade much faster than one regularly kept in the shade.

A dining room chair that is backed by a fireplace should avoid easily flammable materials in it’s upholstery. These considerations are key for the longevity of your piece, otherwise you’ll end up making another in a few years instead of a few decades. 


The ethics of your material choice should be at the forefront of your mind too, especially if you’re a business that sells handmade furniture. Leather is a popular choice for upholstery material, but it does have connections with the meat industry which are perceived by many to be negative.

There are artificial alternatives that aren’t frowned upon and can sell for just as much on a fine piece of furniture, so keep those affiliations at the front of your mind when making your decision.

With this guide in hand, you have a process to follow to ensure that you make your decision in an informed and logical manner, which is the best way to make any decision.