Choosing Fabrics

The first step in decorating any room in the house is choosing fabrics for upholstery, drapes and accent pieces.  Don’t choose the paint first, then fabrics to match the paint.  The fabrics should be chosen, then choose the paint to highlight the fabric.  There are many more colors of paint to match to fabrics than vice versa.

  • To choose fabrics like the professionals, layer choices on a piece of poster board.  Make your fabric swatches relate to how much fabric is going to be used within the room.  The largest swatch should be the upholstery fabric, the drapes smaller and the accent fabric the smallest.  Check out our article on mixing and matching patterns for best results.
  • Don’t forget to coordinate sheens and textures.  Vary the sheens, which is the how shiney the fabric is, for more interest.  For example, a chintz and denim would be much more interesting than a chintz and silk.  Use varying  textures to add interest as well.
  • If not using fabric for the window treatments, don’t hesitate to use it somewhere else within the room.  Try it in an unexpected place, as wall art, a table skirt or even a wall covering.
  • Take your fabrics with you when choosing furniture, paint and even accessories.  Don’t think you’re going to remember every nuance and color of the fabric when choosing other furnishings.  You have too much on your mind.  Carry them in your purse if you need to.
  • Don’t forget to consider durability when choosing fabrics – we all love the look of silk, but it’s just not practical for many rooms, particularly if children or pets are around.
  • Consider the weave of the fabric you’re choosing.  It plays an important role in the durability.  Hold it up to the light to see how much light shines through as indicator of the weave tightness.
  • Natural fibers, such as cotton or silk, tend to tear more easily and be less stain and soil resistant.
  • Manmade fibers are usually more durable and have stain resistant features.
  • Consider the formality of the room when choosing your fabrics.  Velvets and brocades tend to be more formal – but in some décor, an unexpected use can be a great design trick for interest.  More casual rooms tend to use lighter fabrics such as cottons, linen blends even denim.  Those usually can’t make the switch to a more formal room, except for linen.

Once you choose your fabrics, then you can consider paint color and finishes.  It will be much easier choosing paint once you have the fabric inspiration to guide you.  Try a paint sample to use on your posterboard and mount your fabric samples.  If paint samples aren’t offered, consider purchasing a quart to try on the walls and on your board, it costs under $15.  When you match up the fabrics and the paint color, you’ll know when it’s the right combination, it almost seems to 'pop' off the board at you!