A Material World

Men laying new hardwood flooring

The first thing that comes to mind when you think about decorating with fabric is probably window treatments. But take another look around. Upholstery, throw pillows, tablecloths, bed linens, placemats and napkinsfabric can be found in just about every room of the house. With so much area to cover and so much great material to work with, fabrics present a whole world of choices in texture, color and style.

Fabric from Fabric & Fringe Warehouse

Anything goes
In the not too distant past, there were plenty of rules to follow when it came to choosing fabric for a decorating project. Mixing a plaid pattern with a striped pattern, for example, was a big no-no. But thanks to the popularity of TV design shows, Marty Williamson, owner of Fabric & Fringe Warehouse in Marietta, says thats no longer the case. The lines are fading when it comes to putting together textures and styles, he says. It gives [customers] more opportunities to pick out what they like.

And what they like these days are small, ditsy patterns, as Williamson calls themvery small-scaled patterns of dots, checks, squares, bubbles or starbursts. Its a more modern look, Williamson says.

Regarding specific fabrics, Cindy Varga, an interior designer for Interior Details in Alpharetta, says any fabric with texture is popular right now. The popular textures are chenilles, microsuedes, leathers, linens, silks and embroidered silks, she says. Jenny Rhule, an interior designer with Textile Warehouse in Lilburn, says shes also seeing a lot of translucent, sheer polyesters.

Rhule says the hot colors shes seen are reds in shades of rust and paprika as well as olive greens, while Williamson says hes seeing a combination of periwinkle blue and brown. Varga says this blue-and-brown mix is extremely popular right now. Many showrooms at the Design Center and every fabric store in town have [periwinkle] blue right in the front of their showrooms and stores, she says. Blue mixed with brown makes a lovely color combination and is being used extensively in home decor.

Another trend Williamson has noticed is the inclusion of more trim work with fabrics. The biggest thing is the incorporation of fringes on just about everything, he says, including window treatments, bedding, upholstery, throws and pillows.

Fabric by Magnolia Home Fashions and Peachtree Fabrics,
designed by Stan Cathell Studios

Finding the right mix
Because there are so many fabrics on the market today, picking the right one or ones can be a challenge. After all, how do you know if you should get cotton or chenille, satin or velvet, or lace instead of suede? When it comes to selecting the right fabric for your project, there are no hard-and-fast rules. For example, in the past, many designers would not choose upholstery fabrics for window treatments. However, both Williamson and Rhule say they have seen an increase in upholstery fabric treatments.

When sorting through fabric choices, Williamson suggests asking yourself the following questions:

How long do I want to see it last? For example, are you decorating a babys room? If so, youll probably want to change it in three or four years as the baby grows, so you need something that holds up well but doesnt necessarily have a long lifespan. Also, consider how much sunlight the piece will receive. If there is a lot of sunlight, you need to find fade-resistant materials, such as an acrylic/cotton blend, Rhule says. A dark cotton will fade very quickly in sunlight, she says.

What is my lifestyle? Will you be using the pieces a lot, or are they just for show? Perhaps youre thinking of recovering the couch, and you want something that will hold up well under your childrens daily use. Williamson recommends skipping a light-colored cotton print in favor of a fabric with blended fibers, such as chenille, that will be more durable and stain-resistant. When shopping, check the manufacturers information to see if the fabric will work for your needs. Fabric manufacturers have all of the details about the suitability of a fabric for a particular purpose, Varga says. If in doubt, seek the assistance of a fabric expert.

What is the purpose of the fabric? In other words, what exactly will the fabric be used to create? You dont want to use a stiff, hard-to-manipulate material for a throw blanket. Likewise, you wouldnt use a sheer, lightweight polyester to cover a couch.

What is my budget? This will help narrow down the selection available to you. Although, given the wide range of materials on the market today, there will still be a large selection of fabrics to fit your budget. Depending on where you shop, you can buy fabrics for as little as $2 per yard or as high as $50 or more per yard. With a growing demand for textured fabrics, Varga says shes seeing the cost increase for these products. The fabric stores that previously sold mostly floral cottons for under $20 per yard are now carrying a wide assortment of textured fabrics that can easily run upward of $50 per yard, she says. However, dont let this scare you away from the higher-priced fabrics altogether. Williamson says you can mix and match certain fabrics to create a richer look. If your window treatments call for 10 yards of material, for example, he suggests using 6 yards of polyester with 4 yards of silk.

Before purchasing any fabric, try it out first. Always take a sample home, look at in the lighting, and see how it will look, Williamson says. Most stores should provide a free sample. But, he cautions, dont take too long to make a decision. Many of todays fabrics are produced in small amounts, so inventory turns over very quickly.

Fabric from Fabric & Fringe Warehouse

Take care
Once youve selected your preferred fabric, the next step is caring for it so it stays beautiful. Some fabrics already contain treatments. About 50 percent of all upholstery fabrics will have a treatment on them, Williamson says. However, this doesnt mean they are protected forever. Any treatment wears off with use, he says. He recommends retreating fabrics twice a year.

Also, there are many do-it-yourself products on the market for protecting fabric and upholstery, such as Scotchgard Protector, ForceField fabric protectors and DuPont Teflon fabric protector. However, take caution before spraying away. Be sure to read the directions and test the fabric before applying the spray, Varga says.

For regular upkeep, vacuum upholstered pieces and drapes. Many bed and kitchen linens, as well as table runners, tablecloths and other nonstationary items, can be machine washed and dried. However, be sure to check manufacturers labels for care instructions. Varga also cautions against taking items such as draperies and bedspreads to a dry cleaner. The fabric shrinks and the colors fade, she says. If the fabric must be cleaned, use a professional service that specializes in cleaning draperies and other fabric goods. They guarantee that the items cleaned by them will not shrink and/or fade.

When choosing and working with fabrics, the possibilities may seem endless, but dont get overwhelmed. Stay focused on the purpose of the piece and the look youre going for, and you may find yourself becoming quite materialistic!

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