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All about fabrics: A buyer’s guide to home textiles

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Fabrics make up such a big part of home décor, from sofas and chairs to headboards and bed linen to decorative items like cushions, throws and table runners. With Asian Paints launching three lines of furnishings, furniture and lighting – Ador, Nilaya and Royale – we delve deeper into common fabrics for the home, their uses along with styling and maintenance tips.

Popular fabrics used in home decor

These fabrics are made from natural fibre and usually come from animal or plant-based sources. The following are the most common natural fabrics used in home décor.

·       Cotton: It is a versatile and extensively used fabric that is the most popular choice for home furnishings. Available in a variety of weights, this fabric can range from budget-friendly to luxurious. Cotton is durable and drapes well. It is easy to clean at home – some items being machine washable – as well as being resistant to fading and pilling. However, it does tend to wrinkle and stain easily.

·       Silk: A luxurious option, silk imparts a rich, opulent look to a space. It is best used in formal spaces or for areas that are used sparingly. The expensive fabric needs to be treated with kid gloves since it is not stain-resistant and the fibres weaken over time when exposed to sunlight or moisture.

·       Linen: It is soft, comfortable and fairly resistant to fading and pilling. Breathable and lightweight, it also naturally resists bacteria making it a good option for those with allergies. Available in a variety of textures, it is a wonderful way to add an earthy aesthetic and visual interest to the space. It wrinkles easily and can shrink considerably, so it is recommended to have your linen textiles professionally cleaned.

·       Leather and suede: An extremely durable option, high-quality leather holds up well against wear and tear as well as stains. It comes in various textures, grain finishes and colour options. With proper care, good leather will last a very long time. With age, leather softens and develops its own unique character – just 

Living room with a sofa, cushions, and curtains

Synthetic fabrics tend to be stronger and more durable than 100% natural fabrics. Image courtesy, Ador Furnishings by Asian Paints

like an old pair of comfy jeans. Another type of leather, suede is softer with a velvety appearance. However, it stains easily and requires a lot of care.

·       Wool: Another highly durable option, wool is thicker, drapes well and is very versatile. It resists pilling and staining, making it a good option for high traffic areas and households with children and pets. However, be careful of getting your wool blankets or rug wet as it can develop an odour that is difficult to get rid of. 

These manmade fabrics are created using chemical processes and synthetic fibres like polyester, acrylic, nylon. Synthetic fabrics tend to be stronger and more durable than 100% natural fabrics. However, their production is detrimental to the environment.  Since they contain chemicals, they might also be harmful to kids or those with conditions like skin allergies. The most common synthetic fabrics are:

·       Polyester: The most popular fabric for home décor, it is very durable, soft and easy to clean. Usually, it is blended with natural or other
        synthetic fibres.

·       Olefin: Another petroleum-based synthetic material is Olefin which is commonly used for upholstery. Similar in appearance to wool, this
        durable material is a good option for heavily used furniture.

·       Rayon: It can imitate the look of different natural fabrics like silk, cotton and linen. It resists mildew but wrinkles easily.

·       Acrylic: This fabric, often used as imitation wool, is easy to clean and is relatively stain and fade-resistant.

·       Acetate: It imitates the look of silk and resists pilling, wrinkles, mildew and shrinking. It also stands up well to humidity. However, it does stain
        fairly easily.   

There are quite a few fabrics that are made from a blend of natural and synthetic fibres, imparting advantages of both to the material. Some popular options for home décor are:

·       Chenille: Chenille is made primarily of cotton fibres but can sometimes be blended with silk or wool as well as synthetic fibres like nylon,
        rayon and acrylic. It is extremely soft and a great option for items like chair upholstery, rugs, sofa throw or blankets. It has a soft drape and is
       durable, however, the woven material can shrink or stretch if not handled properly.   

·       Velvet: With a soft drape, this woven and tufted fabric imparts a subtle sheen and is perfect for rich, heavy window drapes. Traditionally, it is
        made from silk fibres but it can also be made from cotton, wool or linen and blended with nylon, polyester or rayon. This fabric requires a lot of
        care; it is recommended to have it professionally cleaned.

·       Wool and cotton blends: Both wool and cotton come in a wide variety of blends, usually with polyester and/or rayon fibres. These blends are
        stronger, easy to clean and resistant to fading, wrinkling, and wear and tear. While cotton is an advantageous fabric, more often than not, you
        will be looking at a cotton-polyester blend when it comes to home décor. Look at options that contain between 45% to 60% cotton fibres.

Plain vs patterned fabrics
Available in a variety of weights, plain fabrics have one solid colour. You can choose from different finishes like a flat, matte look to a soft sheen to a rich plush. There are also many self-textured varieties which lend visual interest to the solid colour.

Usually, there are four ways to incorporate patterns in or on to fabrics – hand-block or digital printing, embroidering, embossing and weaving. Jacquards, brocades and damask are a few examples of woven fabrics. With Ikat fabrics, the yarns are dyed prior to weaving to create the patterns. 

Upholstery vs drapery: Choosing the right fabric
While there are no hard and fast rules about which fabrics to use, certain features of the textile make it more suitable for various areas. Upholstery for heavy use areas like dining chairs, sofas and headboards need a fabric that is heavier and thicker to withstand daily use, accidental spills and wear and tear. Delicate fabrics like silk can be used on sofas but are better suited for those that aren’t used regularly. Medium-weight and sheer fabrics are more suited for drapery like curtains or decorative items like cushions.  Also, keep in mind the climatic conditions like humidity. Home with young children and/or pets would need heavy-duty and easy to clean fabrics for upholstery and drapery.  

Design and styling tips for home furnishings
       With so many colours, finishes and textures to choose from, first figure out what décor style works for you. Maximal and opulent surroundings
        work well with rich fabrics like velvets and silk while a rustic or organic look is better achieved with natural fabrics like linen.

·       If you are somebody who likes to constantly change the look of the room, a great way to do that is through colour. You could choose a muted
        or neutral shade for bigger and permanent features like sofas and headboards and change the smaller features like curtains, cushions, throws
        or table runners. Shades like beige and cool grey work well with both contrasting and complimenting colours, bold and subtle pastels, as well
        as plains and patterns.

·       When looking at patterned fabrics, especially those with running patterns, keep in mind the pattern repeat (distance between two identical
        patterns) and scale (the size of each pattern). These design guidelines will help you choose a pattern that works best for the particular item.
        Mixing different patterns is also a great way to bring in visual interest.

Tips for maintaining home furnishings
Read our detailed guide on easily cleaning fabric surfaces in your home here.

Asian Paints has recently launched its own collection of well-designed India-made furniture, furnishing and lighting at the right price. There is something for every taste of home, and you can write to us at editorial@beautifulhomesindia.com to request a catalogue.

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