Fabric choices for truly comfortable chairs

Today’s chairs come in a dizzying array of fabrics these days, from traditional natural fabrics such as cotton and leather to state-of-the-art synthetics that are highly resilient and even stain resistant.

For the average homeowner, figuring out which fabric is best for their living space can be difficult at best. Without understanding their unique properties, you could fall in love with a color or type of fabric that doesn’t match your usage, lifestyle or durability needs. Even the best fabric will start to look dowdy if it wasn’t intended for a lot of daily wear or roughhousing children.

Here’s an overview of the most common fabric choices for chairs:

Cotton ­ – A traditional choice, cotton resists wear well and won’t fade or pile easily. However, it has a tendency to wrinkle and soil so you will want to get a cotton blend or a stain resistant finish applied to it to reduce the chance of it staining. The durability of the cotton fabric depends largely on the weave and finish. As such, you’ll want to think about your lifestyle to determine whether you want to go with something that’s more formal, such as a damask, or a more informal weave such as duck or sailcloth.

Cotton Blend ­– Cotton blends are more durable than 100% cotton and are great for families. Again, you’ll want to get a stain-resistant finish for the fabric if you want a comfortable chair that will stand up to lots of use and abuse.

Leather ­– Leather isn’t for everyone, but it is still the best material around from the standpoint of luxuriousness, toughness, and style. One of the great things about leather is that it improves with age, gaining its own unique character and becoming softer. It’s very easy to maintain and will keep looking like new for years.

Linen – Linen is a great look, but it’s best for homes that don’t have any children as it does wrinkle and stain pretty easily. It’s also more delicate; so it won’t stand up to heavy wear. If it does require cleaning, it needs to be done by a professional so it doesn’t shrink.

Silk – Easily one of the most luxurious of fabrics and looks. It should only be used in formal spaces in the home since it can be damaged quite easily during everyday use. Like linen, it needs to be professionally cleaned.

Wool – Wool is a great fabric for chairs, especially when it’s a wool blend where synthetic fibers have been added for easier cleaning. Wool won’t pile, fade, wrinkle or soil and it breathes, so the chair won’t feel as hot to the touch as some other materials, such as pure synthetics.

Microfiber – Made of polyester fibers that are very fine, microfiber fabric gives the chair a suede-like appearance. It is an excellent value, easy to clean and very durable.

Vinyl – Usually used on children’s chairs and dining room or bistro chairs, vinyl can almost look like real leather but is much less expensive and easier to care for. It is great for the family room and kid’s rooms since a wet soapy sponge can quickly pick up any spills and vinyl doesn’t stain easily.

As you consider different fabrics, you may begin to notice that they are graded. These grades don’t relate to how durable a fabric is or indicate its quality. It simply denotes how intricate the weave is, the construction, the fiber content, etc. An “A” grade denotes a less expensive fabric to manufacture while “F” marks a more expensive fabric.

The most important thing to remember when looking for fabrics for your comfortable chairs is matching your lifestyle to the fabric’s durability, quality, and ease of maintenance. You want to choose a fabric that will hold up to everyday wear in your home and not pill, fade or start to thin prematurely. Most of all, you don’t want to choose a fabric for its fashion, but for its ability to stand up to your needs.