Finding Fabrics to Fit Your Lifestyle

Upholstery Choice Pros & Cons

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As a residential home stager, I meet a lot of people who are in the process of moving. Young couples buying homes to start their families; families downsizing once the children move out; or blending families to create a new one. More often than not, I’m asked to help because the furniture from the previous home doesn’t fit in the new one. And so, we begin the process of finding new pieces that will fit the design, size or style of their new home.

In helping clients select a piece of furniture I ask about their lifestyle as much as their design style. It’s easy to fall in love with the white sofa in a catalog but that seating doesn’t always fit well with their lifestyle (you got it… enter kids and pets!).

Furniture can be a significant investment, so making the right decision starts with knowing your options. Helping clients choose the right type of upholstery is an important part of the design process. Below are some of my favorite upholstery options, with pros and cons of each:

  • Linen: If there’s one fabric that defines Santa Barbara’s relaxed, coastal look, it’s linen. Linen is one of my favorite fabrics for its natural texture and premium feel, and it’s also hypoallergenic making it a great choice for bedroom and living room furniture. The weave of linen holds stains more easily than some of the other options mentioned here. If you’re going to purchase an upholstered bed, sofa, or chair, look for performance linen which is stain-repellent and easier to clean that non-performance linen. In general, linen isn’t always the best choice for pieces that will get heavy use.
  • Crypton: Whereas I try to stay away from recommending specific brands in my column, special mention should be made to Crypton fabric. It’s a stain-resistant performance fabric that is great for kid and pet-friendly homes. Rather than soaking in, most spills roll right off Crypton fabric. The material repels pretty much every type of liquid — including oil-based ones. Many major retailers offer Crypton fabrics as an option, so keep an eye out for this line of impressive fabrics. It’s my go-to for white sofas!
  • Leather: is a great option for family or pet-friendly spaces. Leather furniture tends to work well in most spaces, plus it ages well and wiping off spills or most stains is easy. Leather does scratch, which is either part of its charm or a loathsome characteristic depending on your preference. There are many vegan and faux leather options available now, though some feel very plasticky and others are quite soft and a good alternative to natural leather. Get a swatch first before ordering a custom piece to ensure the quality of the fabric is up to your standard.
  • Velvet: Although velvet is typically known as a more elevated fabric, it is also surprisingly durable! Because of its texture, velvet has a way of disguising imperfections, making it a good choice for family living spaces. Believe it or not, velvet is one of my go-to fabrics when designing short-term rental properties. I love using velvet to add an extra layer of texture, whether in an accent chair or an entire sofa.

Christine Cowles is owner of Styled & Staged Santa Barbara, offering home staging and interior styling services. She is a certified Staging Design Professional™, member of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Real Estate Staging Association, and a proud WEV graduate. She can be reached at

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