Shopping for fabric can be an overwhelming task. Even if you already know the color scheme you want, deciding on a pattern can be the trickiest part.
If you’ve decided to reupholster a piece or furniture, the last thing you want is to waste time and money choosing a pattern that doesn’t work.
Today I’m going to walk you through my thought process of how to pick the best fabric pattern for upholstery. Notice I didn’t say “fabric”, just the pattern. (I’l have a post on fabric type coming soon.)
A FURNITURE MAKEOVER STORY
The star of this post is my latest DIY upholstery project…a bench plucked from flea market obscurity that landed in my living room.
You might have seen my post on Instagram the day I discovered this diamond in the rough…There she was just sitting there forlorn and disheveled. Her previous owner had painted her maroon and then dressed her in a cheap oatmeal colored canvas.
She was NOT living up to her full potential.
I spotted her down the aisle of that musty smelling flea market, and our eyes met. She seemed to call out, “Rescue me. Please. I’m better than this.”
And I knew she was.
I had big plans for her. I dusted her off and swung her over my shoulder. (Well, actually Stu did that part.)
I took her home and let her hang out in the living room for a bit until I finalized my plans.
THE MAKEOVER PLAN
1. Paint Job:
I knew she would get a coat of gold spray paint. Those curves just deserved to get a metallic finish.
I had my heart set on a black and white fabric. I tend to change up accent colors often, but black and white is forever and ever my favorite color (or lack of color) combo.
The question I had to answer was what pattern. Walking into the fabric store I knew that I was only looking for black and white fabric, so this helped me narrow it down…to only 2,038 choices. No joke.
I decided to pull any fabric that jumped out at me, which totaled 11. I narrowed it down to the top 5 fabrics and bought samples to live with for a couple days. Here’s the final five…
WHY THE RUNNERS UP DID NOT WORK:
1. Bold & Modern:
I love this fabric. It’s bold and unique and has almost a 19060’s vibe about it. The problem is that it too closely imitated the lines of the metal arms of the bench. I felt instead of complementing the shape of the bench, it would instead compete with it. No beuno.
2. Global Herringbone:
I sent out a little poll this weekend on Instagram, and most everyone picked this one. (Sorry guys.) While I love this print, I actually think it makes a better throw pillow than bench fabric. Ultimately I felt like the pattern didn’t work with the fabrics already in the room. It seemed to be the a bit too casual for the formal living room.
3. Geometric Cheetah:
I’ve never really been an animal print fan, but something about this pattern was so intriguing. I could tell that a more organic pattern like this would look nice on the bench. I was getting closer, but it wasn’t quite right…
4. Classic Stripe:
Honestly I originally thought this stripe would win in the end. It’s my pattern of choice. To wear, to decorate with, anything. Love a good stripe, and black and white is the best kind. But the longer I sat with that fabric sample, I felt like it was just a little too predictable for me…I was in the mood to experiment. The stripe was a safe bet, but not a pattern that excited me.
WHY THE “TINY CHEETAH” WAS MY BEST BET…
Quite frankly by itself, this fabric was not my favorite. On the bench however I could see it’s beauty. Here’s why…
1. The delicate pattern matched the feminine feeling of the metal work and the gold color I would be using.
2. The tiny cheetah print adds a bit of texture that the runner up fabrics just didn’t have.
3. The small scale print is nice as it doesn’t compete with other patterns I already have in the room like my rug and black and white throw pillows.
4. This just felt fun. I’ve never used animal print in my house, so this was a risk that paid off in the end.
This little bench has a new lease on life. Not only is she pretty, but a certain two year old has taken quite the liking to her. This window happens to be the best spot for spotting squirrels, a daily activity in our house accompanied by lots of squeals and giggles.
IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING TO PICK A PATTERN
1. Consider the other patterns already in the room. You want a nice variety of sizes and shapes.
2. Take into account the shape of the furniture itself. The pattern should complement, but not compete with it.
3. Ask yourself what you hope this pattern will achieve in the space:
-Add texture? (Opt for a small scale pattern.)
–Add a bold shot of color? (Maybe a bright solid is a good choice.)
-Add drama? (Go for a large scale pattern.)
-Add whimsy? (Choose something with a circular, organic pattern.)
-Add formality? (Pick a classic pattern like a stripe, herringbone, houndstooth, or plaid.)
4. The size and price of the piece should dictate your risk on picking a pattern.
Small piece? You can take risks outside your comfort zone and even choose a bold color or pattern you might not have considered before. Try out a trendy pattern you’ve had your eye on. If you don’t love it in a couple years, you won’t have wasted to much.
Large piece? This is the time to make sure you will be ok to live with this fabric for a while. The investment of fabric and the reupholstery deserves a more conservative approach.
5. Take advantage of shopping for upholstery fabrics online and browse through thousands of available patterns and types of fabrics. You will also find a fabric calculator and upholstery tips to help you make the right decision.
Ok, let’s hear it for the bench…Isn’t she a superstar?
Awesome choice and great post Heather. My mind went immediately to the 60s vibe geometric and the classic stripe, but the tiny cheetah def looks amazing and i see why you chose it. Love a good furniture rescue
The 60’s fabric is FUN. I might just have to make a pillow for my office chair with it…
Beth of designPOST interiors says
Great post and great pick! Any idea who makes that fabric?
No idea who makes the fabric, Beth. It was at my local bargain fabric shop. ($10 a yard!!) I’ve got a 40″ x 30″ remnant piece I can slip in the mail if you’d like it:)
I would love to buy the remnant if you still have it!
I do have it, and I’m emailing you now, Lindsay.
rebecca duffy says
I love your living room – I have a similar leopard bench which I love…Can you let me know where you sourced the floral/grape fabric from…or the pillow? I love it with the animal print and I think the print is lovely! Thanks – I’m enjoying your blog and design comments – Rebecca
Thanks, Rebecca! It’s one of my favorite fabrics of all time, Designer Guild Orangerie. I’d say it even looks better in person than in pictures. If you do a search on Etsy for the fabric name, you’ll still see it in a few shops. West End Accents has some up right now.
LOVE the bench! Now I want cheetah in my bedroom 😉
so fantastic, and priceless advice as well! the perfect post.
I know I’m a year behind here but can you tell me what paint you used? I have a very similar bench that’s been hiding in my shed that I’ve wanted to spray paint gold for a while now. I actually went to buy the paint last weekend and couldn’t decided between the many gold options. Yours is the look I want.
Hi Cindy! I used the Krylon 18 karat gold spray paint. It’s my fav:) Best of luck on your paint project.
Cindy Tesler says
I agree that shopping for fabric can be overwhelming. You also said that you pulled any fabric that jumps out at you and then go from there. I think it’s a good idea to choose a fabric that is durable and will last through lots of wear.
Zequek Estrada says
Heather, matching color schemes is something I struggle with, so I thought this was helpful. A friend of mine once suggested getting fabric swatch cards to help with the matching process. I’m beginning to think that maybe doing that combined with those four tips for picking patterned would be helpful. Hopefully, my bench ends up as cute as yours.
Bernard Clyde says
I appreciate you showing us a personal experience with trying to find the right kind of fabric and design for you furniture. I think it’s important to keep in mind how a certain type of pattern will look on a specific fabric. These two things can affect how the furniture will look when paired together, especially depending on the shape of your furniture.
Nathan Johnson says
A new sofa or armchair is a big investment—you don’t want to be second-guessing it a few months after it arrives on your doorstep. Choose the wrong material and you’ll find yourself battling snags and stains. Make a mistake on the color or pattern, and the whole room suffers (or you’ll wind up splurging to have the piece reupholstered).
Hollywood upholstery says
When it comes to upholstered furniture, nothing is more important than the type of fabric that is chosen to cover it. In short, upholstery fabric makes a direct statement about a home and its owners in the way few other decorating choices can. The decisions that enter into choosing a fabric with the right style, durability and feel can be overwhelming, but it helps to know what questions to ask in order to ease the process. With so many fabric types to choose from including cloth, leather and high-end synthetics, along with patterns, solids and prints, customers should consider basic decorating and shopping questions, followed by the differences between the many fabric types.
Nice post on picking fabric pattern. Thanks for your tips . I will try these valuable tips soon.