performance fabric

Photo Courtesy: Revolution

As interior designers, we see a lot of fabric and furniture. While selecting these materials for a home may seem easy, a lot of thought goes into the process. While we may like the look of a particular fabric, we encourage our clients to also consider textiles based on how they feel in hand. There is no substitute for touching a fabric and then envisioning how it’d be used. We guide homeowners on the different types of fabric and their appropriate usage. Some fabrics are better suited for window treatments while others are better for furniture. Let’s explore the power of performance fabrics in home décor.

Performance fabric is the industry term referring to textiles that offer greater durability than traditional alternatives and are stain-resistant. Light soil can typically be blotted off with a washcloth and water. Tougher dirt can be removed with household cleaner. Initially, these fabrics were introduced for outdoor use so that items like seat cushions could remain outside and withstand the elements. Sun exposure can cause fading and abrasion of regular fabrics. Rain can lead to mildew and overall wear. Certain threads are prone to sturdiness and a chemical coating can also be applied to the fabric to provide additional protection.

In the United States, fabric durability is tested using the Wyzenbeek Method, which involves a heavy canvas being rubbed over the test fabric using a mechanical arm. Each time the arm completes a back-and-forth motion over the fabric a “double rub” is counted. According to the, “approximately 3,000 double rubs is equal to one year of use. Fabrics that can withstand more double rubs will offer more durability and longer-lasting performance.”

As you might imagine, there’s quite a range on durability. shared the following ranges.

“In homes, here is the breakdown:

  • Delicate duty – Under 3,000 double rubs. Suitable for pillows and curtains.
  • Light duty – 3,000-9,000 double rubs. Suitable for use on occasional use furniture
  • Medium duty – 9,000-15,000 double rubs. Suitable for daily use furniture.
  • Heavy duty – 15,000+ double rubs. Suitable for the family sofa in the living room.

In commercial projects:

  • Contract Grade upholstery fabric – 15,000-20,000 double rubs. Use in office building offices, business waiting rooms and lobbies.
  • Heavy duty – Up to 30,000 double rubs. Suitable for business traffic such as hotel rooms, conference rooms and dining areas.
  • Extra heavy duty – Over 30,000 double rubs. Heavy traffic areas including airport terminals, hospital waiting rooms, fast food restaurants, and entertainment facilities like bars, stadiums and theaters.”

With the above ranges in mind, let’s examine how performance fabrics can be effectively used. Outdoors, these durable cloths are ideal for seat cushions, coordinating pillows and even umbrellas. Yes, this means you won’t need to replace your faded patio umbrella annually since vendors such as Sunbrella offer a 5-year limited warranty for upholstery, decorative shade fabrics and specialty fabrics, and a 10-year limited warranty* for shade and marine fabrics.

performance fabrics on patio umbrellas

Photo Courtesy: Sunbrella

Below is an example of a client’s backyard where we created a polished look with lounge cushions using Sunbrella performance fabrics. We could easily add an umbrella stand between the two lounge chairs and incorporate a pop of color featuring one of the stylish fabric options that Sunbrella offers. Different styles of seating also allow for decorative throw pillows that provide extra comfort and support for your guests. For more outdoor ideas like these, read “Back Yard Updates that Extend Your Living Areas.”

The resilience of performance fabrics has led to its use inside as well. Children and pets can be hard on furniture, so we often incorporate the stronger fabric in their homes—from sofas to breakfast nooks. For some families, we even recommend reupholstering dining room chairs with one of these stain-resistance fabrics. Wiping food off a seat cushion is a snap.

performance fabrics in lounge chairs

Décor by Pamela Hope Designs

In one family’s breakfast area, we created (below) custom seating with a wipeable fabric from Kravet. This bench seating is comfortable, adds space to the area and is easy to maintain. Not only can messes be easily cleaned up, the client didn’t have to sacrifice good looks. Don’t you love the vibrant teal?

performance fabrics in the kitchen

Décor by Pamela Hope Designs

In commercial spaces, we frequently install performance fabrics in areas with a lot of traffic such as lobbies. These areas are often used by people who don’t necessarily have an interest in picking up after themselves, so spills and discarded trash often end up impacting fabrics over time. With so many fabric options, we can create a professional look that can withstand a lot of use or abuse as the case may be. These areas are still open and welcoming They are just designed differently so that they can stand up to regular use from the general public.

If you’re interested in incorporating performance fabrics into your home or office, contact Pamela Hope Designs. We’ll create a refreshed yet durable look that you’ll love and that lasts.

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