Finding the Right Fabric to Make it Fabulous! An upholstery and fabric field guide...

Real Estate Agent with HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 RS-76763


Smoke Chair by Moooi

When merchandising a property for sale, especially high end residences, fabric can play a very important role in establishing a sense of opulence and grandeur; allowing buyers to picture themselves at home in your Real Estate for sale. The tactile and visual elements of upholstery found in sofas, chairs, wall coverings, and drapery can transform a ho-hum interior space into an elegant, warm, and inviting womb that buyers are loath to leave. Surprisingly fabric selection is probably the most difficult element to master when it comes to interior decor, this is largely do to the staggering selection of fabrics available in today's marketplace. Having too many options to choose from usually compromises the confidence level of consumers as they scour the seemingly infinite selection of swatches and product samples. The end result is usually a very safe and predictable choice that underwhelms potential buyers and looks like it was designed by Ebenezer SNOOZE, both cheap and boring! 


So where does one begin to grapple with the enormity of  picking THE perfect fabric for your upholstery project? The best place to start is to familiarize oneself with the traditional fabrics that have come to embody "high style" and meticulous taste. In this post I have compiled a list of Old School design fabrics that define Old World elegance, attention to detail, and luxury. These upholstery fabrics are used in traditional, transitional, eclectic and contemporary design styles. Finding contemporary versions of these classic materials can save you big bucks while maintaining the classic style cues high-end buyers are expecting. If your gung-ho for the "pricey" versions expect to pay over $200 a yard. Turn Key multi-million dollar residences will demand such materials so be prepared to spend a considerable amount on fabrics.  


Being meticulous when it comes to upholstery selection takes an eye for color, pattern, and texture. Mastering the fabric selection process takes some practice and the best place to start familiarizing oneself with the process is to understand what fabrics are available in today's market; how they were made in the past; and how technology has made them more affordable in the present. It is also important to distinguish between actual fabrics and designer styles, which can be confusing. TheFrench for many years dominated the cloth trade, establishing classic design styles and luxurious textile standards that define the world of fabric today. Below is a selection of some of the most popular upholstery fabrics found in the French tradition.





Matelassé: (mat-la-say)

Means hand “quilted,” or “padded”. The fabric design is meant to mimic the style of hand-stitched quilts endemic to Provence, in Southern France. Matelassé fabric can be either hand-stitched to create the decorative features of the fabric, or woven on a Jaquard loom  for theappearance of quilting. Matelassé is designed to feel thick and substantial like a padded quilt but actually has no padding added. 




Acanthus Scroll Damask


Damasks: (dah-mask)

Are found in a variety of textile's often utilized in wallpaper, drapes, and upholstery. Classic Damask is traditionally made from silk, however in modern times the term is now used to describe bold cut out patterning irregardless of the style of weaving or material used. Damask is easily recognized as abackground of silky fabric against which a raised, often matte, design appears. The Damask Style can be found in all sorts of accessories and non fabric items and is very popular in contemporary trends, such as Hollywood regency. This Damask has a stylized Acanthus motif.





Scalamandre Jacquard


Jacquard: (jah-card) 

Refers to fabrics woven on a mechanical loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the early 19th century. Designed to streamline and accelerate the production process for manufacturing complex textiles like Matelassé, Damask, and Brocades. The loom is an ancestor of the modern day computer as it’s technology utilized punch cards with patterned holes, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and the many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order. Jacquard is a type of fabric and not a style.




Crewel Emroidered Fabric




Crewel: (cru-elle)

Is a style of embroidery that is characterized by lightly stenciled patterns on fabric that are then embroidered over. Multitudes ofstitches are then used to create elaborate patterning that in the past took a staggering amount of man-hours to accomplish. Today modern technology has virtually eliminated the time consumption and consequently the cost associated with the fabric.



Tropical Toile Sample


Is commonly known as muslin in the United States and is a fabric made from linen and canvas. and refers to the cloth itself. It is usually mistaken for the term Toile de Jouy, which is commonly abbreviated as "toile" resulting in the confusion. This toile refers to a style of decorative patterning consisting of a background of white or off-white on which a pattern, generally of a pastoral print, is evenly repeated through out the fabric. Traditionally the print pattern consists of a single color, usually black, green, gray, or red, however, modern toiles come in a variety of colors and subjects.





Brocade Sample

Brocade: (bro-kaid)

This richly textured fabric is made from lustrous silks and often employs gold and silver threads. Brocade embellished details are designed to appear as embroidered additions to the fabric, giving it a substantial appearance of bas relief, characterized by it’s weight and thickness.



Finding the Right Fabric to Make it Fabulous! An upholstery and fabric field guide...



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HI Pro Realty LLC - REALTORS®, PROPERTY MANAGERS® is a boutique brokerage firm offering responsive, dedicated, and professional Real Estate Sales and Management Services in Honolulu, Hawai'i. 


    Office: (808) 941-8866    Mobile: (808) 926-7667





Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Tori Toth 01/21/2011 07:54 AM
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Cathy Lee
CL Design Services Home Staging - Danville, CA

Huge fan of Damasks and Crewels! Beautiful and informative post Kimo. Mahalo!

Jan 08, 2011 11:38 AM #1
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Aloha Kimo- and so happy to see a post from you.  I love Matelasse and have it on my own bed.  I have also bookmarked this to save .  Thank you for educating us about fabrics.  Write more!!!!

Jan 08, 2011 12:16 PM #2
Debra Davis
Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners - Snellville, GA
Realtor - Atlanta, Decatur, Snellville, Loganville

Great tutorial on fabrics. I love rich fabrics like jacquard and crewel. Thanks for sharing the information.

Jan 08, 2011 12:24 PM #3
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Kimo..aloha.  I am an affirmed fabricaholic so I loved this post.  Great information!  Most of my staging, redesign and design jobs have fabric as the inspiration piece.  When we're traveling, near and far, hubby has to be prepared to STOP THE CAR because I see a fabric store.  My carry on, when we returned from China was stuffed with fabric and if I go back those stores are where I would spend my time and my money.  Thanks for sharing. 

Jan 08, 2011 01:18 PM #4
Michelle Finnamore
Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

HI Kimo, very timely tutorial for me. I will bookmark this for future reference. I grew up in Australia and they had a great system then. You were taught to sew by hand from grade 3 through 6. It is there that I learned to sew in a zipper by hand, make buttonholes by hand, create large embroidered table cloths and full aprons. I look back on it now and wonder how little girls accomplished so much!

I too start each project by sourcing the fabric for the jumping off point in the design process. Im a lot like Ginger. I can get lost in a fabric store for hours looking at all the patterns.

Jan 10, 2011 01:26 AM #5
Kimo Stowell
HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 - Honolulu, HI
REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i

Aloha Cathy, I often use damasks in my designs as it works very well in most design styles. Crewel upholstery is very impressive to look at and touch and carries a sense of nostalgia for me personally as my great grandmother had some beautiful pieces.

Aloha Kathy, I too have a matelasse bead spread and love to use them in staging because there's no need for ironing them. 

Aloha Debra, Thanks for commenting. Jacquards allow for a very complicated pattern weave at a fraction of the cost which makes them cost effective versions of typically very expensive fabrics, which I love!

Aloha Ginger, Fabric makes a great inspiration piece for design projects! Check out Shanghai Tang Imperial Tailoring, some of the most luxurious fabrics I have ever seen, touched.

Aloha Michelle, Thanks for sharing! I learned rudimentary hand sewing in grade school which I think is a very valuable skill but it sounds like your schooling wisely incorporated more techniques. 

Jan 10, 2011 07:37 AM #6
Karen Dembsky
Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA - Peachtree City, GA
Atlanta Home Staging

Aloha Kimo!  great educational piece!  thx for sharing -- I will book mark.  I, too, am guilty of coming home from travels carrying back fabric!

Jan 12, 2011 01:50 AM #7
Steven Nickens
Elite Pacific Properties Maui - Wailea, HI
R(S)GRI ABR, Maui Real Estate Hawaii

What's up Kimo,

I use to work in the interior business. Still have accounts with PHF and a few other Honolulu companies. I was just in Honolulu last week end. Nice article keep up the good work.

Jan 12, 2011 06:25 AM #8
Kimo Stowell
HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 - Honolulu, HI
REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i

Aloha Karen, thanks for visiting it's been too long! Hope all is well with you considering all the nasty weather you've been having.

Aloha Steven, hows-it? I saw all the flooding Maui received in the last storm on the news. I hope you escaped it. Peace!

Jan 14, 2011 07:42 AM #9
Tori Toth
Tori Toth, International - Howard Beach, NY
888.667.6643 NYC & Beyond, HSR, SAR, RESA, LIBOR

the matalasse looks cool, i just bookmarked this great information i'm going to reblog this too!

Jan 21, 2011 07:52 AM #10
Kimo Stowell
HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 - Honolulu, HI
REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i
Aloha Tori, thanks for re-Blog.
Jan 22, 2011 07:36 AM #11
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REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i
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