One Yard Wonders: Finding and Using Designer Upholstery Fabrics that Make a Statement
Why can’t I find the designer fabric by the yard that I’m looking for? Why does everything look the same? Interior designer Kellie Smith and artist/travel connoisseur Melanie Hönig felt the same way! So they began creating what they couldn’t find. Along they way, they created an entire home decor line featuring bold, colorful and unique designs.
Designer fabric can be used to make table linens, runners, drapery panels, and easy or ambitious upholstery projects. Designer upholstery fabrics – when they feature the drama, scale and color palette you envision – can satisfy the desires of almost anyone looking to make an impact with fabric.
Here are some of our favorite designer fabrics…
The Ravenswood Collection of designer fabric was inspired by eccentric English country houses, which sometimes feature chinoiserie wallpaper or tapestries on their ancient walls. This patter is a bit more playful. The raven is quintessentially English – with a fun rural flare. The fabric is a cotton linen blend and comes in two color ways with multiple coordinates.
Next up is Vintage Gypsum, a bold designer fabric inspired by peeling plaster and paint. We love the contrast of this edgy pattern on a classic chair.
SmithHönig’s Shibori pattern series is both a riff on traditional Japanese tie-dye and a sophisticated take on boho chic and the Summer of Love.
Textiles have been used by many civilizations of the world to define a culture, way of life, or ideas about beauty.
Traditional shibori-making is a beautiful but time consuming technique that can never be 100% repeatable. That’s what makes it so special, and we love that about it!
But if you’re tackling a home decor project that needs yards and yards of fabric, you’ll probably turn to designer fabrics instead. SmithHönig’s take on shibori comes in a traditional indigo color as well as several less traditional – and is professionally tested for durability and colorfastness.
When upholstering a couch, making drapes or creating colorful table linens, you’ll probably want something less precious than handmade, handwoven or hand-dyed fabrics. That’s where designer fabrics come in.
The Statement Maker
Placement fabrics – or fabrics with a large repeating design – are a great way to add drama to a space. One of our favorites is called Ashes of Roses, shown here in the Flame color way.
This gorgeous fabric is actually a digitally-exploded floral, inspired by heirloom roses in SmithHönig co-founder Melanie Hönig’s garden. The abstract “stripe” and surrounding aqua field are large enough to allow for interesting placements on chair backs, benches or elsewhere.
Just check out the traditional but fabulous space, below, with its layered pattern and color. As you can see, Ashes of Roses/Flame coordinates beautifully with Ravenswood.
Ashes of Roses also comes in a pink and burgundy color way, which looks great centered in this upholstered chair.
Modern Techniques Inspired by the Past
A popular example of the appliqué technique is African Kuba, which is made up of many small pieces of raffia or other fabric, sewn onto a base to create a pattern. Appliquéd fabric is also an important art form in certain places such as in Benin, Abomey, and the kingdom of Danhomè.
SmithHönig’s Bakuba Lodge fabric was inspired by these appliqué techniques, but offers a durable, repeated pattern making it ideal for upholstery, draperies or more. Here’s Bakuba Lodge on a small vintage loveseat…
And here, the same fabric is used to make an evocative and colorful table cloth for a wedding banquet. One of the most attractive aspects of Bakuba Lodge is its watercolor-like palette that includes shades of green, orange, lavender and gold, meaning it coordinates with any number of color schemes.
Floral Designer Fabric
Are you a sucker for florals? We love this moody floral pattern called Bryony Storm, inspired by English rain and fog. It comes in two color ways that are also available as wallpaper.
Here’s Bryony Storm in the Noir color palette. The fabric is available in both a cotton/linen blend and a shimmer velvet.
And here’s the same pattern, in it’s quieter, moodier color way, used to create a bedskirt and pillow shams in a modern but classic bedroom.
The Signature Pattern
One of SmithHönig’s most iconic fabrics is their Moroccan Knot motif, featuring a Moorish pattern and a totally fresh and modern color palette.
We love how this one looks on the table, whether as handmade placemats and napkins, or an entire tablecloth.
Trims and Tassels
Trims like ribbons, braids, and tassels are often used to add personality to designer fabrics and the spaces they live in.
SmithHönig is known for their unofficial motto, “put a tassel on it”. They offer coordinating trim and tassels in a variety of sizes and styles, including curtain tiebacks, beaded accent tassels and jute tassel trim which looks amazing when used on window treatments.
Whether you’re a home décor aficionado, a DIYer, or are working with a designer then SmithHönig’s totally unique fabric by the yard along with coordinating pillows, trim and wallpaper may be just what you are looking for. Click through to view all of the currently available patterns. (The design duo adds new patterns several times a year.)
Need an Alternative? Try Fabric Painting
Not really up to tackling an entire upholstery project right now, no matter how beautiful the pattern? Did you know that you can paint fabric?
The yellow couch in the first photo below was painted by SmithHönig co-founder and interior designer Kellie Smith, using Velvet Finishes Bold. She used one and a half 32 oz containers on this huge mid-century sofa. The fabric has dried to a soft velvety finish. The fabric on a chair, on the other side, is given patterns by using the specially formulated Velvet Finishes paint over a stencil.
Can’t Get Enough Thread? Read on, oh Fabric Lover!
Fabric: A (Very) Brief History
Felt from wool is one of the oldest known textiles, so the oldest known technique of creating fabrics is called felting. Cultures around the world have their own unique techniques for creating textiles, from cultivating silk worms to weaving small handheld looms, like the away looms of Peru. Each region has its own patterns and processes, handed down for generations.
Coloring textiles is also as ancient as the textiles themselves. Some early examples, like shibori, involve dyeing with plant extracts like indigo, while in other places, tea, insects and other materials were used to create dyes.
At the end of the 19th century, the first synthetic fibers were made and the discovery of nylon and polyester followed in the 20th century. Today, synthetic fibers are still being invented. However, the large majority of designer fabrics are still created from natural materials, the most popular of which are silk, wool, linen and of course, cotton.
If you want to know more fabric manipulation techniques, you can check out this comprehensive post for adding texture in fabrics. Whatever your preference for fabric design, it is clear that creations are only limited by your imagination. You can combine, mix and match– whatever you want to do in whichever way.