Interior Design

Velvet is our upholstery fabric of choice – take this masterclass in how to use it

Designers of velvet furniture and fabrics, British fabric brand Linwood share their design expertise

Velvet sofa: Velvet furniture
(Image credit: Linwood)

As designers of distinctive velvet collections for more than 25 years, we were delighted to be asked by H&G to create this essential guide to using velvet. 

Few fabrics are so revered that they’ve found their own place in the English language. Yet describe someone’s skin as ‘velvety’ and immediately a luxurious, sensuous softness springs to mind, so evocative are its qualities. As a result, there is a depth and richness that only velvet can bring, keeping it safe from the vagaries of fashion and ensuring its role as a staple of elegant interior design.

See: 5 key textile trends for Spring/Summer 2021 – from world-class textile designers

Is velvet furniture in style?

Velvet furniture

(Image credit: Linwood)

Velvet furniture never goes out of style.

Other sofas can be beautiful, eye catching and refined, but only a simple plain velvet sofa has that particular design swagger; a sense of luxury and indulgence that makes it seem the most important piece in a room. Maybe it’s because velvet has thousands of years of history or simply the sheer sensory plushness the unique pile delivers, but for all the velvet trends that come and go a velvet sofa is a lifetime investment that will outlast them all.

Tip: Pairing a plain velvet sofa with a statement chair can deliver an instant design win. 

Is velvet good for upholstery?

Velvet cushions: velvet furniture

(Image credit: Linwood)

Velvet is perfect for upholstery. It can be manufactured in various ways. The first velvets were made from natural fiber, such as linen, mohair, cotton and silk. With the advent of synthetics such as polyester, nylon and viscose, most modern velvets tend to be a blend of both. 

These combinations offer superior softness, sheen and durability making them ideal for busy family homes. As an upholstery fabric, velvet offers a huge design punch. Yet for all its personality, it can be incredibly adaptable – acting as daring or demure as you are.

Velvet sofa

(Image credit: Linwood)

Velvet is exceptional in its presence and effect in a larger scheme. A scattering of velvet cushions on a linen sofa adds instant depth, contrasting to the muted surface of other fabrics. Play around with design ideas – patterned velvet looks stunning with acid bright piping or choose a plain with a clashing back. Whichever combination you choose, we guarantee that velvet cushions offer a truly tactile experience.

  • See: Take note – velvet furniture is the latest trend Hollywood homes are embracing

Is velvet good for dining chairs?

Velvet chair

(Image credit: Linwood)

Once unthinkable, the chicest dining chairs are now wearing velvet, as hardwearing blends mean velvet is usable in every scenario. For a kitchen banquette, that goes from day to night, use plain velvet in a rich tone with a scattering of mismatched cushions. Comfort, fun and practicality combined.

Tip: Make sure the velvet you pick is stain resistant, so light spillages can usually be removed with a soft cloth.

How do you decorate with velvet?

Velvet sofa

(Image credit: Linwood)

Breathing new life to a classic is an ideal way to hit two decorating trends at once – sustainability and sensuality. Consider a modernist gold velvet sofa, giving sleek lines a luxe edge, or a velvet chesterfield sofa with a bold printed design. The best style use of a reinvented vintage velvet sofa is to enhance the beauty of both the velvet and the era of the furniture, achieved by creating a juxtaposition of their inherent qualities. 

Consider which fabrics will flatter the shape best or history of the piece. Whichever style you choose, rest assured that velvet has the ability to make pattern and colour sing like no other material.

Tip: A two-seater velvet sofa is a great opportunity to go wild. The scale of these pieces lends itself to a dramatic approach, as they aren’t so big that they will overwhelm a room but they are large enough to make a visual impact.

Are velvet drapes in style?

Velvet curtains

(Image credit: Linwood)

Printed velvet curtains are in style, and a wonderful way to add instant pattern. There are an array of designs available, from pretty florals and classic toiles to vibrant tropical designs full of colour and the promise of far off lands. For an interesting look, mix velvets with natural linens and cottons; a clever trick is to frame your chosen print by adding a band of plain fabric. 

Velvet is a heavy fabric, so it keeps out the cold which is useful for old windows and it blocks out light, providing extra privacy and the perfect environment to sleep. So, not only is velvet beautiful it’s practical as well.

Tip: Don’t buy too much fabric for your curtains… they should simply merge into the overall room, creating a feeling of being hardly there but also adding a gentle softness that’s hard to define but just makes the room feel more inviting.

Are velvet sofas hard to keep clean?

Velvet sofa

(Image credit: Linwood)

Velvet sofas are easy to keep clean. As far as spills are concerned, velvet treated with stain repellents are cleaned by simple blotting. Choosing velvet upholstery with w maximalist pattern will also extend its life.

More, more and then add a little more; the effect of adding pattern on pattern is strangely restful. A great way to add some audacious pattern is with slightly indulgent pieces of furniture such as ottomans and footstools. For extra impact, try a small repeat printed velvet upholstery fabric on a low vintage nursing chair or even a lampshade. This isn’t for the design faint-hearted, but a huge design win for the brave.

Are velvet headboards a good idea?

Velvet furniture

(Image credit: Linwood)

A simple velvet headboard or antique buttoned bedhead in a fresh new color or pattern can add a low-key luxurious dimension. A velvet headboard adds an especially cocooning feel to a scheme as it’s likely to come in contact with the skin and add to the overall sense of indulgence. For the ultimate boudoir consider a valance piped with velvet, a velvet quilt or even, if you love a little drama, velvet bed curtains. 

Tip: Make sure the velvet you choose has a high rub count – basically, a measure of how durable the fabric is – it should be at least 20,000 for busy homes.

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

My first job was writing a DIY column for a magazine for the over 50s (which seemed a long way off back then). I then moved to a DIY magazine as deputy ed, then freelanced my way around the homes departments of most women's magazines on the market before working on Your Home and Family Circle magazines as homes editor. From there, I went to Ideal Home magazine as associate editor, then launched 4Homes magazine for Channel 4, then the Channel 4 4Homes website before going back to freelancing and running a social media business (you can see where I had kids from the freelancing gaps!). I was tempted back to the world of big business by the chance to work with the great team at Realhomes.com, where I was Global Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years, taking it from a small website to a global entity. I've now handed the reins of the website to our American managing editor, while I take on a new challenge as Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens.