One of the most exciting things about almost every item of luxury furniture at Juliettes Interiors is that it can be customised. Luxury sofas, designer chairs, luxury beds, wardrobes, chests of drawers, dining tables, even chandeliers. Whatever you are looking for, we offer what we believe is an unrivalled selection of glorious furnishing fabrics and fabulous finishes. The combinations are astounding, allowing customers to create something personal and exclusive. If you don’t find what you are looking for in our extensive ranges, you can often specify your own sizes, fabrics or finishes to create a truly bespoke product. We pride ourselves on our flair, our imagination and, above all, our flexibility. Our interior designers are always on hand to help you choose exactly what’s right for you.
Next week we’ll be looking at finishes so keep your eyes open for that one. Today, we focus on the fabulous array of fabrics available, their colours, their textures, their comfort and their eye-catching appeal. Your choice of fabric can change the whole look and feel not only of the item of luxury furniture itself, but of the whole room.
What better place to start? Velvet refers to a woven fabric with a short, dense pile. If it is a knit fabric, it is known as velour. Velvet can be made from a variety of materials such as cotton, silk or wool, and has been around for several thousand years. In terms of a luxury furnishing fabric, it has enjoyed a revival over the last few years and no luxury furniture brand would be complete without it. Velvet has always been seen as opulent and luxurious – reserved for the rich and the royal – until a wave of cheap, man-made versions led to its fall from grace towards the end of the 20th century.
Today’s velvets have learned from these past mistakes and are unmistakably sumptuous and indulgent. New manufacturing methods mean that we can experiment with textures, creating bold, new designs to make a statement in your home. Historically, velvet was not always the most practical of fabrics, particularly in a family home. However, new finishes and treatments mean that it can be more stain-resistant and easier to clean.
Linen has a history that stretches back more than 30,000 years. It is, arguably, the oldest woven fabric, with samples of twisted linen threads being found in ancient Paleolithic settlements. Made from the fibres of the flax plant, linen fabric was much favoured by the Egyptians and Romans, probably due to its smooth texture, breathability and ability to wick moisture away from the skin. It is also resistant to insects and has natural antimicrobial properties – a true wonder fabric.
As an upholstery fabric, linen is strong, robust and hard-wearing with a natural lustre. It dries quickly and is cool to the touch. While we may think of linen as being quite a plain fabric, it can also be used to weave beautiful linen velvets, jacquards and damasks, as well as plain dyes which, because of the way its fibres take on colour, may have a subtle and fashionably imperfect slubbed effect. This slight unpredictability, together with its durability make it an ideal fabric for anyone seeking luxury furniture that is original and just that little bit different.
Legend has it that the secret of producing silk fibres was discovered by the wife of Chinese Emperor Huangdi, when a cocoon fell from a mulberry tree into her tea. The hot water made the fibres unravel. Realising the potential of the lustrous fibres, she is said to have been the first to farm silkworms, leading to China’s global monopoly in the silk trade for almost 3000 years.
Silk is a beautiful fabric with a natural shimmer, caused by the structure of the fibres, which refract incoming light. Because of the limited quantity of fabric that could be produced, and hence its exceptionally high cost, silk remained the domain of royalty until at least the 13th century and is still a luxury fabric to this day. Its natural luminosity lends itself to some of the richest, most colourful fabric designs but its subtle reflection of light will always give a rich, opulent look, even when used as a single, muted colour. Less robust than many of its counterparts, silk is best used as an accent fabric, for curtains, cushions and luxury furniture where it will not be subjected to heavy traffic. We believe that every beautiful home should have at least one piece of stunning silk and, with so many gorgeous weights and designs available, there really is something out there for everyone.
Cotton is another fabric with a long and distinguished history going back over 7000 years. It is said that Cleopatra wore the finest cotton gown, and there can be few wardrobes around the world that do not contain a large percentage of cotton garments. Cotton can be woven into anything from a floaty, ethereal voile to a heavyweight and hard-wearing denim, making it perfect for a multitude of furnishings. Curtains, drapes, chairs and the busiest of family sofas, cotton’s durability and forgiving nature make it an ideal choice in busy households. It takes on colour easily and flawlessly and can be woven or printed to create any pattern or design that pops into a designer’s head.
Cotton can be smooth and cool to the touch, brushed to make it warm and soft, textured to add interest, or glazed to create the subtle sheen of chintz-type fabrics. Cotton fabric is hard-working, sturdy and easy to care for, making it one of the most versatile furnishing fabrics. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that cotton is too ordinary for your luxury furniture. Just take a look through some of our fabulous pieces and you will see just how inventive and sumptuous today’s cottons can be.
Wool & Cashmere
At the risk of repeating ourselves, this is another fabric with a long and proud heritage. We believe there is great sense in using fabrics that have stood the test of time. Wool can keep you warm or cool, dry and protected. It is worn by astronauts, round-the-world sailors, polar scientists and ordinary folk. No other fabric, natural or man-made, can match all its qualities, and modern scientific advances have led to dramatic improvements in stain-proofing and moth resistance. As a textile, it is tremendously versatile as it can be woven, knitted or felted to create an amazing array of finishes and textures. Wool is natural, sustainable, sturdy and hard-wearing with a warm, luxurious feel. It may not be the first fabric you think of when someone mentions luxury furniture, but ignoring it could mean missing out on some really creative and even quirky ideas. It is perfect for your most used and loved items of furniture and will keep its good looks for years to come.
Cashmere is the soft neck hair of the Kashmir goat. As you can imagine, each goat yields only a small quantity of this superbly soft hair, which is why woven cashmere is so expensive and sought after as a luxury fabric. It is lighter, softer and finer than wool and is generally used for clothing rather than upholstery. However, it does add a touch of glamour to items of luxury furniture, although it is not recommended for heavy use.
Leather, Suede & Nubuck
Who doesn’t lust after the luxury look that leather offers? We realise that leather is not a fabric in the strictest sense of the word but, as it is used so extensively in the manufacture of luxury furniture, no feature on furnishing fabrics would be complete without it.
Now for the technical bit: What is the difference between leather, suede and nubuck? Well, they are all types of leather, made from animal hide. The most commonly used is cattle hide but other skins such as alligator and ostrich are also very popular thanks to their very distinctive textures. Because of sustainability and environmental concerns, we often use embossed cattle hide to recreate the texture of other, rarer leathers.
Full grain leather uses the parts of the hide with the fewest imperfections and is simply tanned to make it soft and supple. It can then be dyed in a whole rainbow of colours to suit today’s modern interiors. Many people believe, mistakenly, that leather must be cold to sit on. This is not the case and a good quality, super soft leather is supremely comfortable and warm to the touch.
Suede is a leather that has been tanned, then sanded on the inside of the skin to smooth out any imperfections and create a soft, velvety feel. Suede makes an interesting and innovative covering for a wall, a luxury sideboard or a designer chest of drawers but if you are looking for luxury furniture that is likely to see sustained, daily use – such as a family sofa – we would generally recommend leather or nubuck.
Nubuck is similar to suede, so it has been tanned but is then sanded on the outside of the skin. The outer skin is much tougher than the inside and requires a lot more sanding to create a luxury finish. However, this makes nubuck just as soft and smooth to the touch but harder-wearing than a suede fabric.
A great many of our items of luxury furniture use a mixture of fabrics, combining their naturally-occurring properties to create an even more versatile fabric than the original textiles. Popular combinations include cotton & linen or cotton & wool blends, while velvets can be made using a variety of mixes.
Whilst we love a natural fabric here at Juliettes Interiors, we cannot ignore the many benefits that modern, synthetic fibres can add to almost every natural textile. Man-made fibres have had a bad press over the years and many of us immediately think of hot and clammy nylon as soon as the words man-made are uttered. However, today’s synthetic yarns have come on in leaps and bounds and can add durability, breathability and the ability to create a range of interesting textures and finishes. We only ever use the most luxurious and comfortable fabrics in our luxury furniture ranges so don’t feel that you should shy away from synthetic fibres. They are there to enhance the performance of the natural fibres so that your furniture stays perfect for longer.
One of this year’s biggest trends (see our posts on Colours and Design Ideas) is the use of pattern. Nothing ditsy or insignificant – this year’s patterns are big, bold and overblown. We are loving big botanical prints with oversized leaves, flowers and fruits. Hares, pheasants, birds and jungle animals or clean lines and geometric designs, pattern is seeing a huge resurgence in every room in the house. In the past couple of decades, patterned fabrics have been reserved mainly for curtains or accents, but now we can once again embrace all-encompassing pattern for our wallpapers, luxury sofas, designer armchairs, benches, pouffes and beds. If you are still nervous of pattern, speak to our interior design team about the best way to incorporate it into your interior.
As almost every item of luxury furniture at Juliettes Interiors can be customised, make sure you speak to our interior design team about fabric samples for the pieces you are interested in. Or bring your own fabrics along to our showroom and take advantage of our Interior Design service. Fabrics are a fantastic way of bringing colour, warmth and texture into every interior. Our interior design team can help make sure they work for you.