Performance fabrics, for use in the home as well as outdoors, were especially prominent as we toured the Fall International Home Furnishings Market at High Point, N.C. They were so much in the spotlight that there was even a “Performance Fabric Playground” at which visitors to market could test clean a variety of fabrics they had been spotted with red wine, orange soda, chocolate milk, coffee, balsamic vinegar salad dressing, crayons, markers or lipstick. (Photo below, left)
Outdoor furniture is now getting more of an indoor upholstered look to give homeowners more variety in selections (Photo above, center). Showrooms were also showing power options with outdoor pieces (Photo above right).
In one showroom, we saw how their all-fiber cushion construction allows moisture to drain through preventing mold and mildew and sits beautifully in the frame using a seat construction technique that provides long-life and sag-resistant support.
In another showroom, a manufacturer of fine upholstered furniture told us that 19 of their 25 top-selling fabrics are performance fabrics. To add emphasis to that point, they even arranged for our group to have a special demonstration of a brand new performance fabric called Inside Out®, described as being “the first All-In-One performance fabric that can satisfy all of your needs and withstand the elements, both inside and outside.” (Photo below, left)
So why the push to develop performance fabrics for indoor use?
Eating areas are an obvious place performance fabrics can be especially appreciated. One might be hesitant to use white fabric on counter seats unless you know those frequent spills could be cleaned without staining. (Photo above center)
There are far more reasons, though, for considering performance fabrics. You might want an upholstered piece that can withstand glaring sun for placement by a window. (Photo above right). You might want a light colored piece in a room that will be frequented by children. Family rooms for active households could be another place you would want to explore using a performance fabric.
Don’t forget pets. Just because you have a dog or cat doesn’t mean you still can’t have beautiful custom designed fine upholstered furniture.
What does “Performance” really mean?
There are usually five factors when fabric performance is discussed:
Durability has a standardized measure called “double rubs.” Fabric is tested with machine that rubs a certain kind of heavy canvas in a back-and-forth motion. Each back-and-forth is known as a double rub. Fabric is usually rated as
- Light Duty: 3,000-9,000 double rubs. This fabric will only last 1-3 years before showing noticeable signs of wear.
- Medium Duty: 9,000-15,000 double rubs. This fabric grade is considered fairly durable and may offer a more cost effective option for families on a budget. It is still strong enough to be recommended for use in family rooms.
- Heavy Duty: 15,000+ double rubs. These materials are ideal for busy homes that have pets and children. This is a minimum to be considered performance. Most are rated over 50,000 double rubs
A sales person who is claiming a certain number of double rubs for a fabric should be able to show documentation from a testing lab.
Cleanability instructions should be clear. Can it be cleaned with water? Can you use bleach? Or will you need solvent? Check to see if it’s stain, liquid and solid resistant.
Outdoor Use: For this you will want to know about its resistance to fading, mildew or odor.
Sustainability: Some will want to know if it’s PFC-free, has recycled content, natural fiber content, or whether it certifiable green in some way.
The key is to be knowledgeable. Or, use a knowledgeable design professional to help you choose the right performance fabric