Choosing Kid and Pet-Friendly Fabric for Your Furniture

A No-Fuss Guide to the Best Types of Upholstery Fabric for Furniture

For the pet- and kid-free home, choosing upholstery fabric is a cinch. Aside from concerns surrounding coffee or wine spills, pretty much anything goes. It generally comes down to the aesthetics. But, when you add in sticky fingerprints, cat claws, and constantly-shedding dog hair, reality quickly sets in and ensuring you have furniture that can hold up to the nonstop barrage of mess is essential. In fact, it’s one of the most sought-after requests we get from our clients.

In this poolside indoor lounge area, a custom bench upholstered in a Sunbrella fabric makes for the perfect spot to rest - all without worrying about water damage. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
In this poolside indoor lounge area, a custom bench upholstered in a Sunbrella fabric makes for the perfect spot to rest – all without worrying about water damage. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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If you’re in a similar bind and wondering how to prevent covering every surface in plastic or having to completely toss out your sofa and armchairs after a meager year in your living room, scroll on down. We’ve put together a no-fuss guide to help you choose the best type of upholstery for your home’s furniture and you won’t want to miss it.

(Nearly) Impossible-to-Ruin Fabrics

Crypton, Sunbrella, and most outdoor fabrics are by far the top-notch fabrics on the market for homes bursting with kiddos or pets (or both). Made with state-of-the-art technology, these fabrics are literally meant to resist just anything that comes their way. Virtually waterproof, stain-proof, and claw-proof, they are must haves to consider if you want the toughest fabrics for the job. No fabric is completely ruin-proof, they all require ongoing care to keep their elements crisp and clean – but in the land of upholstery, these are hands down your best bet. Don’t assume that “tough” means “uncomfortable” or “stiff,” think again – these fabrics are engineered to be just as inviting and cozy as their less durable counterparts. If you want a nice creamy white sofa or a bold blue armchair, you’re bound to find a color or pattern in this camp that fits your home’s style to a T – all while being (nearly) impossible to ruin. 

A beautiful Cryton-upholstered sofa sectional is both functional and ultra stylish with its inviting cream color. / Source
A beautiful Cryton-upholstered sofa sectional is both functional and ultra stylish with its inviting cream color. / Source
Using Sunbrella fabric, this cane chair is durable and chic, ready to repel any stains or spills. / Source
Using Sunbrella fabric, this cane chair is durable and chic, ready to repel any stains or spills. / Source
A floor cushion that doubles as an ottoman and extra seating gets a high score for durability thanks to its outdoor striped fabric. / Source
A floor cushion that doubles as an ottoman and extra seating gets a high score for durability thanks to its outdoor striped fabric. / Source

Middle-of-the Road Upholstery

Craving a bit more texture in your space without sacrificing durability and function? Go for leather, microfiber, or velvet. These middle-of-the-road fabrics range in strength and resilience, depending on their coating or materials, but as a whole, they are pretty darn great for repelling stains and pet destruction. Velvet and microfiber are generally indestructible across the board since they don’t have weaves that are easily pulled apart by claws and the fabrics are straightforward and simple to keep clean. Likewise, leather is a cinch to wipe spills off of, but beware of the type of leather you choose; a treated leather fabric will feel less supple but will hold up better to scratches and claw marks over time while a natural untreated leather will have that quintessential softness but is much more likely to show wear and “character” as you use it.

A leather sofa is an excellent kid- and pet-friendly furniture piece and pairs beautifully with any color palette. /  Source
A leather sofa is an excellent kid- and pet-friendly furniture piece and pairs beautifully with any color palette. /  Source
A cozy and inviting green velvet armchair helps to repel stains or claw tears and is stylish to boot. / Source
A cozy and inviting green velvet armchair helps to repel stains or claw tears and is stylish to boot. / Source
An easy-to-clean blue velvet sofa anchors this neutral-heavy living room, bringing out the deep moody hues in the gallery wall artwork. / Source
An easy-to-clean blue velvet sofa anchors this neutral-heavy living room, bringing out the deep moody hues in the gallery wall artwork. / Source
Upholstered in faux leather, these kitchen island barstools are the ultimate in durability and quality; food or drink spills easily wipe up, and the soft grey blends in seamlessly with the overall room design. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Upholstered in faux leather, these kitchen island barstools are the ultimate in durability and quality; food or drink spills easily wipe up, and the soft grey blends in seamlessly with the overall room design. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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Use at Your Own Risk

If you’re still in love with a specific fabric that doesn’t meet the previously mentioned durability tests, that is absolutely okay – just know that any other fabric is to be chosen at your own risk. Linen, silk, and any loose-weave fabrics are undoubtedly beautiful within a space, but we recommend using these only if you have older kids, an adult-only home, or a totally pet-free space (well, barring fish, of course). Of these, linen is the hardiest and easiest to clean, so you’ll probably be okay with the occasional spill if it’s cleaned up in time. On the other hand, silk and loose-weave fabrics can be tricky – they are generally more delicate materials that are prone to snagging or tearing if you’re not careful, so use these in less-frequented spaces in your home (versus the TV sectional or often-used reading chair). 

While tweed is beautiful on a sofa, it is easily damaged by pet claws, so it’s best to use it in a pet-free home. / Source
While tweed is beautiful on a sofa, it is easily damaged by pet claws, so it’s best to use it in a pet-free home. / Source
Linen-upholstered furniture is fairly straightforward to clean and visually stunning, but it doesn’t take heavy wear and tear as well as Cryton or Sunbrella do. / Source
Linen-upholstered furniture is fairly straightforward to clean and visually stunning, but it doesn’t take heavy wear and tear as well as Cryton or Sunbrella do. / Source
Even bedroom furniture - like an end-of-the-bed bench or a duo of linen-upholstered chairs - can be tough to clean if they are used by pets or children; it’s best to reserve these fabrics for less heavily-trafficked areas. / Source
Even bedroom furniture – like an end-of-the-bed bench or a duo of linen-upholstered chairs – can be tough to clean if they are used by pets or children; it’s best to reserve these fabrics for less heavily-trafficked areas. / Source

Upholstery is tricky to get right, and if you choose wrong one it can completely dash your hopes of design longevity. But the good news is that it is possible to get it absolutely and unapologetically right – you just need to test your fabrics and ensure that they’ll meet the needs of your household day in and day out. Because whether you have a quiet and calm adult-friendly space filled with soft jazz music and late evening dinners, or your home is bursting with endless activities, and overfilled mudroom, and plenty of dog hair to go around, we can guarantee that there is an upholstery fabric that’s just right for you.

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

10 Responses

  1. Great synopsis! Indoor outdoor fabrics have come a looooooong way since the days when your only choice was a scratchy, plasticky green and white awning stripe! It is amazing the fabric technologies available now!

  2. This is a great guide for choosing the right fabric for our home upholstery. With so many choices available, this article helps us distinguish between our best options. Most retail salespeople never explain this, leave it to a Designer to get it right.

  3. Thanks for this info! I’m trying to reupholster some furniture I love and want it to be
    more pet-friendly. This gives me great ideas of what to look for!

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