As the weather turns cold and we update our homes for fall, we tend to look to heavier fabrics to keep our homes warm. Who doesn’t love a plush sheepskin rug or a warm, alpaca wool throw? But there’s one particular fall fabric that proves to be consistently controversial. This mystery material is sumptuous (yet durable), oozes style and luxury, and instantly adds texture to a room…but it goes widely underused due to the fear of it looking tacky (just ask our friend Elvis).
If you haven’t guessed by now, today on the blog we’re talking about velvet. With astonishingly soft fibers and a sleek, shiny coat, velvet can transform even the simplest sofa into a ravishing statement piece. But velvet can also be intimidating—isn’t velvet a bit too extravagant for modern interiors? Isn’t it hard to care for? We’re writing today to resolve those rumors about how to decorate with velvet. Keep reading to learn about velvet’s royal history, its several varieties, and how to tastefully incorporate this fall’s most fashionable fabric into your home. We promise, you’re going to crush it.
Velvet is easily misunderstood
It’s hard being so beautiful when you’re complex and nobody understands you. So let’s set the record straight. What exactly is velvet? Unlike a flat-woven fabric (such as linen), velvet uses a lot of yarn and takes multiple steps to produce. Two layers of fabric (velvet can be woven from any type of yarn) go on a double action loom, receive simultaneous weaving, and interlace with connecting yarns. When it comes off the loom, the layers are then cut apart to produce that soft, upright pile that everyone loves so much.
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Velvet offers variety
Where does velvet originate? Being the dark and mysterious fabric velvet is, it shouldn’t surprise you that no one really knows, but most historians agree that people began constructing velvet somewhere in the Far East—likely China—around the thirteenth century. Velvet then traveled west along the Silk Road in Asia until it reached Italy and achieved its peak popularity during the Italian Renaissance.
As we know in the furniture business, beautiful products take time and labor. Before the industrial power loom was invented, the complicated and arduous velvet-making process was very expensive, so the luxe material was reserved for royalty. Nobles were drawn to its capability to accept rich and lustrous dyes. Luckily, today velvet is very accessible, but the fabric upholds its regal history. You’ll see it most frequently in our Hollywood Regency collection and in our most glamour-filled inspirations, like our Regal Royal or Black, White, and Gold Lookbook. Fun fact: the word “velvet” comes from the Italian word “velluto”, meaning “shaggy.”
Because velvet can be made with synthetic or natural fibers, the material is often produced at different qualities. The most expensive kind of velvet is made from silk—although velvet made entirely from silk is very rare, and it costs hundreds of dollars per yard! Due to the high cost of silk, other natural fibers are more often used to make velvet, including cotton, linen, mohair and wool. Velvet can be also woven from polyester, viscose, nylon and acetate.
The durability of the material depends on the kind of fibers used as well as on the density of the pile. The shorter and the denser the pile is, the more durable the fabric will be. When shopping for furniture or having your furniture reupholstered, it’s always worth checking the exact composition of the velvet fabric you choose. Pick velvet that is made from a mix of resilient synthetic and natural fabrics, like our velvet products at Kathy Kuo Home.
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Confused by some of the distinctions when shopping for velvet furniture? Lucky for you, the Kuotes has an affinity for furniture vocabulary:
- Crushed velvet: produced by pressing the fabric down in different directions. Crushed velvet can also be produced by mechanically twisting the fabric while wet. The result is a luxe patterned appearance.
- Devoré (Burnout) velvet: using chemicals, a specific pattern is burned out from the velvet. The result is a semi-transparent pattern contrasted with solid woven velvet.
- Embossed velvet: a metal roller is used to heat-stamp the velvet, producing a pattern
- Linen velvet: a dry, modest velvet that has a distinctive striped texture.
- Mohair velvet: a thick and durable velvet with minimal sheen. Mohair velvet is made from the hair of Angora goats, and it’s a great material for upholstery or drapery due to its heft.
- Pile-on-pile velvet: woven with piles of different heights to create a pattern, the result is one of the most luxurious and expensive types of velvet.
- Silk velvet: a supremely soft velvet with a strong, reflective surface. Silk velvet is known for its “wet look” that provides a room with super luxurious feel. Silk velvet often comes with a very high price point.
- Velveteen velvet: an imitation velvet, velveteen is normally made of cotton and has a pile that is short and closely set. Unlike true velvet, this type does not drape and has less sheen.
- Voided velvet: similar in structure to pile-on-pile velvet, this velvet is woven with only one height of the pile, and the rest of the background fabric is left empty to form a pattern.
Velvet has a place in every home
Velvet has a bit of a bad rap. You’ve heard it before. It’s heavy. It’s gaudy. It’s difficult to work with. What you don’t hear as often is how velvet offers amazing suppleness and instantly makes your space more sophisticated. It reflects and glimmers beautifully in light, it makes color look richer and deeper, and it emphasizes contours and shape for even more pronounced silhouettes.
And it’s surprisingly versatile! Since it is manufactured in such a wide array of forms—from grand upholstered beds to decorative throw pillows—you can go all-out or keep it simple. Not to mention, velvet is making a huge comeback in interiors and was one of the biggest fashion trends in this year’s New York Fashion Week. Here’s how we love to see velvet used in the home:
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When You Need Some Mystery in Your Life
Do you always succumb to the dark and mysterious types? Then you’ll undoubtedly be crushing on velvet. Velvet home decor seduces the senses and brings rich and deep hues to life. Just try it. You’ll be drawn to the magnetic luster and multidimensional color of a velvet fabric choice. Why does velvet look so good in dark, moody hues–like dark red velvet? It’s because the velvet’s nap allows light to reflect at multiple 90 degree angles, creating that luxe, luminous sheen velvet is famous for. Even science agrees with us!
When You Need Some Drama in Your Life
Velvet is a very thick and heavy material, which makes many people (designers included) wary of the fabric. But these attributes don’t have to be flaws! A heavy velvet curtain that pools on the ground adds a stylish, cinematic flair to a living or dining room. For an especially stunning look, choose a color that will contrast against the walls. (Pro tip: To avoid flat-looking velvet drapes, make sure that the nap is running upwards. When you run your hand from bottom to top, the fabric should feel smooth. An upward nap guarantees a more rich and radiant look).
Velvet also works as great fabric for a bold statement piece, be it the sofa, the daybed, or a wingback chair. Worried about creating a look that is too flashy and frumpy? The key is to use velvet sparingly as a recurring motif throughout the home instead of buying all velvet furniture. Dress velvet down by pairing it with distressed wood or another unfinished finish. Or mix velvet with more modern materials like acrylic or steel. Even a few velvet throw pillows can up the visual interest of your room.
When You Need Some Romance in Your Life
Velvet looks good in almost any color, but it looks especially amorous in bright jewel tones that will bring a fun, feminine edge to your living room. More muted velvets, like pale pinks, purples, and blues, also make you want to melt into the room itself. Velvet has a smooth yet feathery touch that tingles the senses. So it makes for the perfect fabric for creating a French feminine bedroom (try a velvet headboard) or adding texture to soften a sleek, modern space. Spread the velvet love!