Face it: As lovers of interior design, we are by nature lovers of fabric. We see fabric and we want to touch it. Or if you’re anything like us at the Kuotes, you run to fabric with opens arms, nuzzle your face into it like you would a cat, and cry out “Never leave me!” while a single tear gently glides down your cheek. Dramatic, you say? Hardly.
As lovers and users of fabric, don’t you wish there were an easily-searchable one-stop location where you could get all of the information you need to know about a textile? Well, us too! The Kuotes has created for you this list of our favorite textiles. In addition to being a blog post, this page will be easily accessible from our Designer Handbook (see our main menu above). Maybe you’re a designer and you just can’t put your finger on what fabric is missing from your design. Maybe your client has a question about product care and you want a reliable resource to recommend to them. Or maybe you’re a design novice and the words toile de jouy mean less to you than if we’d start writing our blog in Wingdings: AmIright? (Am I right?). Whatever the case may be, this textile guide quickly answers everything you need to know (and because the Kuotes loves fun facts, you might also find some trivia for impressing at your next cocktail party).
What is chenille?
Using our grade school knowledge of the French language (Enchanté, Mademoiselle. Où est la bibliothèque?), we know that chenille is actually the French word for caterpillar. This is because its appearance is similar to a caterpillar with fuzzy pile projecting from all sides. Chenille typically has a velvety surface and is blended with silk for an incredibly light and soft touch.
When to use chenille:
After a lot of thought, is the Kuotes advice. Chenille is absolutely perfect for creating a space with ambiance or adding in a vintage, “grandpa-chic” vibe to your design. We love chenille for rustic, such as this Rustic Lodge grey knit sofa, or for coastal like the couch and pillows featured above. When done right, it can be an unexpected touch to complete a look. That said, make sure to add texture and other fabric selections to your design if using chenille. An all-chenille design could easily look tired or dated if not done properly.
How to care for chenille:
Chenille can pick up dirt easily, so to keep the fabric nice and clean, you should use an upholstery brush and/or regularly vacuum with an upholstery brush attachment along the direction of the nap. For a chenille pillow or rug, dry-cleaning is the best option. In the case of spills or stains, treat immediately and spot clean with a mixture of water and mild soap, using only the suds on the stained area with a clean, dry sponge.
What is chintz?
Chintz is the word you say when you stub your toe but don’t want to get caught swearing out loud… Okay, so not really, but it’s not a bad idea, right? Chintz is actually a glazed calico textile from India that is notable for its printed, usually floral designs over a light plain background. Here’s an interesting historical fact to prep you for trivia night: Due to chintz’s popularity in Europe during the seventeenth century, Europe outlawed chintz to protect the success of its own textile mill workers who could not compete with India’s great fabric. This is where the term “chintzy” (meaning cheap, gaudy, or low quality) stems from, a falsehood created to dissuade people from buying too much chintz! Luckily, here at the Kuotes we’re educated enough to know that chintz does NOT have to be chintzy. So, how do you make chintz beautiful? Read on, and maybe you’ll find out… (Spoiler Alert: Of course you’ll find out. Why else would we write this article?)
When to use chintz:
Chintz is the perfect choice for creating a fresh and feminine environment in almost any style. If you’re a designer, you may not have considered chintz because it’s too fussy or old-fashioned, but think again! There are plenty of ways to incorporate chintz in a new and modern way: hang overflowing chintz curtains in a room with glossy, painted floors; use chintz cushions on your outdoor wicker furniture; or add a pop of floral color to your room with one of KKH’s Modern Classic chintz-patterned ceramic lamps! The possibilities are endless.
How to care for chintz:
At the Kuotes and at KKH, we’ll generally incorporate chintz patterns as opposed to actual chintz fabric. But if you do have chintz curtains or upholstery, vacuum regularly with an upholstery brush attachment. For more intense cleaning, dry cleaning is the recommended route due to the polished glazed that is waxed onto chintz fabric. Water and spot cleaners may wear at this outer layer of the material.
What is damask?
Damask is a woven fabric made of silk, cotton, or linen that comes from Damascus, Syria (meaning that technically the word should be pronounced [da-mask], but the Kuotes and a majority of others pronounce it [dam-uhsk]). This fabric traditionally has an opaque background with a shiny patterned forefront, usually floral or arabesque in nature.
When to use damask:
Damask is great because it’s such a versatile fabric and pattern. For us at the Kuotes, it works best for traditional homes, offering a demure yet seductive appeal. Damask works wonders as a wallpaper, and it can pair with stripes, solids, florals, and… pretty much anything that’s not another damask of the same scale. You’ll hear over and over again how much we love the layered look, and damask definitely brings the visual texture we live for. Best of all, damask truly works in any room, from the living room to the bedroom to the bathroom (like the image featured above—look at those breathtaking blues!).
How to care for damask:
Similar to chintz, damask is more commonly used as a pattern than it is as a fabric. Actual damask material can be cleaned by hand with a damp cloth and a mild detergent, but if you do have actual damask fabric, it’s probably easier to just take it to the dry cleaners or get it professionally cleaned.
What is jute?
If jute sounds to you like a good name for a protein shake company, it might be because jute is the muscleman of textiles—a strong natural fabric made from vegetable fibers.
When to use jute:
We love jute here at the Kuotes as a strong and durable fabric perfect for contemporary rustic settings. Because it’s such a versatile textile, you’ll come across it in many of KKH’s collections, including Rustic Lodge, French Country, and Coastal Beach. Add jute to a chair, light fixture, or serving tray to introduce a natural, grainy nuance to a space. Jute is the perfect material for nautical design and beach homes, but it also adds that outdoorsy feel to a Rustic Lodge styled space.
How to care for jute:
Jute, especially jute rugs, should be vacuumed regularly even though dust and particles are typically not as visible on jute compared to other materials. Other than that, jute is a very low maintenance textile and will last a long time—even with exposure to sun! One thing to remember: make sure your jute NEVER gets wet. Do not use any cleaners on jute. If there is a spill, treat immediately or the moisture will quickly absorb into the fibrous material and cause the jute to expand and wear: Clean with a cloth dampened with club soda or a mild soap, and blow dry immediately after.
What is linen?
You may associate linen with clothing—the easy-breezy fabric of your summer blouse or romper. So then, why not dress our furniture in the same fabric we love against our skin? If we had to pick the essential furnishing textile, there’s a good chance that it would be linen. Linen is a natural fabric produced from flax fibers, and in interior design, its strength and durability paired with its rich texture, cool touch, and color versatility makes it perfect for upholstering furniture.
When to use linen:
Whether it’s a linen accent chair from our Modern Classic collection or a French Country tufted bed, you can use linen to add character and softness to your home. We love linen in the living room, as it provides cool, comfortable seating with a timeless style that’s treasured today. Linen’s textural richness also pairs nicely with natural elements like wood or stone, so use linen to add organic elegance to a rustic or industrial styled room.
How to care for linen:
Concerning product care, linen can be one of the trickier fabrics to work with. Although strong and durable, linen can soil and wrinkle easily. Your best route for cleaning is to hire a professional upholstery cleaner (contact us at the Kuotes if you need help finding one near you!), but if an emergency arises, grease stains can be lifted with a small amount of petrol or trichloroethylene.
What is muslin?
Time for a short history lesson: muslin’s name derives from the Indian port town of Masulipatnum, near modern day Bangladesh, where cotton fabric would be handwoven from delicate handspun yarn. In 1298, muslin was brought to the Western world when Marco Polo discovered it in Mosul, Iraq. Most muslins nowadays are 100% cotton, however some are blended with synthetic fiber.
When to use muslin:
At Kathy Kuo Home, you’ll see muslin used as upholstery to provide a light, comfortable material for seating. Its tight weaves trap air and create a cushy place to sit. Another reason to consider muslin is because it can come in various weights, which is perfect for creating a soft and airy space.
How to care for muslin:
Care for muslin is simple and low maintenance. Regular vacuuming with an upholstery brush attachment will do the trick. Avoid putting muslin upholstery (…or any upholstery really) in direct sunlight, and if you feel the need, a very occasional professional upholstery cleaning should suffice to keep your muslin looking magnificent.
What is toile?
Toile comes from the French meaning “linen cloth,” and it is known as a plain, usually white background with a repeated pattern of very intricate and complex scenes (elaborate floral designs or pastoral scenes are very common).
When to use toile:
Toile is one of those textiles that can really make or break a room. Too much toile and you risk your room looking like grandma Grand Central, but use toile effectively, and you’ll create a space that’s both nostalgic and sophisticated. The Kuotes loves this look in traditional provincial houses, so you will see this fabric throughout our French Country collection. We suggest taking toile to the walls to give character and a sense of place to a room, then repeat the pattern in subtle and thoughtful ways, whether it’s a toile toss pillow or a toile bed skirt.
How to care for toile:
Toile should be dry cleaned or professionally cleaned only.
What is velvet?
Velvet is opulent and sensual. It is a woven tufted fabric made from many different fibers, and there are several different types from lightweight chiffons to crushed and embossed velvets. We have all heard the expression “smooth as velvet.” The fabric gets its luxurious reputation from being woven on a special loom that weaves multiple thicknesses of fabric simultaneously to create the lush pile effect that feels so good to the touch.
When to use velvet:
At the Kuotes, we love velvet incorporated into a classic Hollywood Regency look: a piece of velvet furniture is majestic and can add the regal flare you need to complete your space. The plush texture and rich colors of velvet gracefully compliment the neoclassical lines, glossy surfaces, and glamorous decor you’ll find in the Hollywood Regency home. In short, use velvet when you want to feel like Norma Desmond walking down her elegant spiral staircase at the end of Sunset Boulevard—“Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
That being said, don’t curtail your creativity! A velvet chair can serve as an unexpected statement piece in an industrial loft or a nod to your boho personality in a Global Bazaar styled room.
How to care for velvet:
You know you want that intimate blue velvet piece for your living room, but you’re nervous about fuzz and spills and hair… and your worries are valid. Due to the way the fabric is crafted (see above), velvet can attract dust and other particles, and of the textiles, velvet is among the more temperamental. Just think of velvet as a high-maintenance friend: you need to show her a little love, but then watch as she shines and livens your room. An aside: Please, please do not actually befriend your furniture.
For basic care, dry-clean regularly if possible. For upholstered furniture, use a soft-bristle brush to dust and remove fuzz as needed. You should also vacuum your velvet upholstery regularly with the small brush attachment, making sure to run it with the direction of the nap. One last tip: gently steaming velvet will help to revive any lost luster. For spills, treat as quickly as possible by pressing an absorbent cloth over the spill. DO NOT rub or pat velvet, as you will push in the moisture and disturb the napping of the fabric. Only wash velvet in dire circumstances, and do so by mixing water with dishwashing detergent and using only the suds on the stained area. Always, always, always let velvet air-dry. Never pat dry.
What is wool?
Baa! Baa! As most people know, wool is fiber pulled from sheep and other wooly animals. Unlike hair, its crimped and elastic properties make it a versatile fabric for home furniture and decor.
When to use wool:
Wool’s versatility makes it an excellent fabric for several design purposes. The Kuotes strongly recommends the wool rug. From a practical standpoint, wool has a natural resistance to stains and soil due to the lanolin coating on wool’s surface, so although we never encourage shoes in the house, wool clean up is as easy as it gets (see below). Additionally, our rugs at KKH use perfected Tibetan wool in a variety of patterns and styles that fit many design looks.
How to care for wool:
Wool is an extremely durable fabric that stays stunning over time. Regular vacuuming keeps rugs from shedding. Keep wool from direct sunlight to keep from any fading. As with all fabrics, spills should be attended to immediately, and wool can be cleaned with a simple solvent solution. For any difficult stains, a professional cleaning service is always the way to go! Make sure not to over wet the fabric.