Fabric Know-How

What to consider when shopping for fabric? We chat to three experts – Sharon Fihrer from Head Interiors, Marc Shotland of Home Fabrics and Stephen Black of Black Fabrics – about updating your home’s material needs.


‘When it comes to selecting fabrics for upholstering, you need to start thinking about the application and the look you want to go for – will it be out in the sun, or in a bathroom environment? In a more formal area, such as a dining room, select a fabric with a hint of a sheen such as velvet to add a more glamorous feel to the room,’ says Sharon Fihrer, co-founder of Head Interiors.

‘Make sure it works with what you already have and that it compliments your lifestyle and decor style. They can also assist you with the right embellishments such as cords, piping, studding or borders. Even a blend of two different fabric designs or textures can make a bold statement and create a more exciting end result.

‘Always ask if the fabric is suitable for high wear and tear if it is to be used on a couch or chair that gets a lot of use. You can be more decorative with items that are less used and designed for more of a statement such as occasional chairs or dining chairs,’ says Marc Shotland of Home Fabrics, South Africa’s leading fabric and wallpaper distributors.


‘Try to steer away from polyesters or other man-made fibres – a lightweight linen that is loosely woven creates a great sheer effect, while remaining soft and light. Always consider, though, the amount of sunlight the room is getting – the African sun can be quite harsh on fabrics,’ advises Sharon.

‘Let the light come into your home while giving the privacy you need making them excellent for rooms that need lots of natural light. It lets you see people outside of your window but people can’t see you from outside of your home. The simple beauty and classy elegance of sheers give a delicate look to the entire room,’ says Marc.

‘There are many different treatments when it comes to curtains and this is down to personal preference, or maybe you are following a particular decor style such as contemporary or modern, maybe even classical. You can also go eclectic and combine many different styles together; your decorator will know what is best for you,’ says Stephen Black of Black Fabrics.

‘People often underestimate the amount of fabric needed to cover a window by measuring the actual dimensions of the space without taking into account the amount of volume they want to achieve through effects such as gathering. Bear in mind it takes two to three times the length of the space to achieve the necessary fullness you might be looking for. Another important point to think about is the sort of style you are going for – if you pick eyelet curtains, bear in mind that you will always have light seeping through from the top of the curtains, so they’re not necessarily a good idea for the bedroom,’ recommends Sharon.

Hardworking fabrics

‘When purchasing upholstery fabric or upholstered furniture, be aware that the higher the rub count, the more tightly woven the fabric is, and the better it will wear. Rub count refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric and gives us an idea of how it will wear on an upholstered item. If you are wanting to upholster a sofa or dining room chair or any furniture item that has high traffic, it is always better to go for a fabric with a high rub count, 25000 +. Home Fabrics Basics has a wide collection of local fabrics which are both patterned and plain which will work brilliantly for this type of application. If you have a little more decadent taste, brands such as Designers Guild and Clarke have various plain and patterned collections to whet your appetite,’ quotes Marc.

How to take care of fabrics

‘At Home Fabrics, we suggest professional dry cleaning for fabrics. Some fabrics are more delicate than others such as 100% linen and cotton which will require cleaning quite quickly if soiled. The benefit of using 100% polyester or a fabric with a polyester blend is that a mark comes out easily and with fantastic results. Home Fabrics launched a new brand called FibreGuard with is 100% stain free and perfect for both contract and residential applications and especially useful if one has kids,’ advises Marc.


Choosing the right texture, colour or design is very important; your home is a sanctuary so spend wisely. Find out about the latest trends and update your home regularly – if budget is tight changing your cushions can reinvent a room. Adding wallpaper as a feature is also a great way to bring new life to an interior, be aware of your tactile senses, soft velvets are beautiful and a joy to touch but also very hard wearing, don’t be scared of the bruising (pile or fibre movement), it’s the nature of pile fabrics and creates a wonderful look. Also enjoy natural fibres such as cotton and linen – they are wonderful to sit on and live with.


‘Linen creases and creates a lovely understated yet comfortable lived-in look – don’t fight it, embrace it. Be bold with colour it can make you smile when you walk into a room, get advice from professionals don’t be scared of using a decorator or designer they can seriously enhance your lifestyle,’ concludes Stephen.