Selecting the right upholstery for your office furniture can seem like a daunting task. But it’s important to select material that is proper for your setting because that will determine how long your furniture lasts.
Things to consider if favoring fabric
Many people choose fabric upholstery because it can be very inviting, comfortable in varying temperatures and easy to maintain as long as you choose fabric that is going to work well in your setting. So, there are several things to consider before purchasing your upholstery:
- Where will your furniture be located? The durability of your upholstery will depend on how often the furniture is used. If your furniture doesn’t get used often then you can get away with purchasing some of the more sensitive fabrics like linen and silk, whereas if your furniture is in a high traffic reception area you will want to choose something that can easily withstand the use. Combination fabrics and engineered fabrics tend to be more durable than natural ones. Also, the tighter the weave, the longer the fabric tends to hold up.
- Will it be in the sunlight? Remember fabric will fade over time if it’s in the sun so you will want that to play into your decision. So, either you will want to move your furniture away from any windows or you will need to choose a fabric option that will hide the fading as much as possible. You also want to avoid placing your furniture right next to a heat source.
- What mood are you trying to convey? The color of your fabric will have a lot to do with it. Brighter colors will add a cheery vibe to any room, while warm tones can provide a relaxing atmosphere.
- What pattern will work with your décor? Most patterns can hide stains and wear better than plain fabric. But you will want to make sure the patterns work with the rest of your style and are inviting to your clients or customers. Woven patterns tend to hold up better than printed ones. You also want to make sure you are choosing patterns and colors that you will enjoy well into the future since your furniture is something you will be seeing every day. The size of the piece of furniture may come into play here as well. You may be able to get away with having certain patterns on smaller chairs, etc., but they may not work as well on sofas and loveseats.
- You will want to be aware of what cleaning method you will need to use to clean your fabrics. Many fabrics can be cleaned with either water-based cleaners or dry-cleaning products. You’ll want to check your furniture for tags that may have cleaning instructions on them. They may also be labeled with a lettered cleaning code that easily allows you to determine which cleaning method to use.
- Will you need extra stain protection? You can prolong the life of your fabric with stain resistant treated upholstery, such as Crypton fabric. Crypton fabric offers permanent protection from stains, moisture, mildew, bacteria and odors. Just be aware that specialized upholstery may require specialized cleaning processes.
When selecting fabric you will be able to choose between different “grades”. The grade simply equates to the cost to manufacture the fabric, not necessarily the durability. This is dependent on the type of fiber used, the construction of the fabric, and the thread count.
Most manufacturers use an alphabetical rating system, such as A to H, to indicate fabric grade, with A being the least expensive to H being the most expensive. Other manufacturers may use a number rating instead, with low numbers indicating the least expensive and higher numbers meaning more expensive.
You can always check with a manufacturer if you are unsure of the grade of the fabric you are considering.
When selecting a fabric that will hold up in your setting you will want to choose by its strength. This is determined by how it rates on the double rub test. This test is a back and forth motion on the fabric that approximates the wear and tear that happens when furniture is sat upon. 3,000 double rubs equal one year’s worth of use.
If a fiber holds up to more than 15,000 double rubs it is classified as HD or heavy duty. It’s thicker than most fabrics and a good choice for high traffic. 30,000 or more double rubs is considered ideal. Commercial grade is 100,000 to 250,000 and you will find some that are even higher!
Other upholstery options
If durability is your main concern you may want to consider vinyl, leather, or even mesh options:
- Vinyl seating is a great cost effective option and has a look and texture similar to leather with less maintenance. There are standard vinyl options as well as vinyl treated with a PERMABLOK® finish. This is a protective coating that creates a barrier against the three biggest problems in healthcare and hospitality settings: germs, abrasion and stains. Healthcare vinyl is also an option. Healthcare vinyl is resistant to sulfide, urine, common stains, moisture and bacteria. It also cleans up well easily. Most vinyl rates high on the double rub test.
- Leather furniture is comfortable and classy. When looking at leather furniture you want to consider its color (will it match your décor), quality of leather, and how well it cleans up. Leather lasts longer than fabric and can actually become more beautiful over the years. You can add a layer of protection to your leather by applying a leather protector before your first use, otherwise you can purchase protected leather furniture. Regardless, you want to make sure to keep all leather furniture out of the sun.
- Mesh chairs are made of a synthetic upholstery material that is tightly woven into a mesh design. Mesh chairs are great in an office because of the ventilation they offer. The back of a mesh chair allows airflow on your back which can help you stay cool. The additional airflow cuts down on the amount a person sweats while sitting, and in return means less cleaning.
- If you do choose one of these options keep in mind that they each have their own cleaning process that you will want to follow to ensure your furniture is not damaged and always looks its best.
When selecting your upholstery you want to keep in mind that office furniture should echo the character and purpose of your company, as well as the people who work there. Spend some time planning out your purchase because it will be an investment you will live with for years to come and will influence the first impression you make on your customers. Get some advice from experts or even friends. Many companies, such as Beyond The Office Door, will allow you to order fabric samples so you know what you will end up with. Don’t be afraid to use this option, because you will want to know ahead of time how the fabric will look under your lighting, which may be different than how it looks in a store or showroom. This is also important when ordering fabric online, because samples may look different depending on your computer monitor. The best bet is to get a fabric swatch in your hand, to view in your office setting.
No matter what you end up selecting in the end, make sure to care for your furniture on a regular basis. Clean up spills right away and vacuum your furniture weekly or wipe it down with a cloth. This is also a good time to do routine upkeep on your future which we will discuss in a future blog. These simple steps will extend the life of your furniture and keep it looking its best.