The word upscale can be off putting to some, but don’t let that stigma steer you wrong! When we use the word, we’re using it to describe great quality and excellent design (that also happens to be accessible). We take pride in everything we produce, but some pieces require a little extra oomph to truly bring a designer’s vision to life. So what can you expect from our version of upscale upholstery? Glad you asked, let’s discuss!
Believe it or not, all fabrics are not created equal (nor should they be). Textiles play a major role in the upholstery process, so it’s important to choose the right one for your next project. Restaurants will use vinyl because it’s easy to clean and maintain, but oftentimes it won’t work for ‘high end’ pieces. So what are the alternatives? The list is actually fairly extensive!
Suede is one of the most satisfying textiles when it comes to our senses (running your hands over this material is definitely a fun sensory experience). We often see this fabric in jewel tones (think emerald greens and amber yellows) because it’s a great addition to boutique hotels and salons alike. While suede is a form of leather, there are faux versions available. These are usually referred to as “ultra suede” and are considered a type of microfiber. Fun fact, suede is also surprisingly easy to clean (no water needed).
Though not traditional by any means, it’s still a viable option for upholstery (it can be used for more than just nice sweaters after all). Taken from the hair of the cashmere goat, its high price point is definitely justified (though there are excellent blended options available). We don’t see this much in the wild (pun intended), but it’s a popular option for beds when utilizing a farmhouse chic design aesthetic (usually in brighter whites & creams).
We’ve talked about leather in the past, but we’re here to do it again! It’s a highly durable material that leaves a lasting impression with age. It’s a popular textile that can be used in a multitude of settings, from the ivy league and beyond. While there are vegan alternatives and bonded options (which utilizes about 20% of real leather to achieve its low price point), they aren’t nearly as durable as the real thing. If you’re going for the leather look, it’s best to stick with something genuine (or opt for a different fabric altogether).
Linen is comfortable, versatile, but also extremely elegant (when used in the right settings). We tend to get beach vibes when thinking about this fabric and for good reason. It’s the perfect choice for hot summer months because of how moisture-resistant it is (though it also works to keep you cool during the winter). Not only is it a great choice for your Hampton getaway, but it makes perfect sense in the home. It’s easy on the skin and most options are hypo-allergenic (sensitive types can rejoice). You don’t have to sacrifice luxury for comfort when choosing linen. Have both!
Mohair is one of the oldest textiles still in use today and is another animal based fabric. Hair is taken from the Angora goat to create it, and it’s quite luxurious in its softness/sheen. It can be produced in many colors to compliment your design and is also great for sensitive skin (it’s not quite as itchy as other wool options). Great for use in space age designs and can be seen in many vintage pieces.
Silk is a surprisingly luxurious fabric for something made of insect larvae. It is produced by boiling moth caterpillars once they’ve begun to pupate into their cocoons (in a fun cultivation process called sericulture). This process allows fibers to be extracted and woven, creating the textile you see today! It’s surprisingly durable for a natural fiber, but it’s important to care for it accordingly (keep moisture at bay if you want it to last).
Last on our list is another great textile, wool! Popular patterns like plaid and tartan are often used to upholster accents rather than entire pieces (though you could do so if you wanted). Under the same umbrella we have shearling (sometimes fondly referred to as teddy bear fabric) and that acts as another fun option for ottomans and seating (though too much shearling can appear childlike, so we suggest using it sparingly). Just like with suede, there are plenty of high end vegan alternatives on the market!
Fabric is arguably the most important aspect of a piece, but the hardware (when chosen correctly) can take it to the next level. Something as small as a cabinet knob can make or break an overall design, so choose wisely! When you scour the internet for interior inspiration, it’s usually not the brown drawer pulls that you notice. It’s more likely the gold.
That’s not to say that adding gold accents automatically adds luxury to a piece either. If you’re using subpar materials and expecting your choice in hardware to do the heavy lifting, then you’ll most likely have an end product that’s also subpar (but with shiny knobs). Just take a note from the pros and be mindful with your choices (after all, this blog is about how upscale is achieved). So what various options exist in the hardware world? Glad you asked, let’s take a look!
Marble is easily one of the most lavish materials (and is used quite often). It’s not only reserved for kitchen countertops, and can be used for just about anything! Marble can be found in drawer pulls, cabinet knobs, and even toilet roll holders (fancy). It’s a truly high quality material that can elevate just about any design.
While solid gold hardware does exist, it’s not very practical on a large scale (even by the highest of standards). Brass is usually a great option that can be plated in gold (18k-24k) to evoke the feel and luxury of the real thing. It’s long lasting and can be used in conjunction with other materials (marble for example).
Scratch resistant, and highly durable, it’s no wonder that stainless steel is a popular choice for kitchens (we can’t forget to mention its high sheen, when polished, it can be quite blinding). You may think that it’s not as glamorous as its gold counterpart, but that’s simply not true! It’s important to know when to pair metals and with what.
Though similar in their looks, it’s important to note that sterling silver is quite a bit more delicate than stainless steel (and therefore not as suitable for everyday use). However, some purists may opt to use sterling silver because it’s so delicate. Being a precious metal, it has an air of sophistication that you (arguably) can’t get from stainless steel. Because it tarnishes rather quickly, we’d only recommend it for purely decorative hardware.
Not all wood is created equal, and there are many luxurious options available (mahogany and maple come to mind). When paired alongside steel or brass, it can look very sophisticated (or very retro). Having the ability to see the grain is an added bonus of utilizing wood (it’s essentially a built in pattern provided by nature)!
If you’re looking for something contemporary, look no further! Crystal is a popular choice for knobs and can be cut into a multitude of shapes to fit your aesthetic. It’s also quite versatile and can be used in preppy homes, opulent ballrooms, or quirky cafes.
Separate from marble and crystal, gemstones encompass everything else on the spectrum (think amber and amethyst). You often won’t see them used in larger quantities, but rather on a smaller scale (usually for knobs and the occasional handle). These aren’t just for geology fans though, gemstones work well for any home and can be shaped to your preference.
There’s a lot that goes into furniture manufacturing, and it can be overwhelming to some! Though we recommend that everyone go through a designer, sometimes DIY is the only option available. We hope that for those cases, this guide can serve as a helpful tool when picking out your own choices for custom pieces. Just because we do it ourselves, doesn’t mean it can’t be luxurious!