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6 Tips for Decorating With Fabric

Learn how to incorporate favorite patterns and textures throughout your home with these simple tips.

Fabrics can fulfill a fascination with textural elements more so than any other interior decoration. The variety of colors and patterns offers a vast opportunity for articulating a specific look. Here are some tips for accomplishing it:

  1. If you've decided on a particular style, research the look in magazines, books and online, tour show houses and browse furniture stores to get a feel for the textiles that best set the mood. Certain textures and sheens are befitting of specific styles and can make or break the design.

  2. Choose your fabric before painting a room-you can always match the paint to the pattern. Take note of the background color, the intensity of the hues and the scale of the print. Then select two or three fabrics in smaller patterns and possibly varying textures, all within the same color story. Another option is to go with the same pattern in various sizes (depending, of course, on how much you love the pattern). Cut swatches to size in proportion to how they'll be used in the room; the upholstery fabric should be the largest swatch, followed by the window coverings, table drapes, pillows, etc. Layer the pieces on a large board to see how they relate. If you can't find other fabrics that match your favorite or just don't want more than one, bring the colors together through different materials, such as leather, stained wood or metal. (If you're more color-conscious and it's the hue that inspires you, get it on the walls to stimulate your creativity if you're not committed to a specific theme.)

  3. Select upholstery based on how the room is used. Delicate textiles such as silk and lace are probably not the best choices for rooms that see a lot of activity. If kids and pets have the run of your place, look at sturdy woven materials like chenille and denim for informal rooms and damasks and tapestries for more formal settings. When you're out shopping, if you can't sit on the fabric in the store, be sure to order samples before you buy.

  4. Coordinate not only colors and patterns but sheens and textures as well. You could have sensory overload in a room full of shiny chintz and silk if it's not tempered with enough matte fabrics or accessories.

  5. Use fabric in unexpected places. Line the back wall of a shelving unit, use it to decoupage furniture, hang a pretty piece as wall art, slipcover a coffee table or cover an entire wall.

  6. Look beyond traditional fabric stores for your inspirational piece. Maybe you have a beautiful sweater that's on its way to a thrift store because it's too small — turn it into a fun pillow cover and dress it up with buttons or beads instead. Fabric can usually be made into whatever you want, whether it's bought off the bolt or as a pre-made bedspread. Open your eyes to the possibilities.

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