Fabrics Home decor Palette and Role in Exterior Design – Blog – The Design Bridge

Fabrics Home decor Palette and Role in Exterior Design

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Fabric or cloth can be defined as a flexible material comprising a network of natural or artificial fibres.


Manufacturing of fabric


It is a long, thin strand or thread of a material.


They are natural or manufactured fibres that are twisted together and woven into a fabric.


They are cloth materials produced by weaving or knitting threads together.

Characteristics of good fabric

1. Fire Resistance

  • Fabric applied with a flame coating can tolerate an extremely hot point source. However, a large ignition source may cause burning.

2. Design Flexibility

  • Elasticity, durability and strength of textile structures allow them to accommodate loads ,and offer flexibility in designing.

3. Colour fastness

  • With PVC-coated and PVC-laminated polyesters, colour selection affects the colour fastness and UV resistance of the finished material.

4. Good resistance to pilling and fading

  • Fabric or textile structures are made to have a certain degree of resistance against pilling and fading.

5. Strength

  • Tensile strength is a basic indicator of relative strength of the fabric.
  • Shear Strength demonstrates the capacity of the fabric to avoid rupturing. .
  • Adhesion strength is a measure of the bonding capacity between the substrate and coating or laminate that protects it..
  • Form Tensile fabric allows one to use free forms in construction because of its flexibility.

6. Structural properties

  • Fabrics possess certain structural properties, some of these are:
  • a. Stress versus Strain (unit load versus unit elongation)
  • b. Expected service life
  • c. The mechanism of material bonding(welding, gluing, etc.)
  • These describes the fabric in terms of stiffness, elasticity, and plasticity.

Types of fabrics

a. According to Origin

1. Natural Fibres

  • Raw materials derived from plants, animals or minerals into non woven fabrics such as felt or paper or, after spinning into yarns, into woven cloth.

2. Man-Made Fibres

  • Fibres whose chemical composition, structure, and properties are significantly modified during the manufacturing process.

3. Regenerated Cellulosic Fibres

  • Fibres derived from cellulose obtained in a changed form by chemical treatment.

4. Synthetic Fibres

  • Polymer based fibers, man made from chemicals and are stronger than natural and regenerated fibers.

b. According to Usage

According to the usage, fabrics may be classified into:

  • Interior
  • Exterior

Role of fabrics in interiors

  • Fabrics protect paints and furnishings from damage due to harsh sunlight.
  • Fabrics offer privacy to occupants.
  • Incorporating fabrics can make a room cooler and reduce the air conditioning load in the summers.
  • Besides providing a certain degree of thermal insulation, they help dampen noise and echo.

Major Interior Application Areas

1. Fabrics for seating

  • Sofa covers
  • Chair cushions
  • Chair pads

2. Fabrics for windows

3. Fabrics for walls

  • Wall hangings
  • Wall papers

4. Fabrics for Beds

  • Bed sheets
  • Pillow cases
  • Blankets
  • Mattress cover
  • Dust ruffles

5. Fabrics for Bathrooms

  • Shower curtains
  • Terry towelling

6. Fabrics for home accessories

  • Floor cushions
  • Lamp shades

7. Fabrics for table

  • Table cloths
  • Table mats

Common fabrics used in interiors

1. Silk

  • It is among the strongest natural fabrics in the world.
  • It is derived from the cocoon of the silkworm moth.
  • It is lightweight, soft to touch and has a naturally lustrous texture.
  • It is a high quality fabric providing comfort in all weather conditions.


  • Curtains
  • Pillows covers
  • Exotic bed coverings, etc.


  • Available in a variety of weights and textures.
  • Rich and sophisticated appearance.
  • Strong and Lightweight.
  • Resists wrinkles, mildew.


  • Spoiled by perspiration, deodorants, perfumes and hairspray.
  • Weak when wet and sensitive to light.


  • Dry cleaning is preferred, some fabrics may be hand washed. Colours are prone to fading.
  • Rubbing the surface damages the fibers. It is suggested to iron the back side at moderate temperature.

2. Linen

  • Linen is a natural fibre derived from the flaxplant. It is one of the oldest fibres in use.
  • It provides a tough yarn which has a smooth and glossy appearance.
  • It is moth resistant and hardwearing.
  • It is strong, easily washable and dries faster than cotton.


  • Tablecloths
  • Bed sheets
  • Bath fabrics, etc.


  • It absorbs and releases moisture fast.
  • It has a natural lustre.
  • It is able to withstand high temperatures.
  • It is stronger than cotton.
  • It blends well with other fibres.


  • It is prone to wrinkles.
  • It does not dye well.
  • It wears out in areas of abrasion.
  • It has a tendency to shrink unless treated.


  • It may be machine washed and dried.
  • Bleach weakens fibres.
  • It can be dry cleaned and ironed at high temperatures.

3. Wool

  • Wool is a natural fibre fleeced from sheep or other mammals and further refined through various processes.
  • It has a natural colour, but it can be dyed in other colours as well.
  • It is an excellent insulator and finds maximum use in colder climates.
  • It is versatile and can be blended with synthetics, resulting in an improved fabric.


  • Rugs, carpets and blankets
  • Seat draping
  • Pillow covers
  • Curtains, etc.


  • It is resistant to static build-up.
  • It is a strong and durable fibre.
  • It is resilient and elastic due to natural crimp..
  • It is absorbent and dyes easily.
  • It has adequate wrinkle resistance.
  • Its low density makes it suitable as a lightweight material.
  • It is resistant to fading.


  • It has a tendency to absorb odour.
  • It is prone to moth attacks.
  • It is not washable unless properly treated.
  • It is weak when wet or moist.


  • Wool is usually dry cleaned.
  • May be machine washed if treated.

4. Cotton

  • Cotton is a natural fibre derived from the seed pod of the cotton plant.
  • It is comfortable and breathable, which makes it an excellent fabric to work with.
  • Its characteristic properties include resistance to fading and other signs of wear and tear.


  • Pillowcovers and bedcovers
  • Seat covers
  • Rugs
  • Towels
  • Curtains, etc.


  • Strong and Durable
  • Versatile fabric
  • Static Resistant
  • Cost Effective
  • Extremely cheap


  • It is vulnerable to mildew.
  • It is not elastic in nature.
  • It wrinkles easily without special finish.
  • It is prone to staining and soiling.
  • It shrinks unless treated or pre-shrunk.
  • It is highly flammable unless treated.


  • Cotton is machine washable if it is colour fast.
  • May shrink if washed or dried at high temperatures.

5. Leather

  • Leather refers to animal skins that are treated and preserved with chemicals to make them usable for various purposes such as furniture, tools, clothing, etc.
  • It has a distinct profile and texture, making it highly popular.


  • Leather seats
  • Decorative wall panels in bedrooms
  • Puffs
  • Sofa
  • Chair covers, etc.


  • It offers a classic and timeless look.
  • It remains durable if cared for regularly.
  • It is strong, flexible and easy to clean.
  • It does not retain odour.
  • It is dust and mite resistant.


  • It may get damaged by exposure to water and direct sunlight.
  • It also gets scratched and torn easily (in case a thin layer is used).
  • It can be expensive.
  • It offers limited colour options.


  • It can be cleaned easily with a damp cloth once a week.
  • It must be kept dust free.
  • For weekly care, a clean, soft lint-free cloth slightly dampened with distilled water can be used to wipe it gently.

6. Rayon

  • Rayon is produced from processed wood pulp.
  • It is also known as art silk, due to its resemblance to silk.
  • It has a bright lustrous texture.
  • It is more durable than silk.
  • It is widely used due to its reasonable price and popularity as a draping material.


  • Drapery
  • Bedcovers
  • Upholstery
  • Slipcovers
  • Table linens, etc.


  • It has great affinity to dyeing.
  • It drapes well.
  • It can be washed easily.
  • It is highly absorbent.
  • It is versatile.
  • It has better durability than silk.


  • Easily shrinks in hot water, also loses strength when wet.
  • It is highly flammable.
  • It can be fade easily.
  • It is heat sensitive.
  • It supports mildew growth.
  • It develops wrinkles easily, unless treated.


  • Usually, it is machine washable,
  • It retains a better appearance if dry-cleaned.
  • It must be ironed at lower temperatures.

7. Acetate

  • Acetate is manufactured from wood pulp.
  • After rayon, acetate is a common substitute of various natural fibres as it is versatile and inexpensive.
  • It is further used in making of satins and other fibres.


  • Home furnishings
  • Bed sheets
  • Drapery
  • Curtains, etc.


  • Sophisticated feel and appearance.
  • It is available in a wide range of lustrous colours.
  • It dries relatively fast.
  • It is resistant to shrinkage, moths and mildew.
  • Special dyes have been synthesized for acetate fibre since it does not accept dyes ordinarily used for cotton and rayon.


  • Heat sensitive
  • It has poor abrasion resistance.
  • It wrinkles easily.
  • It has low absorbency and strength.

8. Olefin

  • It is combined with other materials to generate aesthetics along with function.
  • This fabric is ideal for high traffic areas as well as for home decor i.e. in living rooms.
  • It is comfortable and commonly used for furniture.


  • Home furnishings
  • Carpets (indoor & outdoor)
  • Decorative rugs, etc.


  • It is strong.
  • It is non-absorbent.
  • It is resistant to stains.
  • It is extremely colour fast.
  • It is inexpensive.


  • It is heat sensitive.
  • It is prone to crushing
  • It offers limited colors & designs.


  • Most stains on the fabric can be removed by cleaning with lukewarm water and a mild detergent.
  • Bleaches can be used if required.
  • If fabric is laundered, it should be line dried or tumble dried with mild or no heat.
  • It should not be ironed.

9. Polyester

  • Polyester is usually blended with a number of fabrics.
  • It is highly versatile and available in many textures.
  • Polyester is resistant to wrinkling.
  • This makes it suitable for sitting areas.


  • Curtains,
  • Window scarves
  • Pleated shades
  • Fiberfill pillows
  • Bedding
  • Carpets, etc.


  • It is soft and durable.
  • It resists staining and soiling
  • It is easily dyed.
  • It blends easily with cotton.
  • It resists wrinkling.
  • It is versatile.
  • It is resistant to stretching, abrasion and shrinking.


  • It is prone to static electricity build-up.
  • It is heat sensitive.
  • It easily absorbs oil and grease.
  • It is prone to pilling.


  • It is usually machine washable
  • Fabric softener should be used to reduce static build-up.
  • Oily stains should be immediately removed with solvent or detergent solution.

10. Acrylic

  • Acrylic used as an alternative to wool and it also being used as alternative to cashmere.
  • It is soft and comfortable and its durability makes it an excellent choice for home decor.
  • Generally, acrylic fabrics hold colour extremely well.
  • It also resist stains and wrinkles.


  • Blankets
  • Rugs
  • Carpets, etc.


  • It has the appearance and feel of wool.
  • It resists mildew and moisture.
  • It is lightweight.
  • It is resistant to wrinkles, chemicals, oil and sunlight.
  • It dries fast.
  • It is elastic in nature.


  • It is prone to pilling.
  • It builds up static electricity.


  • It is machine washable and dryable.
  • A fabric softener is used to reduce static.

11. Nylon

  • Nylon is a highly versatile, resilient fabric with silky texture.
  • Being synthetic, properties such as durability and fading are addressed during manufacture.
  • It can also hold colour well.
  • It is however, strong in nature and used in blends instead of its pure


  • Rugs
  • Sheer Curtains
  • Carpets, etc.


  • It is highly durable.
  • It is soft and lustrous.
  • It is very strong.
  • It is easy to maintain.
  • It resists matting.
  • It dyes well.
  • It is mold, mildew, and moth-resistant.
  • It is abrasion resistant.
  • It resists stretching and shrinking.


  • It attracts dirt.
  • It is prone to pilling and fades easily.
  • It builds up static electricity.
  • It is heat sensitive.
  • It does not absorb moisture.
  • It may pill.
  • White fabric may become gray or yellow.


  • It is machine washable.
  • Fabric softener should used to reduce static.
  • It should be ironed at low temperature.

12. Velvet

  • Velvet is a kind of smooth woven tufted fabric, which may either be synthetic or natural.
  • It is a luxurious fabric which finds use in home decor.
  • It is suitable for furniture, pillow covers, as well as wallpapers.


  • Sofas
  • Carpets
  • Blankets
  • Wall coverings
  • Cushions
  • Pillow covers, etc.


  • It is soft and has a luxurious appeal.
  • It is light.
  • It offers good colour depth.
  • It offers good insulation.
  • It has decontamination ability.


  • It is difficult to clean.
  • It is costly.
  • The fabric wears out quickly with use.
  • It is prone to dust absorption..


  • It should be washed with cold water and a neutral detergent should be used.
  • After washing, the velvet should be tiled on a large bath towel. The moisture should be squeezed out after wrapping.

Natural vs synthetic fabrics

Natural Fabrics

Synthetic Fabrics


Versatile, Breathable and Affordable May wrinkle or fad

Lightweight, Colourfast and does not fade Difficult to clean

Strongest and Durable Warm and cozy

Tough and long lasting, Not breathable and uncomfortable

Luxurious but Expensive The material fades over time if exposed to direct sunlight

Does not pill and wrinkle resistant. It is an ideal fabric for draperies.

Role of fabrics in exteriors

The building fabric serves to:
  • Protect the building occupants from elements of weather, such as wind, rain, solar radiation, snow, and so on.
  • Regulate the thermal comfort of indoor environment.
  • Provide privacy for occupants.
  • Prevent noise transmission.
  • Provide security for occupants and the building contents.
  • Provide safety from hazards, for example by preventing the spread of fire or smoke.
  • Provide access between the inside and the outside of buildings.

Common Fabrics used in Exteriors

  • Cotton canvas
  • Polyester
  • Vinyl laminated polyester
  • Vinyl coated polyester
  • Fibreglass
  • Blackout fabric
  • Olefin
Note: Use of fabrics in exteriors varies with coating and lamination.

Major Exterior Application Areas

  • Architectural membranes
  • Hoardings and signage
  • Scaffolding nets
  • Awning and canopies
  • Parking shades
  • Tarpaulins

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