Rethinking Fabric: Bring the Outdoors In

Rethinking Fabric: Bring the Outdoors In


July 2017

Outdoor fabrics aren’t what they used to be—they’re so much better! Here’s how and why we use outdoor fabrics for interior decorating

Often overlooked and devalued, fabrics are one of the most important parts of your decor—inside and out! They introduce colour, texture and pattern, and usually tie the entire space together. Many clients are surprised to discover we often choose “outdoor” fabric for interior use. Outdoor fabrics are not what they used to be, we tell them. There are many good reasons why you should consider using them.

What’s the difference between outdoor fabric and indoor fabric?

Exposed to lots of light, coloured indoor fabric can begin fading within a year (blue dyes are the worst for this), says an LA Times column about fabric durability. Outdoor fabrics, on the other hand, are developed to withstand sun and moisture.

You may not think of fabric as a technology, but it is. The way fibers and yarns are treated affects their colour fastness, hand (how they feel), stain and water resistance. In the last 15 years, manufacturers have started producing fabric that has the look and hand of indoor fabric, and the durability of outdoor fabric. This new category is simply called indoor/outdoor fabric.

The most popular type of indoor/outdoor fabric is solution-dyed acrylic. It is made by dyeing the fibers before they are woven into yarns, which are in turn used to create fabric. Viscose, which is made from wood pulp cellulose, and synthetic polyester are two other popular options.

The advent of indoor/outdoor fabric is a revelation—particularly for homes and cottages with here in Haliburton, which tend to have large windows to take in our picturesque surroundings. Now our expensive drapery, furniture, pillows and rugs can sunbathe like it’s 1985.

Designer indoor/outdoor fabric

“People are often surprised at the huge selection of indoor/outdoor fabrics. From how they feel to the designs, they work for many different applications. And with popular design brands like Ralph Lauren partnering with distributors like us, new patterns and colours are launching seasonally,” says Brenda Bradley, our awesome rep from Kravet Canada.

Creative ways to use indoor/outdoor fabric

Because this type of fabric boasts soft hand, colour fastness and water resistance, we’re increasingly specifying it for large staple pieces like sofas and upholstered chairs. Earlier this year we were looking for a soft white fabric for one of our clients. She was worried about having a white couch, so together did an experiment on a swatch: we poured a glass of red wine on a it. When it beaded right off, a new white couch was born.

We love using it for pillows too. Our favourite trick is to specify traditional fabrics for one side of the pillow, and a solid coordinate for the other side. The side with the outdoor fabric can be exposed to the sun during the daytime, then they can be flipped when entertaining, or for a change in the evening hours.

While just one of many aspects of decorating a room, fabrics are one of our favourite parts of the design process. Write to us if you have questions about fabrics, or visit our studio for a more tactile experience exploring our fabric books.