Most of us don’t look any further than paint as an easy way to add personality to a room, but the rich texture of fabric can more swiftly evoke a mood.
Interior stylist Tahn Scoon says fabric – in furnishings, accessories, or adorning the wall – can add a new dimension and instantly update any space. “To me, exquisite fabrics and wallpapers are the most delicious aspects in interior décor; they really nail the room’s personality, whatever you want that to be – decadent, lush, industrial, irreverent, or anything in between.”
How to choose the right fabric is just one of the topics covered by Scoon at occasional interior styling workshops orgainsed at different venues.
“The intensity of our sun can really knock the naturals (cotton, linen and silk) around, so linen curtains for example will need to be well-lined and outdoor cushioning will fade, and even rot, fast, so it’s better in these circumstances to use a quality synthetic outdoor fabric.
“Sofas are another area where it’s sometimes best to use a synthetic fabric. A heavy domestic or commercial-grade synthetic fabric will be tougher and more stain-resistant than, say, a linen; though I do love a linen sofa.”
Beyond furnishings, windows and walls are where fabric can make the biggest impact, but it’s no small task deciding between curtains, blinds and shutters, sometimes all within the one room.
“One thing I get asked a lot is what to do if you have one big sliding door in your bedroom and then a long, skinny window above your bed,” says Scoon.
“The simple solution is to install a curtain on the sliding door and then a roman blind in the same fabric above the bed.
“Some people are worried that curtains might look a bit old fashioned but they really don’t – to me they’re highly practical and they make an interior look ‘finished’ – the trick is to pick the right fabrics. Again, naturals look best – linens for relaxed, natural interiors and silks for more decadent rooms.”
Whether you repeat a fabric or mix several within a room, there are ways to make it all work, says Scoon. “There are no hard and fast rules – you could be daring enough to go for a boldly patterned statement sofa and keep everything else neutral so the sofa can really pop.
“Don’t be scared of mixing patterns. All you have to do is find one little common thread, such as a repeating colour or motif. It’s perhaps the most fun to find a fabric or two that you really adore and decorate around them.”
As with many aspects of a household, balancing the feminine and masculine can also achieve great results.
Balancing yin and yang
“If you love feminine, delicate colours and fabrics but your partner prefers darker, more masculine furnishings that’s OK because the most interesting interiors are a balanced combination of both.
“For example, you might team a delicate hand-embroidered cushion with a rough hessian armchair, or a lush silken rug on an industrial-style concrete floor.
“The thing to remember is eyes need a place to rest, so be as out there as you like with colour and pattern – it’s amazing fun to create an interesting interior, one that makes you smile – but just balance that by allowing some areas to be uncluttered and restful. If everything is bold and busy, the interior will feel too chaotic,” says Scoon.
Cost is also an important consideration with fabric, but choosing to use more expensive fabrics for smaller applications can help keep a project within budget, says Scoon. “Use designer fabrics for smaller items such as cushions, ottomans or a feature chair and buy more plain, less expensive fabric for bigger projects such as re-covering a sofa. Synthetic fabrics are usually a sensible choice for sofas – for example, Warwick and Zepel both have linen-look synthetics, which are well-priced.”
With each layer of colour, texture, print and personality, a home’s interior should evolve over time, says Scoon, not be rushed into completion at the expense of natural development.
“I’m really into scouring vintage fairs and charity stores for gorgeous old fabrics to make into cushions. I admit it’s hard to find much, but then again you don’t need much for cushions. The most important thing to remember is that it’s your home, so choose fabrics you adore.”