Velvet revolution

by Alexis Koukos

When you picture a velvet piece of furniture, the iconic burnt orange couch from the long-running “Friends” TV series may come to mind. And like the popular hangout spot on the beloved sitcom, velvet evokes feelings of warmth, comfort and home — something that never goes out of style, but prevails with updated looks.

“I do think [velvet’s] in vogue but I don’t think it ever went out of vogue. I think what’s new and fresh about velvet is the use of unexpected, vibrant colors,” says Carey Karlan, principal interior designer of Last Detail Interior Design in Darien.

Karlan notices that people sometimes shy away from using too much velvet in their homes. “That probably stems from an old belief that it is stuffy or fragile. Whereas it can really be a very bold and dynamic look when used in strong colors and quantity,” says Karlan. She adds that velvet can give the impression of quality and can have a strong impact without being overpowering. “I think we sometimes still associate velvets with overly tufted Victorian chairs or saloons in old westerns. This is a mistake,” she says, “as all the fresh colors and durable finishes available now make it a fun modern fabric for today's lifestyle.”

For an updated way to introduce velvet into a room, Karlan suggests adding a velvet headboard to a bedroom or pairing velvet with silk to achieve a formal look. Another option is to add velvet pillows to a room to make it more luxe.

“Velvet is more durable than one might think. There are indoor/outdoor velvet options that are very close to the real thing but resists spills. So actually, it can go on almost any piece of furniture,” explains Karlan.

Sandra Long, owner, Laura's Draperies, Bedspreads & More in Norwalk, explains that “velvet is no longer your ‘grandmother's look’ and has been updated to be modern and fit into today's interiors. It is a non-fussy fabric and can live and play well with any decor, and the durability and ease of cleaning of velvet is great for households with children and pets. It is a fabric that can be touched and enjoyed.”

Long’s clients are choosing velvet to add texture to their decor, often through draperies. “If the velvet is being used a drapery, the fabric tends to be lightweight so that it hangs and drapes beautifully; if it’s being used for upholstered pieces of furniture, then the fabric tends to be thicker and have a ‘bigger’ pile so that it is more comfortable and feels more luscious,” Long says.

Homeowners are requesting grays, taupes, and other neutral colors for their draperies, says Long, while brighter colored velvet pillows are more fun and dramatic to add punch to a room's decor. “My clients are playing with velvet on small upholstered pieces such as benches, ottomans and small chairs,” she states.

Patti Stern, principal of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating in Cheshire, is currently working on a project using polyester velvet to better fit the client’s lifestyle.

“We are in the process of designing a home where we recommended a moss green colored ‘velvet’ looking sofa. We had to go with a polyester fabric that looks like velvet because our client has two small dogs that basically run the house!” explains Stern, noting she uses a durable fabric — usually made of acrylic and polyester — that looks like velvet, but is more forgiving for families or homes with pets.

Stern has loved velvet since she was a little girl, with her mother having a sofa and two chairs from the ’60s that were upholstered in purple velvet.

“It is luxurious, rich in texture and comes in wonderful colors,” says Stern, explaining why velvet is a go-to fabric. “We are seeing a lot of jewel tones. I have also seen navy and jade velvet and recently a burnt orange velvet in dining chairs.”

For homeowners who want to first test the waters with velvet, Stern recommends adding one velvet piece to increase the luxury and glamour of a room. “Homeowners can incorporate velvet as an accent — whether pillows or draperies, or one beautiful sofa or accent chair,” Stern suggests.

According to designer Denise Davies, founder and CEO of D2 Interieurs in Weston, velvet is coming back into focus. “One reason is all the amazing colors, textures and most recently, ‘performance’ velvets, which is great when we are designing for our young families.” A performance velvet has a high amount of rubs, meaning it can last 10 or more years without being bruised or crushed. It’s also easier to clean in most cases.

Davies adds that people also prefer velvet because it is a warm fabric and clients are wanting a more lived in and cozy feel in their homes. To achieve this comfortable atmosphere, Davies suggests mixing different velvet textures including linen velvet, a chic fabric with a matte finish that when dyed takes on a deep, rich saturated color.

“In all of our designs, we love to mix many different textures to create a more layered and interesting room. Velvet is definitely always in the mix,” Davies says. “For example, I would do a pillow with one side velvet and the other linen. I love the tension between the two. We also mix wool, metallics and boucles.”

Davies advises homeowners to use velvet in all rooms and to not shy away from utilizing the fabric in a child’s bedroom. She suggests opting for a velvet duvet and pillows that are machine washable and do not wrinkle.

Finding the right color velvet can bring a whole room together and enhance the design.

“I am finding my clients are responding to blush and muted toned colors as opposed to brighter colors, which is what most people think of when they picture velvet furniture. We use it a lot in chairs, pillows and our custom beds,” observes Davies.

Selina Pinho, office manager at Fabric Barn in Bridgeport, has also noticed customers gravitating toward blue, gray, and neutral shades for velvet.

“Taste has definitely changed, which homeowners choosing more neutrals and less red and green,” notes Pinho. “Our customers use gray and blue velvet most often for furniture.”

Velvet is a material that any homeowner can use and make their own. “It’s not so much why people should or shouldn’t use velvets in their home, it’s all in personal preference and style of each individual,” states Pinho. “Velvet is a very versatile material and an easy addition to any room.”

When it comes to the care and maintenance of velvet, Long says “velvet is a very sturdy fabric that can handle lots of wear and tear, which is why many people like it for upholstery. Many companies now offer velvets with a performance finish such as Nanotex or Crypton, which almost makes the fabric ‘bullet proof’ and ideal for homes with small children, pets, or spouses who spill.”