5 Out of 5 Designers We Asked Agreed This Fabric is the Most Comfortable Choice for a Sofa

When it comes to picking upholstery, there are so many options to consider, but designers agree that this is their favorite for comfort

A blue living room with performance velvet sofa
(Image credit: Kaitlin Green. Design: Emily Henderson)

Upholstery is a pretty big decision to make when it comes to selecting furniture. The fabric you select must stand up to daily wear and tear, should be easy to clean and durable. What's more, your chosen material should be enduringly stylish, fit the wider aesthetic of the home and surpass design trends.

Perhaps the main priority, however, is that your chosen upholstery provides comfort, inviting you to slink into your favorite sofa at the close of the day, welcoming the feel of the fabric against your skin like a big hug.

So what is the most comfortable fabric the designers turn to time and time again for the best sofas? There are so many different types out that there that feel soft against the skin, but the designers agree that this fabric is a reliable go-to- choice.

What is the most comfortable fabric?

A teal-blue L-shape sofa

(Image credit: Kaitlin Green. Design: Emily Henderson)

Performance velvet has emerged as a unanimous favorite among designers for its unparalleled comfort and luxurious feel. It provides a high-end aesthetic (although can actually be found for a cost-effective price) and doesn't sacrifice on resilience or durability. 'It is the ultimate illustration of form meeting function,' says Bethany Grachan of Searl Lamaster Howe Architects.

'Considering almost all of the sofas I've put in my home have been in velvets, I have to say performance velvet is such a soft and cozy fabric,' says designer Emily Henderson, who selected performance velvet in a cozy deep blue in the above living room. 'And if you know me, comfort is everything,' she says.

'I've always find myself drawn to a velvet for cozy living room furniture,' agrees designer Rylie Fitzgerald. 'It has this plush comfort, beautiful part of any material scheme and is a bold statement - often determining a room’s vibe.'

For interior designer Kathy Kuo, few upholstery materials are more of a perfect combination of comfort, style, and durability than performance velvet. 'I love velvet upholstery for adding an extra layer of glamour and texture to a room, but also because velvet has a lovely feel to it,' she says. 'It's a genuinely soft and cozy material for an accent chair or sofa.'

What exactly is performance velvet?

A living room performance velvet sofa

(Image credit: Kathy Kuo Home)

Performance upholstery is a textile that's been modified to make it more durable for use in the home. It blends synthetic and natural fibres to create fabrics that are easily cleanable, stain resistant, and durable to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life.

You might not think something this tough is would make for the most comfortable material, but performance fabric, and specifically performance velvet, expertly blends form with function for plush and extra cozy furniture.

Since velvet is a weave, performance velvet fabric is all about the material it is made from. Often it is 100 percent polyester but others might pick cotton or a poly-cotton blend, while traditional velvet is made from silk. 'My favorite is a matte cotton velvet,' says Rylie. 'The texture and height in pile of velvet absorbs the body like a sponge.'

'Velvet is a sophisticated and elegant fabric that never goes out of style,' says Lauren Levinson, senior project manager of Rise Projects. 'Since the rise of its popularity in the 1970s and current trending usage it has evolved further.

'Performance velvets came onto the scene and offer the same look and comfort but with real life application for those common mishaps. Luckily none of the cozy attributes of velvet have been lost when choosing performance fabric which makes it an obvious choice for upholstery.'

What are the other benefits to performance fabric?

A performance velvet sofa in green

(Image credit: John Keon. Design: Sugarhouse)

As well as aesthetics and feel, it is hardwearing, meaning it's comfortable for longer. 'Not only is performance velvet the most comfortable fabric, it is also bulletproof,' says May Sung of SUBU Design Architecture. durable.

'We use performance velvets for their aesthetic value, comfort and durability,' agrees Jess Nahon of Sugarhouse. 'It's a great choice for clients with children or pets, and spaces where the seating will endure a lot of wear and tear.

'The clients whom we created the sofa for (above) are very happy with it in their living room a year and a half later. They have three very rambunctious children and have reported how surprised they are how easy it is to keep clean.'

It might conjure visions of stiff, uncomfortable pieces, but it can make a living room look expensive too. 'The texture also makes any space feel more luxurious,' says Emily.

It's easy to clean too. 'When you add a performance element, it also becomes all that more practical; performance velvet is super easy to clean with just a damp cloth,' says Kathy. 'I have performance velvet on all my sofa in my home, and I have four dogs, two cats, and two kids. I am personal proof that it is not only comfortable; because it is worry-free, it's comfortably stress-free.'

What is the best way to style performance velvet?

A living room sofa in performance velvet fabric

(Image credit: Rylie Fitzgerald)

The good thing about performance velvet is that it is adaptable and available in a multitude of shades. 'There are so many color options - for this private wine room (above) for a residence, I upholstered this bespoke sofa wall to wall red and color matched this to the carpet for this an all encompassing ambience.' says Rylie. Performance velvet looks great in intense, jewel-toned shades like deep inky blues, dark reds and moody purple tones.

'To increase comfort, it’s always so nice for your sofa or chair to have loose back cushion with a feather insert, and potentially combining this with memory foam for structure,' adds Ryle.

3 sofas with performance velvet upholstery

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.