What is the most low maintenance couch material? Designers unanimously agree – and it's perfect for family life

Looking for a sofa to stand the test of time? These are the fabrics that sofa experts swear by

A bright colored living room with a coral velvet sofa
(Image credit: Hanna Grankvist. Design: Studio Nato)

Buying a sofa is a big investment and making the decision for your big ticket item isn't to be taken lightly. Among the many considerations you need to take into account (size, shape, color, to name a few), material is up there as one of the more crucial decisions to make.

It also doesn't help there is a lot of information out there and so many materials  to pick from - performance velvets, cotton, leather, all claiming to be the most durable option. But what really is the best sofa material for longevity?  Whatever you do, test the waters first. 'Order a range of swatches and live with their look and feel before you commit,' advises designer Jonathan Adler. 'Consider your lifestyle vs your dream fabric’s cleanability - think about kids, pets, that messy other half!' We've spoken to the designers and wrangled it down to these top five materials that are best for your living room.

And the winner is... Performance velvet

A brown velvet sofa

(Image credit: Michael Richter. Design: White Arrow)

You might not think it, but performance velvet is the best fabric you can get for a family. The best velvet sofas have a luxurious look, but it's actually one of the most durable fabrics you can get for your sofa. Spillages and scratches are no match for performance velvet, which can be easily cleaned thanks to its matte finish and a short pile of evenly cut fibers. As velvet is not flat-woven, it won’t snag but can bruise over time.

‘Many fabrics on the market today are made for both indoor and outdoor environments, composed of high-performance yarns that allow the fabric to be more resilient to carefree everyday use,' says Greta Mak, architect and designer at Beauty Bloody Bonza. 'These textiles can generally be cleaned with bleach solutions making it a great option for families that have children and pets,’ explains Greta. 

Velvet is an example of this type of performance fabric. There is more to its durability though, from an aesthetic perspective, it looks great in all colors. 'Velvet also reflects the light in a really interesting way, so looks different depending on where you view it from,' says Antony Martin, architect and designer at Melbourne-based MRTN Architects.

3 other low maintenance couch materials

If performance velvet doesn't fit with your aesthetic, designers suggest these options instead.

1. Polyester

A synthetic material, polyester is famed for its durability and longevity. It's unlikely to fade over time and is easy to clean, making it a great option for families. Because it is made of synthetic fibers, this material doesn't break down over time. Polyester is also highly resistant to stains. Unlike natural fabrics, which can be easily stained, polyester repels liquids. Finally, it's a super affordable option for your family room.

2. Leather

A suede Togo sofa

(Image credit: Dave Kulesza. Design: MRTN Architects)

When picking a fabric for a family home, leather sofas are a great choice. Not only does it bring a sophisticated and traditional feel to your room, but leather will soften with age and those scuffs will only add character and charm. Its durability makes it a great choice for family life. 

It also can't hold onto dirt like other fabrics, meaning it's a great allergy-proof fabric. It's also easy to clean, requiring only a light dusting every so often, rather than a full clean. Make sure to condition it to avoid the leather cracking, and if you want something softer, pick suede, which brings a contemporary edge to the leather look.

3. Chenille

Luxurious and regal, chenille is a hard-wearing fabric that is picture-perfect for a family with children and pets and makes an elegant living room choice. 'Similar to velvet, this fabric has a close weave that gives it a soft and expensive feel,' says Gamze Kaya, interior designer at popular furniture brand, Soho House. 'Due to the nature of the fabric it has great stain resistance and can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth, without any hassle.' 

Chenille is absorbent, so make sure to keep it away from water, but its durability and strength make up for this. It's so thick and retains its shape for years to come. 

Cleaning your chenille sofa might require more work than the other fabric choices, but it's just about giving it a good brush, carefully acknowledging the pile, and weaving. Use a vacuum to clean away any excess dirt. Just bear in mind that when exposed to direct sunlight, chenille can end up fading, so if you do go for the chenille look, make sure it's carefully placed in a darker corner.

4. Cotton blends

living room with striped yellow sofa

(Image credit: Anthropologies)

Cotton is a natural material that brings softness and breathability to your home. But a cotton blend fabric enjoys the softness that you might get from cotton, mixed in with the qualities from other fabrics, such as linen or polyester. 

Cotton doesn't pill, is easy to clean and is easy to dye, but for a better option, go for a cotton blend with a synthetic fiber like acrylic, bringing that extra durability. 'A blend of cotton and polyester, with a good thickness weave, is also a good choice,' says Marc Bherer, architect and designer at Montreal-based Desjardins Bherer.

‘Textured weaves in mixed material compositions wear well and disguise those possible spills and mishaps of family life,’ agrees Darren Genner, architect and designer at Studio Minosa.

3 family sofas to buy now

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.