From the living quarters of Venetian palaces to the drawing rooms of British country houses, velvet has played a starring role in our homes for centuries.
But our love affair with the fabric is changing. Originally made from silk, velvet has gone from high-maintenance and expensive to just the job for a family sofa — thanks to the introduction of hard-wearing, spill- and dirt-resistant materials by furniture specialists.
The Prime Minister’s wife, Akshata Murty, is a fan — reportedly introducing jewel-coloured velvet sofas to 10 Downing Street.
Zingy: A velvet orange sofa will brighten a room. Furniture specialists now produce hard-wearing, spill- and dirt-resistant types of the fabric by furniture specialists
‘Velvet is an instant classic because it brings luxury and texture to any living space,’ says Emma Deterding of Kelling Designs.
‘It’s versatile enough to be dressed up for a more traditional, formal look, or dressed down for a relaxed and casual feel. Opt for deep inky blues and vibrant forest greens for impact, or even taupes and warm neutrals for easy luxe.’
Style and substance
Bear in mind that not all velvet is created equal.
The most luxurious of its kind is woven from silk, but it is more delicate and requires greater care.
Performance velvets, such as those by Perennials are a good choice for dirty paws or young children.
They are often made from 100 per cent polyester, or a cotton-poly blend, and replicate the prized downy qualities of silken velvets. They are also stain, water and odour-resistant.
For lovers of natural fibres, mohair velvets, made from the hair of Angora goats, are durable and withstand dirt and crushing, yet remain elegant and textural.
Cotton velvets are more delicate, but if the yarn is tightly woven they can withstand some wear and tear.
‘When you sit on velvet furniture, especially cotton, the pile will ruffle, and over time this wear will create a bruise,’ says interior designer Roby Baldan. ‘But this should be thought of as a patina, giving your velvet character and beauty.’
Thankfully, velvet’s durability does not require a compromise on softness.
Cosy: John Lewis cushions. Velvet’s durability does not require a compromise on softness
‘Quality velvets are commonly chosen for high-use commercial settings such as theatres and restaurants, indicating their resilience,’ says Sebastian Nash of King Living.
‘They are incredibly soft to the touch and often considered a luxe choice on upholstered seating.’
Velvet sofas are a classic addition to a sitting room, adding comfort and warmth, particularly when they are in jewel tones such as cobalt blue or mustard.
‘All of our velvets feature a special coating that prevents accidental spills or stains from soaking into the fabric too quickly,’ says Patricia Gibbons of sofa.com, whose Patrick Unbuttoned three-seat sofa in Amber Smart Velvet, £2,995, features this season’s chunky curves.
Cosy yet luxurious-looking, this is a material that works as well on contemporary minimalist furniture shapes as it does on traditional curved or button-back sofas for classic appeal.
Bear in mind, too, that velvet is available in multiple finishes.
Crushed velvet, created by pressing the pile in different directions, has a shiny look (which can be less forgiving); embossed is a printed fabric which incorporates pattern through a heat stamp; ciselé achieves a similar effect by using various thread lengths to create pattern; stretch velvet incorporates spandex for flexibility, while plain velvet has less shine but a sophisticated appeal.
How to style velvet in YOUR home
Look for creative ways to use this traditional fabric. Headboards can be upholstered in velvet — tie in the look with a bench at the end of the bed that features the same finish, or simply velvet piping for an elegant note.
‘I’m seeing several unusual ways to introduce this fabric,’ says Emma Deterding. ‘We’re using a velvet wallpaper in one of our projects and we often turn to velvet for window dressings for instant drama.
‘On a practical note, never lean against velvet with wet hair as it can damage the pile. Use a gentle brush to clean it regularly, while wiping with a rubber-gloved hand easily removes dust and fluff.’
Lampshades in velvet are an easy way to add luxe — but bear in mind that the darker the colour, the dimmer the light your lamp will emit, so choose moody tones to create atmosphere in rooms that are used in the evening.
For an on-trend look that works just as well in the daytime, try Pooky’s 30cm cone shade in Posh Pink Velvet, £50.
‘Introducing velvets on cushions and lampshades is an easy way to incorporate this on-trend material, and it mixes well with darker woods, boucle and marbles which are proving popular for spring,’ says Sarah O’Sullivan, home designer at John Lewis.
Try adding its Velvet Patchwork cushion in Multi, £20, to give an uplift to a neutral armchair or sofa.
Otherwise rich chocolate, orange and terracotta tones are all headlining.
Other inventive ways with this classic material include upholstering a window seat in a rich tone for a colour pop, or even framing a collection of different-coloured velvets, cut to identical sizes.
Complete with a chunky white border and frame to inject instant geometric appeal.
Savings of the week: Task lamps
Heal’s Milton lamp in blue is down by 70 per cent to £38 (heals.com)
By ANNE ASHWORTH
The flexible task lamp focuses light on any type of work or hobby, improving concentration and enjoyment.
For this useful item, we have to thank automotive engineer George Carwardine who, in 1932, patented the Anglepoise — the first adjustable task lamp and a decor style icon.
If you have always promised yourself an Anglepoise, Heals has reduced its selection of the various models by 15 per cent.
Prices range from £97 to £3,820 for the giant floor lamp, which used to cost £4,495.
Heal’s own-brand Milton lamp in blue is down by 70 per cent to £38.
Other elegant designs, influenced by Carwardine’s creation, are available. If you like the 1930s aesthetic, Wilko has the Blair chrome and grey lamp, which is down from £45 to £36.
At Lights2Go, the Endon Hansen lamp was £122.93 and is now £61.47, while the Dar Ranger is down from £103.80 to £64.88.
The Caban from Wayfair, which has a wood base and a choice of black, white or turquoise shade, is 33 per cent off at £106.99.
This works out at £2.05 a day if you use the lamp to light up your life and work every day for a year.