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My Favourite Go-To Designer Fabrics

By 03/31/2014February 2nd, 201745 Comments

When I first started decorating and selecting fabrics for my clients, it took me a while to figure out the best upholstery fabrics to use.

One day, I was in the Robert Allen showroom and one of the designers whispered that Orvis was her personal favourite. A great herringbone texture that comes in a multitude of colours. It’s also really durable at 45,000 double rubs since anything over 30,000 is considered commercial. She told me she uses it for almost every project.

And once you find a great basic upholstery fabric like that, I see no reason why it can’t be used over and over again. I have used it in three of my projects since. . .


When I decorated this loft in Yaletown, my client got two chairs in Pearl.


My lovely client in Kitsilano got a sofa in Jade.


Then I specified it again for the sofa in this living room in Ecru. Here you can see it a little closer.

Cotton/Polyester (50/50) velvet is another great upholstery fabric I really like.

I can’t remember if I’ve already told you this but the yellow sofa in my living room (below) is a cotton/poly velvet.

When we started packing up to move from the city into this house almost two years ago, I realized it needed to be cleaned. You could see the fine layer of dust imbedded along the top of the sofa (this is the first place a vacuum cleaner salesman will vacuum to show you how great his vacuum is, haha) I didn’t realize that having a sofa in that colour is almost like having a white one.

My Mom (who knows how to clean anything) pulled out the Bissel and a scrub brush for floors (I kid you not) and we scrubbed that sofa clean. It looked as good as new.

Maria's Living Room

As y’all know, I’m the throw pillow queen, no room is complete without the right cushions. I love Robert Allen’s many colourful patterns and even though I’ll look at other designer fabrics, Robert Allen are the ones I end up using the most for cushions.

Maria's Banquette

I looked everywhere for a green roman shade fabric for my kitchen to match the green accents in my living room so that I would have perfect flow and of course I found it at Robert Allen, it’s Zahara: Leaf

Maria's Family Room After

I love horizontal stripes for drapery but that pattern is hard to find, so when I came upon a linen sheer book through Robert Allen, I used this large plaid instead which reads as a horizontal stripe (above). It’s Stitched Block: Linen.

Maria's Master Bedroom

The drapery in the master bedroom might be my favourite in the entire house. It’s a stitched horizontal stripe. And if you look closely, you can see that it kind of looks like a ball gown, because the stripes are actually not perfectly straight.

My workroom called me when they were in production and said “You better get down here and look at this!”. The problem was, the seams did not line up at all, the stitched stripes could not be matched. I called my Robert Allen Sales representative who said “We sell thousands of yards of this fabric so trust me, it’ll be beautiful”.

And it was. It’s this relaxed looking, wavy stripe that adds a pretty, romantic feel to our bedroom. It’s called Kazak Pleat and I chose ivory because I have a mixture of whites and creams in this room.

The ottoman fabric is also Robert Allen it’s Canvas Duck: Chamois. I had an old ottoman that was a black and white zebra stripe with little square feet, but perfect for a place to put our feet up when relaxing in the bedroom. So I had my guy Vince at Vance Upholstery make a slipcover for it. He always does such a beautiful job.

vignette in Master

And here’s a close up of the vignette on the left side of the sitting area.

Over to you, I’d love to hear which designer fabrics are your go-to’s favourites!

Related posts:

How to Decorate with Throw Pillows: 5 Rules to Follow

Italy or Drapery: Which Would You Choose?

10 Best Designer Secrets

41 pins


  • Carol H says:

    Very informative. I have a very, very sunny west facing room with many windows. An upholsterer has recommended using a Sunbrella fabric to reupholster two contemporary loveseats. Do you have thoughts on Sunbrella?

    • Barbara says:

      You really should consider putting on a UV blocking window film, that will help protect both your furniture and flooring.

      We did this and it works great! Also blocks heat.

    • Maria Killam says:

      The chairs in my dining room happen to be sunbrellla fabric because the backs are white. I wanted them to be easy to clean. Yes it’s great for upholstery inside.

  • Nichole says:

    But wait, Maria! The fabulous fabrics on your bedroom seating and throw pillows?? Lease do tell! They are gorgeous! 😀

    Thank you so much for the great post! My go to at the moment seems to be duralee, but we’ll see what the future holds! 😉


  • Anne Waters says:

    Oh, great, now you tell me!! Love the curtains in the master bedroom especially. Trawled any number of sites and couldn’t find a thing I liked that was both affordable and would ship here.
    Finally went with some linen/cotton curtains from Pottery Barn after they opened in Australia last year. Pleased with the result but nothing on those. Still, look on the bright side, I have a couch still to cover so am going to check out their website.
    As always, you’re the goods Maria.

  • Arlene says:

    Maria cushions look lovely on a couch. They look lovely in magazines. BUT what do you suggest when there is 3-5 cushions and someone wants to sit on the couch. How do they sit with cushions are behind them? Do they take them off? If so, where do they put them? I have 2 cushions on our couch because I am not tall and the couch does not fit me. With the cushion I can put my feet on the floor. They do not work for other people. Are cushions only to look at?

    • Maria Killam says:

      You put them on the floor if you can’t use all of them while sitting on the sofa. We never need to do that though, maybe it’s because of the depth of our sofa’s, we need pillows to be comfortable. Maria

  • Michelle Ku says:

    In addition to Robert Allen, I always have great luck with Kravet and Pindler & Pindler. Those 3 are my go to’s.

  • Linda Leyble says:

    Maria…I am writing down all your favorites…so beautiful! I am a big Robert Allen fan and usually specify their fabrics. I used their jade cut velvet in squares as a valance (can’t remember the name now) with similar color silk drapes in a beautiful living room. The client had a long and curved custom sectional in an awful 70s pattern and I rescued it with an inexpensive but hard wearing fabric from Norbar – called Plaza (I think…have to look it up) in a blue green. It has some shine to it (its like a poly velvet) but the room is a bit on the dark side, so it brings some light into the room. The client has a few grandchildren and a cat – who has the run if the house, so I needed to give her a a fabric that would stand up to the abuse!

    I used this same fabric, only in a marigold color, on another client’s two occasional chairs. She rescues racing greyhounds – and she is very lenient with them…so I know she is probably going to let them curl up on these chairs. So far, so good – they are holding up and still looking beautiful…after vacuuming anyway!

    Great post…thanks!


  • Gwen DeBruyn says:

    Love Robert Allen! I also love Duralee and Greenhouse.
    As always, it’s all gorgeous Maria!

  • Danielle says:

    I’ve heard raves about Robert Allen fabrics from my designer friend, but have never had the chance to use them – but thanks for the eye candy!

    Any chance you’ll post more information about dressing your master bedroom window? I have a similar bay in my living room and couldn’t figure out how to hang draperies – until I saw your pic!

  • mairi says:

    Thanks Maria-good topic…
    I agree and can truly attest to the long-term durability of cotton/poly velvet! My vintage tufted sofa was reupholstered in this fabric nearly 30 years ago and has followed us to three homes and the raising of three children and numerous pets. And would you believe there are still no wear spots to date! It has been shampooed, vacuumed, you name it, and comes out like new every time. Because I have never tired of the peacock blue colour and it is so comfy like old slippers (thanks to latex foam cushions), it will remain to be enjoyed by our grandchildren as well.

    @Arlene- you raise a good point about cushions- they are unpopular with my husband who is tall and has no use for them. I prefer to think of them as ‘toss-able art’ that adds that necessary layer of softness an invitation to a space. To solve the ‘where to put them when seated’ issue, I have a large woven basket under the coffee table that pulls out to hold them temporarily and it also stores a throw or two. Problem solved.

  • Marsha Stopa says:

    Any suggestions for claw-proof fabric for furniture? I learned years ago I can’t use anything with a texture.

    Love your home!

    P.S. Jon says “Hi!”

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Marsha, thanks for your comment. I don’t have cats so I’m not sure what the perfect fabric is for that. Probably a cotton/velvet as well because it doesn’t have textured fibers that can be picked at. Maria

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Since I’m not a designer, I don’t have access to so many lovely fabrics. I wish I did. I love making my own pillows & window treatments. I am limited by what’s available at Joann Fabrics or Calico Corners. And recently I heard what Calico sells are seconds.
    You mentioned finding horizontal striped fabric is difficult. You are right. I need to make drapes for my spare room & I plan to use a vertical strip but turn it so the stripes are horizontal.

  • Barbara Travis says:

    Wish I had known about this fabric a couple of years ago. I had an Ethan Allen sofa & love seat recovered & it “pills” like crazy. Considering getting rid of the sofa & re-upholstering the love seat. Perhaps adding two chairs instead of a sofa. Do people like sitting next to each other on a love seat? All comments welcome.



  • Jackie Greiner says:

    I love the rugs!
    Where can I find patterned rugs similar to the ones shown in your photos (photo with sofa in ecru & photo w/large plaid Robert Allen fabric draperies).

  • sandyc says:

    Love those master drapes – in fact the entire room visible in the picture is beautiful – no insomnia in that space!

    The information on the fabrics is very pertinent – my old “keep it; it’s a queen sleeper” is covered in a microfiber which was fine until I started to sit on it one day and found a layer of white fur across the surface. (I live with 3 white feline children.) Sofa cleaned up and covered with a Surefit throw in cotton/duck fabric which works for now. But do have two clubs chairs, very old but in wonderful structural shape and the most comfortable chairs in the world, recovered once but fabric pattern/colors and sneak kitty attacks require a change so looking to have them re-recovered and/or have slipcovers made for them. The lady who did the upholstery is still working and now I know what to ask for in fabric (color?) All three pieces are primary napping and greenbelt viewing spots for the 3 fuzzballs, so durable and easy-to-clean fabric is an absolute.

  • Lisa says:

    Maria, Thank you for the great info. I was wondering: Some of the rooms above mix white and off-white. Are there “rules” for mixing the two? I had always thought you had to separate them / match white w/ white or off-white to off-white.
    Especially, the photo of the house Kitsilano. It looks like the marble on the fireplace is white, the painted fireplace surround if off-white, and the walls are tan? Please teach us about when to mix and when not to mix. PS – What is that wall color in Kitsilano? Thank you!!

    • Maria Killam says:

      In general you can mix whites and off-whites, off-whites and creams and you can mix them all as long as you repeat them. If you have a room decorated entirely in creams and then suddenly you have white drapes that looks wrong but if you mix them, it works.
      The wall colour in Kits is BM Manchester Tan.

  • Jill says:

    Very interesting, but I am wondering what 45,000 double rubs means?

  • I think this is the first time you’ve shown the draperies in your bedrooms – all are so beautiful. I truly do feel that draperies make the room!

  • Barbara says:

    Fabric is SO expensive in Canada.
    Those in the USA have access to such bargains bought online. I’ve ordered and gone down to the USA to pick up purchases to keep costs reasonable.

  • Gaynell says:

    Hi Maria! I LOVE Robert Allen fabrics and I’m working on some projects now using all RA fabrics. Wonderful quality and style at a great price point. I’m not an interior designer nor am I really a decorator but I’m doing a lot in my own home and I help friends and family decorate, and I have an office project I’m working on. I would love to know how you get fabric books to look at for ordering purposes. I’ve been ordering fabric samples from various websites for my projects and at $3-$5 apiece, they’re getting pricey. I would love to get some Robert Allen fabric books! Love your blog:)

  • Adrienne says:

    My go to fabric has always been Robert Allen. They have always had such a great selection. I love the quality and many have a very good price point. I also like Maxwell Fabrics again good quality and price

  • I had some Century furniture made this year and got cotton velvet. It’s lovely, but wrinkles and marks a lot. Won’t do that again.

  • Robyn says:

    Love the chairs in the Yaletown loft in Pearl. Where can I get them?

  • Daphnie says:

    Just wondering, for the sake of full disclosure, whether this is a sponsored post? Is Robert Allen compensating you in any way for writing this?

    • Maria Killam says:

      No they’re not. I just love their fabrics and the staff in the Vancouver design centre, they are fabulous! Maria

  • megeranski says:

    What a terrific post (they all are, truth be told!)

    Never thought about a go-to fabric! How fun!

    I could go on and on about the nuggets herein, but let me just summarize by saying “Excellent!” and “Thank you1”

  • Elaine says:

    I like the style of the chairs in the Yaletown loft that are done in the Pearl color. But where did you get the chairs?

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Elaine, those chairs were at Stylus furniture which is a made to order sofa manufacturer here in Vancouver.

  • Jen says:

    I have a question about the gorgeous photo of your bedroom — how are the clean and dirty colors working so well together? I’ve been avoiding mixing the two, based on an earlier post of yours, but here they look amazing! Is there a secret?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Jen, Hmm. . . well in my world, my colour are not clean and dirty so say more about that? Maria

  • Jen says:

    Hi Maria. I was thinking of this post:

    Your bedroom has those “clean” orange and yellows but also the “dirty” brown of the throw and the beige of the curtains. When I try to do that, it’s a muddled mess! Do you not consider those beige tones to be dirty colors?

    • Maria Killam says:

      If you are talking about my family room, the striped drapes, wall colour and carpet are all green beige and they are pale enough so they work with bright colours. I don’t really consider this room to be a combination of clean and dirty colours. If the neutral was a lot darker then it would look dirty with the bright orange in the room.

  • I will be taking some notes on the upholstery fabrics you use Maria, the chairs all look great. My go to is Avant Garde’s Zoom for upholstery, always looks good and is a FABULOUS price point. Here is the link.

  • Terrance says:

    Hey Maria! Longtime reader and follower, I would love to see an update to this post!

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