Used widely across fashion and interiors, velvet has long been a go-to fabric for creating a high-style look. But it can come off as a little intimidating—you might feel it reads too extravagant or that caring for it is too troublesome. We’re here to dispel those rumors and to let you know that velvet is in fact a practical option for any home. Read on to see what makes it one of our favorite fabrics.
It’s Surprisingly Versatile
The fabric feels and looks more luxurious than most textiles, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less adaptable in the home. Because it’s available in such a wide array of forms—from large pieces such as upholstered beds to smaller options like throw pillows—you can go all-out or keep it simple.
It also transcends trends and styles beautifully: Its luminous sheen makes it especially fitting for a glamorous room, but it can feel equally at home in relaxed or modern spaces.
It Has Historical and Royal Roots
There are several schools of thought as to where and when velvet originated, but it’s generally agreed that it was somewhere in the Far East—likely China—around the 13th century, if not earlier. Velvet then made its way west along the Silk Road, becoming immensely popular during the Italian Renaissance. (In fact, the world “velvet” comes from the Italian word velluto, meaning “shaggy.”)
Before the advent of modern industrial looms, velvet was quite costly to produce—and therefore available only to wealthy and royal families. Nobles in particular were drawn to its ability to accept richly hued dyes. Queen Elizabeth II still wears dyed velvet robes and regalia in formal ceremonies!
How It’s Made
Because it’s not a flat-woven fabric like linen, velvet requires more yarn and takes multiple steps to produce. Yarn is first woven together on a loom between two layers of backing. The fabric is then split down the middle, creating two identical pieces, each with the upraised pile that provides its soft, heightened texture.
Velvet can be woven from any type of yarn. While in the past it was typically woven from silk, today cotton, linen, wool, and synthetic fibers (often in combination) are commonly used.
How It’s Built to Last
It’s a common misconception that velvet is high-maintenance. In truth, the fabric isn’t all that delicate and can last for decades if properly cared for. Even in a family room that gets a lot of action, a velvet sectional is a functional option that will hold up beautifully to years of wear.
You’ll notice that when you sit on a velvet piece, the pile often ruffles up, or becomes what experts call “bruised.” If you’re not a fan of these marks, don’t fret. Over time, the pile will return back to its natural state, or you can gently steam it to smooth it out. Some heavier marks will become permanent, but think of them as a patina that will give the piece a greater sense of character. Velvet is just like leather (or a fine wine): It gets only better with age.
It’s Easy to Clean
The simplest way to maintain your velvet is to incorporate it into your regular cleaning routine. When vacuuming the carpet, use the hand-held nozzle on any velvet pieces to get up dirt that might be caught inside the pile.
As far as spills are concerned, velvet is often treated with stain repellents, so you should be able to gently dab the liquid up with a damp towel. It does get a little trickier once the stain has dried—because velvet can be made with so many types of yarn, it’s best to consult the manufacturer to figure out the best way to proceed.
It Can Be Lightened Up
From deep-emerald sofas to navy accent chairs, we often associate velvet furnishings with richer colors—and with darker, more decadent spaces. And while it certainly shines in this palette, velvets in softer shades are equally alluring. Here, a pastel-purple sofa is paired with other spring-y hues for a look that feels light and utterly fresh.
It’s Not All About Glamour
While we love the all-out glam spaces in which we typically see velvet, it works just as well in a palette-cleansing, masculine space. Here, a taupe velvet-upholstered bed provides a warm but sophisticated backdrop for the rest of the room, playing off the breezy blues and relaxed textures for an easy, polished look.