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Indoor/Outdoor Fabrics

Bright lime green cushions and pillows with a pop of orange are cheery even on a cold grey day

Indoor/Outdoor fabrics are fabrics woven from fibers that have specific inherent properties which make them suitable for outdoor use. These properties include being stain resistant, mildew resistant, water repellant and fade resistant. Most indoor/outdoor fabrics are made from acrylic although polyester is another common fiber.

Our clients are seeking attractive, well designed fabrics that hold up to the elements without sacrificing style.  The solution dyed acrylic fabrics have a good hand, allow for rich colors and are still soft and breathable for comfort.   In recent years, the traditional outdoor look in fabrics is evolving towards an indoor look. We are seeing fewer traditional awning stripes and more dots, tropical patterns, jacquards, geometric designs and even velvet and chenille textures. These fabrics blend well with interior as well as outdoor usage.

Examples of Outdoor Fabrics

Fade Resistance: The key to the popularity of these fabrics is their resistance to fading. The acrylic or polyester fibers are solution dyed. This means that the color is put into the material when it is a liquid. This makes the color an inherent part of the fabric, not something that is added later on.  Most indoor/outdoor fabrics have a guarantee to not fade for 3-10 years depending on the pattern.

Crisp black, pink and white stripes and graphic patterns are an unusual color palette for indoor/outdoor fabrics.

Clean-ability: The clean-ability of the indoor/outdoor fabrics is another key to their popularity. Most of these fabrics are inherently stain resistant. The cleaning instructions are to use a mild detergent and cold water for spot cleaning. If this fabric is used outdoors, it can be hosed off. For stubborn stains or spills, a mild bleach solution can be use without damaging the fabric or the color.

Tips for Cleaning Outdoor Furniture

Uses: There are two basic types of indoor/outdoor fabrics. One is an awning weight, the other is a furniture weight intended for cushions and upholstery. The awing weight is stiff and is best used  for outdoor cushions, boats and awnings. The awning weight is only available in solids and stripes. The basic furniture fabrics include a great selection of solid plain (low texture) canvas’s, a wide variety of  textures more similar to linen types of fabrics as well as stripes, jacquards and tapestry patterns that resemble high end decorator fabrics. There is a limited selection of soft chenille fabrics too.

This chaise lounge sites in a sunny window. Perennial’s indoor/outdoor fabric was the perfect solution to avoid fading.

Trims: There is a good selection of cords, tapes and brush fringes designed to coordinate with the indoor/outdoor fabric collections. These trims are made from the same type of acrylic fibers and have the same characteristics as the fabrics.

The best known brand for these types of fabrics is Sunbrella. Sunbrella was developed in the early 1960’s as an alternative to cotton canvas. The acrylic canvas was originally used for awnings. In the 1970’s the Sunbrella marine fabrics were used on boats and outdoor cushions. In the 1980’s, Subrella introduced a line of furniture weight fabrics and in 2002, Sunbrella expanded into residential fabrics that can be used indoors or outdoors.

Today, most decorator fabric companies have their own line of indoor/outdoor fabrics, many of them manufactured by the Sunbrella company. Michael’s carries the indoor/outdoor fabrics from Greenhouse Design, Robert Allen, Kravet, Maxwell, Duralee, Fabricut, Silver State, Pindler and Pindler, Perennial’s, Norbar Fabrics, United Fabrics, Avant Garde and Stout.


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