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If you hear the word Sunbrella and think of beige, hunter green or striped canvas awnings, outdoor table umbrellas and outdoor furniture cushions, you’re in for a surprise! As I recently learned, their fabric is that, but also so much more!
It turns out Sunbrella is the Superman of fabric for inside the home as well as outside and the biggest surprise to me, was that it doesn’t have to look or feel different than any other fabric.
Who knew Sunbrella could look this good inside a home, not just on the patio?!
If you’re a designer like me, or a homeowner, also like me, with over-indulged pets who think they’re people, who lounge on all the furniture with complete abandon, and even snack there, the look of the upholstery is one thing, but performance is key to ensure your home is liveable but doesn’t look like a slobbery mess!
LUNCH ‘N’ LEARN
Lots of vendors in different industries use the lunch hour as an opportunity to educate potential customers about their products. Recently, I attended such an event at the Toronto showroom of fabric manufacturer, Robert Allen, where they were introducing a line of Sunbrella fabric exclusively available through them.
Although I had heard that Sunbrella fabric was no longer just for outdoor furniture, I was skeptical. I just couldn’t imagine a super-high performance fabric that wouldn’t look like it belonged on a hammock or in a nursing home. So I decided to go to the presentation to see if it actually had potential.
WELL! YOU COULD HAVE KNOCKED ME OVER WITH A FEATHER TOSS CUSHION!
What I saw was mouth-watering colors, in surprising patterns and soft, touchable textures. Warm reds combined with pink, corals and ochres had me publicly ooo-ing and ahhh-ing in a most un-reserved fashion!
The fabrics in blues and greens felt like a fresh promise of spring.
Although in the last decade I’ve seen more than enough neutral colors to last me a lifetime, Sunbrella’s surprisingly soft, chenille textured neutrals had me dreaming of a soft sofa on which I could grab a nap!
A pile of display cushions with combinations of fabrics made me want to run right home and re-decorate my whole house before I did one more project for a client!
As surprised as I was by the look and feel of the upholstery fabric, what really had me….
….was the drapery fabric!
Great for a sun porch or an interior window with strong sunlight that needs a fabric that won’t fade or disintegrate, that hangs well and isn’t stiff.
So once I was all excited about the colors and textures, I needed some convincing about the wearabilty and cleanability.
(both words which don’t actually exist in the English language except in the interior design bible).
What I learned was, that because the fabric is synthetic, and the pigment is added to the liquid brew before it’s even spun into yarn, it can be washed with water, dish washing liquid (Dawn was the brand most recommended) and even BLEACH, without fading the color or harming the fabric.
The sales rep was quick to point out that the fabric is not bullet proof. In other words, it may GET dirty when my dogs get their grubby little paws on it, but it’s easily cleaned.
Now, this seemed just too good to be true, and quite frankly I didn’t believe it, so I decided to do a little test of my own.
I brought home a sample of one of my favorite patterns that has large areas of pale cream background, that could look nasty in a house packed full of kids, pets and beer-swilling, chili-scarfing, sports-watching husbands. I decided to put it to…..
…..The BBQ Sauce Test
Onto this beautifully patterned fabric with large areas of terrifyingly pale cream background, I decided to slather the reddest, tomato-y-est, goopiest BBQ sauce I could find. Fortunately, since I no longer eat bottled sauces due to the additives and sugar content, I happened to have a bottle left over from the last millenium that I was happy to sacrifice to the scientific…
Goop Stain Test.
I poured on a nice big glob and let it sit on the fabric for 15 minutes, while I shed a quiet tear, convinced that I was committing fabric murder. Then I took a dinner knife and scraped off the bulk of it while smearing the rest deep into the fibers.
After scraping off as much of the sauce as I could, I was left with a splotchy, rusty stain. “That’s it”, I thought. There’s nothing left but to give this poor wee thing a decent burial.
BUT…. of course, even though I had no faith that the stain would come out, I felt I owed it to science to at least give…
Fabric Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation
…my best shot.
I ran warm water over the stain to start. Nada. Stain still there. Unhunhhhhhh. I thought so. Too good to be true. But in the name of science, I had to press on, even though the fabric was on life support. Out came the big guns: Dawn dish washing liquid, which I rubbed in then rinsed out.
GAHHHH! Could it be true??
The stain looked gone, but it was kind of hard to tell while the fabric was still wet, so I blotted with a clean paper towel and laid it out on the counter to dry.
After half an hour, I went back to check on the patient, and EUREKA!
The stain was completely gone! I couldn’t even tell where it had been. Not even a whisper of a trace!
For this cynical, jaded, been-there-done-that design pro, I was truly surprised and excited with my home experiment. I subsequently talked to another designer who has had her sofas slip-covered with white Sunbrella fabric for the last 10 years and takes the slip covers off every week and throws them in the washing machine, and the fabric still looks great!
And the fabric can be re-cycled.
I can envision using this fabric everywhere in the home: living room, dining chairs, kitchen chairs, family room and, of course in the garden or patio.
The moral of this bedtime story is, while this fabric may not be bullet proof, the proof is in the pudding….er….BBQ sauce. And I can’t wait to use it on my next project and for the big reveal, pull out a squirt bottle of mustard just for fun!
I was not compensated in any way for this post, except for a few little white bread, crustless sandwiches for lunch in Robert Allen’s Showroom. Consumers can find Robert Allen fabrics through design professionals and various retailers.
To see some truly inspiring photos of Sunbrella fabrics in some beautiful interior shots, go to the Sunbrella web site.
If you need help with design planning for your home renovation or decor project, you can reach me through Robin@RenovationBootcamp.com. And if you liked this article and know anyone who could benefit from it, please make nice like your mom taught you and share!