Once upon a time, the only fabrics rated for outdoor use came in about three colors (beige, burgundy and forest green) or tropical patterns (which aren’t terribly useful when you live in the Midwest), and typically weren’t readily available by-the-yard. However, bold colors and wild patterns have become the norm, giving homeowners many options for adding color to their outdoor decor.
What is an outdoor fabric? You may recognize the brand name “Sunbrella,” which is one of the largest manufacturers of outdoor fabrics. Their fabrics are found on patio furniture, market umbrellas and outdoor accessories sold around the world. Fabrics intended for outdoor use tend to be more durable than interior fabrics, giving them a sturdy feel – almost like canvas. They are made from synthetic fibers such as acrylic and polyester, since these will resist fading and rot much better than their natural counterparts.
Often, the label will also read “solution-dyed.” This means that the fibers were dyed before they were extruded into threads, not afterward. Solution-dyed fibers are very easy to care for, since a mild bleach solution will not remove their color (check labels before testing this fact!). Even if their fibers are not solution-dyed, outdoor fabrics are made to be low-maintenance and easy to clean.
As Americans spend more time outside, folks are finding new ways to make those outdoors spaces cozy, comfortable and stylish with trendy outdoor fabrics. Outdoor fabrics can be used on anything from chair cushions to pillows to porch draperies. Their resistance to mildew makes them ideal for these applications, although it’s still best to dry items thoroughly after it rains.
Over the past several years, fabric manufacturers have expanded their outdoor fabric lines, giving us more options in terms of color, pattern and style. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite outdoor fabrics this season, as seen in the photos throughout this article. From geometrics in modern colors to traditional patterns in muted tones, there is truly something for everyone.
Remember: outdoor fabrics don’t have to stay outdoors! Their bright, fun color palettes and whimsical patterns make them ideal for children’s rooms. I have used outdoor fabrics in other high-traffic areas, too, such as breakfast nook bench cushions. Outdoor fabrics are made for easy cleaning, so they are perfect for areas that get dirty.
When choosing fabric colors and patterns, consider not only the colors on your home and patio, but also the colors found in your flower gardens and landscaping. Choose fabrics in coordinating colors (either to match or contrast these elements) for best results. Be sure to check labels when you shop for outdoor fabrics; fabric that is not intended for use outside will not hold up to the weather and sunlight the way exterior fabrics will.
Add some color and softness to your outdoor spaces with fabric accessories. Adding a throw pillow or two, replacing your worn patio chair cushions and hanging a drapery panel to add shade at your patio will make a big impact in your yard. And, you may just make your neighbors jealous.