Contract upholstery fabric suppliers UK

A Guide to Choosing Contract Upholstery Fabric

Choosing upholstery fabric for contract use can feel like a daunting task. Not only is there an extensive variety of colours, patterns, textures and prices to choose from, but there are also fabric compositions, rub tests and fire safety regulations to consider too. So where should you start when it comes to selecting contract upholstery fabric for your hotel, bar or restaurant? 

To help you make these important decisions, we’ve compiled our top tips for choosing upholstery fabric that makes furniture aesthetically pleasing – while still meeting all of the demands of a hospitality environment.

Contract upholstery fabric


How to Choose Upholstery Fabrics for Contract Use

With so many factors to consider, where should you start when it comes to choosing upholstery fabric for your establishment? The décor of most hospitality environments reflects distinct brand aesthetics, so selecting styles that will effortlessly match your existing interior is a must. To find out more about the different types of contract upholstery fabrics you could choose from, read more below.

Upholstery Fabric Styles


Distinctive patterned upholstery fabric is a great way to add visual intrigue to any room, while also making a perfect choice for hospitality environments due to its added ability to hide tough stains. Whether your brand aesthetics require bold colours or a more neutral, calming style, the versatility of patterned upholstery fabric will allow you to achieve whatever interior design goals you have in mind. Just remember that pattern-matching usually requires more fabric which can increase costs.

Also some fabrics pattern-match easier than others and some chair designs lend themselves better to a heavily patterned upholstery cloth than others. Particularly curvaceous chairs are more challenging than more boxy geometric chair designs.

Coordinated Colours

When it comes to how to choose upholstery fabric, the most common methodology would be to choose wallcoverings and paint colours first, then flooring and carpets and then consider upholstery fabrics. In many contract environments the walls might be quite neutral, leaving a lot of scope for choice of where to introduce a pop of colour or a bolder pattern. Once you’ve established your preferred colour palette, the next step will be to consider how to unify those colours with other elements of your scheme. Upholstery fabrics that consist of multiple coloured yarns can become great unifiers.


Leather upholstery can make a timeless addition to any hospitality environment and, with its durable and easy-to-clean properties, it’s clear to see why many hoteliers opt for this natural material. What’s more, every piece of leather has its own unique character. No two hides are quite the same with each grain having an individual collection of quirky characteristics that have been acquired throughout its lifetime. Many clients and designers love working with traditional leather as it ages-in over time and becomes more characterful with wear. Whilst more contemporary leather is a resilient material that can be easily looked after, these more evenly coloured hides can start to look prematurely worn without regular leather upholstery care. To extend the life of your furniture and keep it looking its best, make sure you dust regularly so the dirt does not imbed itself in the grain of the hide and deal with spillages quickly and efficiently.


Velvet and velour contract upholstery fabric has a lot to offer – from its luxurious comfort and texture to its rich colour options. Making a style statement in both contemporary and traditional interiors, velvet can be a surprisingly versatile choice of upholstery fabric. While many hospitality establishments opt for deeper velvet colours, such as rich aubergines, ruby reds, spicy mustards and deep emerald greens, used appropriately, the softer paler tones like dusky pinks, powder blues and delicate mauves can feel surprisingly fresh because of the way they catch the light.

Choosing upholstery fabric for contract use


Other Factors to Consider

The Martindale Rub Test

The Martindale abrasion rub test is the industry standard measurement of the durability of upholstery fabric for its suitability for commercial use. Using a Martindale machine, a piece of fabric is stretched between two discs, oscillating sandpaper or wool across the fabric until it begins to show signs of distress. A Martindale number is then given to the fabric, based on the number of times the discs can oscillate before the fabric begins to show wear. Commercial grade upholstery fabric has a Martindale number of 40,000 or more, making it suitable for use in contract environments. As one of the leading contract furniture suppliers in the UK, all of Lugo’s supplied contract upholstery fabrics meet the minimum British Standard of 40,000 Martindale abrasion rubs, many achieve in excess of 100,000 rubs. Please view a list of just a few of the reputable fabric companies we collaborate with on our fabrics and finishes page.

Fire Safety Regulations 

All contract upholstery fabrics must comply with current fire safety regulations. This means that if you’re buying upholstery fabric, you will need to check if it is fire retardant, or if it needs to be treated with a fire-retardant coating or, as a third option, it requires an inter-liner fabric.

The British Standard for hospitality environments which are referred to as “medium hazard” environments is BS5852. This test is referred to as Crib 5 as the test consists of placing a piece of upholstery over foam and burning it within a wooden crib and measuring the spread of flame and smouldering. At Lugo, all of our contract upholstery fabrics are either inherently Crib 5 Fire Retardant or can be treated to meet a Crib 5 medium hazard rating.

Upholstery Fabric Compositions

When choosing upholstery fabric, another consideration to be aware of is its composition. Is it a natural fibre or synthetic fibre? Or perhaps a combination of the two? Whether you opt for wool, polyester, cotton, linen, vinyl or silk, the composition of your fabric will affect everything from how it’s cleaned, to its resistance to piling, its lightfastness and resistance to fading and ability to withstand the rigour of a busy hospitality environment.

Find Hospitality Upholstery Fabric at Lugo

Interested in finding out more about our quality upholstery fabrics? Our team of specialists are on hand to discuss standards for any of our fabrics, finishes or other hotel furnishes. Contact us today.


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