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Velvet Crush

Velvet Crush

This Luxe Material Can Be As Appropriate For A Casual Den As For A Formal Receiving Room

Simply put, if luxury were a fabric, velvet would be it. The soft, sumptuous look and feel exudes decadence—as if it were cut from the cloth of kings. And while it may seem to belong best in a royal palace, when used in a room with other materials or iterated in interesting ways, it can be as appropriate for a casual den as it is for a formal receiving room.

And there is a reason interior designers love to work with it. “Velvet adds so much richness and depth to a room; it’s one of my favorite fabrics to work with,” says Laura Hammett, of Laura Hammett interior-design studio in London. “It’s wonderfully tactile and indulgent. There are also so many versions of it that have very different qualities depending on the aesthetic of the design.”

The beauty of this plush fabric is its versatility—as sofa fabric, as upholstered pillows or loungers, or as curtains. Velvet isn’t a one-trick textile. Fabrication ranges from mohair, silk, cotton, and matte to crushed and devoré—a process by which the pattern is burned off the velvet to create the design.

Working with this luxe textile is as much about balance as it is creativity.

It’s hard to find a material that feels more luxe—and decadent—as velvet
It’s hard to find a material that feels more luxe—and decadent—as velvet.

MIX MEDIUMS

Unless you’re going for all-out decadence (which is a look in and of itself), to keep the feel modern and multidimensional, add a mix of fabrics to the space, Hammett says. “One of my all-time favorite combinations is velvet and wool, and we often use both on a single upholstery piece because they complement each other so perfectly,” she says. She also suggests using satin for an interesting yet more glamorous contrast, or linen for a more rustic look.

“We tend to balance velvet fabrics with similarly colored linen textures for more-casual interiors and with similarly colored silks for more-formal rooms,” says LeeAnn Baker of LeeAnn Baker Interiors in Seattle. Baker has also used velvets on headboards backed against grasscloth walls to play with texture, color, and light for the ultimate statement in luxurious elegance.

“I love to combine velvets with wool sateen, bouclé, woven jacquard, and leather—all wonderful materials that mix well and complement velvet,” says Liz Caan, a Boston-based interior designer.

Aside from the overall coziness velvet brings to a space, designer Sara Barney, owner and principal designer of Austin, Texas–based BANDD DESIGN prefers velvet as a way to layer in texture. “It can add so much dimension to an otherwise flat space,” she says.

Using complementary materials along with velvet can help to balance a room. “For instance, if you have a velvet sofa, ideally you would have silk or linen scatter cushions on it. Maybe add accents of leather or something more unusual to add interest,” says Ed O’Donnell, co-founder of Angel O’Donnell studio based in London. “You can still have different types of velvet together to create depth. So maybe one sofa is done in mohair and the other in a shorter-pile velvet.”

Although velvet can have a formal or over-the-top look, it can be toned down with natural furniture like wood pieces and casual pillows. It can also be mixed with other materials, such as cotton and linen, to create a more relaxed environment, says Barbara Karpf, founder and president of DecoratorsBest, an online retailer for high-end textiles and wallpapers based in New York.

A room designed by Ed O’Donnell, has velvet pillows for a pop of style
A room designed by Ed O’Donnell, has velvet pillows for a pop of style.

CONSIDER COLOR

The beauty of velvet is that it comes in every blend of the rainbow—whether bright and saturated, tempered pastels, jewel tones, or dark and moody. “We’ve found that bright-colored velvets can easily elevate a space, pastel and jewel tones add a touch of romance, while darker colors infuse a bit of drama,” says Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director of Society Social, a furniture company in Charlotte, N.C.

Because velvet is a pile fabric, and the pile goes in a certain direction, color can appear different at different angles—a fact that makes the look interesting, but also gives it the potential to throw off a color scheme, Hammett says. And the thicker the pile, the more expensive and over the top it will feel, Barney says. “If you want it to feel a little more laid back, stick with a lower pile,” she says.

Velvet can also change color depending on the light in the room. Certain velvets in darker tones tend to absorb light, while silk velvet will reflect light, so the fabric can appear much lighter, Hammett says. “If you want a punch of color, you often need to go for a slightly stronger tone.” Keep in mind, velvet can fade easily if in direct sunlight, O’Donnell says. And, if you use lighter tones, “consider the texture carefully, as a matte-cotton velvet might be a little underwhelming, but something silk-based will add a little glamour.”

MAKE IT COUNT

For a modern look, placement takes some know-how. “Since velvets exude a comforting aura, they are great to incorporate into bedrooms, intimate living rooms, libraries—spaces you just want to curl up in,” Owens says. They’re also excellent for keeping interiors warmer in the cooler months and reducing sound.

Some designers prefer to work with velvets in more minimal ways. “Less is more, so I usually keep velvet to one of the main pieces of furniture and no more than two areas in a room,” Hammett says. “Armchairs and some cushions on a sofa, for example, are the perfect amount.” If you’re a bit gun-shy, throw pillows are the safest and easiest way to try out the look. Baker adds them for a sense of texture. She also upholsters wood-framed chairs and sometimes opts for velvet draperies to create a sense of drama. Keep in mind, however, velvet draperies can appear heavy and need to be removed for cleaning more than other fabrics. Karpf suggests lining or interlining velvet curtains to give them an elegant look, or they can be unlined for a more contemporary look.

Caan tends to go for velvet accents, such as a welt on a pillow or a small chair. “I like combining solids and color-blocking a piece of furniture. I also like to mix velvet with leather on upholstery,” she says. She’s also had custom dining room window seats made in velvet. Velvet doesn’t have to be iterated in traditional ways. “You can add a velvet-ribbon trim to a roman blind or even as a narrow leading edge on a curtain for a more contemporary look,” O’Donnell says. The options are limitless.

Velvet chairs add color.
Velvet chairs add color

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