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Why You Need a Hero Fabric

When mixing and matching fabrics on chairs or even in a room, many of us worry about getting it “right.” Here’s the good news…there’s not just one right answer when doing this. Think about it…there are literally thousands and thousands of fabrics we can mix and match with, so why would there be just one right way? But if you wonder about the process of mixing and matching fabrics, read on and I’ll explain my process.

The first thing you need to do is to pick your “hero” fabric. What is a hero fabric? A hero fabric takes the lead in your design. It’s the main fabric in the room, and for me, most of the time it’s a multicolored floral. It doesn’t have to be a floral, but that’s what most of my clients come to me for. There’s a few characteristics your hero fabric needs to have. So it’s important to make sure you pick a fabric that has the colors you really like and want to include in a room.

First, the hero fabric should be multicolored so that you can pull other fabrics in those colors into the overall design. For example, if you want to add pink into your room, look for a hero fabric that has the right shades of pink in it. Then, look for fabrics in pink that are either solids or contain a neutral and the pink in it.

Second, the hero fabric also needs to be bolder than the other fabrics. A hero fabric is the one that the other fabrics bow down to and allow to be the leader. They don’t compete for the attention, instead they support and accentuate the main fabric. Many times these supporting fabrics will be a neutral. And by neutral, I don’t mean grey or beige. I mean that these other fabrics will be tone on tone, or mixed with just one other color like white. They could be stripes, checks, plaids, or tone on tone florals in a different size.

When I put fabrics all together, my general rule of thumb is does it look balanced? Did I get all the main colors pulled from the hero fabric? Is there a fabric that is competing with the hero fabric? It’s a bit of a messy process, but looking at them will help you to know what is the best combo of fabrics.

I’m also looking for those other fabrics to not repeat in pattern. For example, I’ll have a stripe, a check, a geometric, etc. I don’t want two different stripes amidst a group of different patterns. In my head, I’m checking off the boxes of making sure the other supporting fabrics meet the criteria of other patterns and all the colors in the hero fabric.

My best advice? You have to trust your eye to tell you when it looks right and when it looks wrong. And if you are still unsure, ask a friend to weigh in. If they say they don’t like one of the fabrics, ask why. Find out specifically what is bothering them about that fabric. That will help you to hone your skills better too. It’s a lot of problem solving and analysis involved.

Wendy Conklin

I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!

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