Velvet banquette from The Corinthian Club in Glasgow via paloma81blogspot

via Kate Spade

Velvet is the fabric of nobility. The origins of velvet may be traced to Baghdad during the rule of Harun al-Rashid introduced by merchants of  Kashmiri and to Al-Andalus by Ziryab. This is Wikapedia’s version, and my research has not upturned contradictory evidence, nor an account that predates this version. King Richard II of England was so enthralled by the aesthetic of velvet that he left instructions in his will to clothe his body  in “velveto” in 1399.

Velvet’s depth, luster and texture owes is arresting allure to its multi fibre construction. Velvet pile is created by warp or vertical yarns and velveteen pile is created by weft or fill yarns. Silk velvet is far and away the most expensive of velvets at hundreds of dollars per yard, dependent in part on the color – but industrialization made mass distribution of velvet possible in the form of Cotton, bringing this caveot of royal style to the masses in a far more durable form. The more recent development of synthetic velvets created by combining a myriad of synthetic such as polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate, retaining a vestige of its silk origins in the mix have created a design tool that is at once beautiful and durable.

There are many types of velvet, and educating yourself to be your own designer is the best way to pick the one that’s right for your home.

image courtesy of designers Guild

Crushed velvet, like the teal crushed velvet sofa shown below from One King’s Lane is produced by pressing the fabric down in different directions.

It can also be produced by mechanically twisting the fabric while wet. The result is patterned appearance that is very lustrous.

An image I snapped of Kevin Obrien Studio Devore wood-grain and patterned pillows at NYIGF

Devore velvet uses a caustic solution that dissolves part of the velvet leaving sheer areas of fabric.

Castellani Violet Cushion by Designers Guild from MyHomeFaceLift

Embossed velvet is patterned with a metal roller is used to heat-stamp the fabric, producing a pattern.

Designers Guild pillows from

Hammered velvet is rich and lustrous, appearing dappled and somewhat crushed.

Anne Coyle interiors via Kelley’s Blog

Panné is a variety of crushed velvet produced by forcing the pile in a single direction by applying heavy pressure.

Meme Chair by Nancy Price by Design Legacy

Plain: Commonly made of cotton, this type of velvet has a firm hand and can be used for many purposes.

Silk velvet is undisputed in beauty and price point for its unmistakable lustrous sheen. It’s

Silk velvet with jute header via defining elegance blog

buttery softness adds to both its allure and price tag.

To save design dollars, viscose is your best compromise – look how similar viscose velvets are (below) to silk velvet (above).

Viscose velvet colorways from Designers Guild

Viscose is also very durable for every day use and resembles silk velvet a bit more-so than its cotton velvet counterpart.

Velveteen is faux velvet is made of cotton or a combination of cotton and silk. It has shorter pile and unlike velvet it’s a bit heavier, does not drape as easily, and has less sheen. But its close set weave makes it a durable alternative.

Velvets bring real presence to any design, by virtue of their rich luster, texture and the manner in which they take color in the dying process.

vintage sofa recovered with velvet ends from Designers Guild fabrics – sofa from

If you have kids or pets whose habitual use of furnishings is somewhat less that precious, don’t sell yourself short by losing the velvet in your design plan – just choose a durable velveteen for chairs or the sofa, and complement your look with viscose velvet panels and pillows. The effect is stunning, colorful and surprising durable – not to mention perfect for showcasing your rooms for the holidays!

Velvet is not just for nobility these days – if home is your castle, then velvet is fit for you!