Office Design Tips: How to choose the right fabric for your office [Part 1]

The finer details really matter when it comes to designing your office space. Thinking about and choosing the right fabric is just as important as choosing the right colour for your office furniture and design.

Selecting the right upholstery for your office furniture may seem like a daunting task but it’s a very important decision to make. The selection of material and fabric you choose for your workspace will determine how long your furniture lasts. In this article we dig into the fine details everyone should know before choosing fabric for their office.

Let’s start with some terminology you should know:

What is a Martindale test?

Australia’s Charles Parsons Interiors defines this test as “a measure of the durability of a fabric. The tests are undertaken on upholstery fabrics to check their suitability for various uses.” Whether the use is for heavy-traffic areas such as reception areas or commercial furniture, this test is performed to test for abrasion resistance and is sometimes called “the rub test”. The fabric being tested is pulled taut and loaded onto the lower plates of the Martindale machine.  Small discs of worsted wool or wire mesh (the abradant) are continually rubbed against the test specimens in a Lissajous figure – a wandering, oscillating circle.  The fabric is continually inspected for wear and tear, and the test ends when two yarns break or when there is a noticeable change in appearance.

What to consider first

The first and most important thing to consider for any material or fabric is whether its specification is suitable for what you’re using it for – especially in terms of durability. Your reception area and common areas are usually the areas with the most traffic so the upholstery must be high durability. This means it should be manufactured for commercial use and that’s usually fabrics that don’t have less than 25000 rubs from the Martindale test.

The cleaning of any fabric should also be kept top of mind. Your office furniture and carpets will be used constantly so the fabric should be washable or wipeable. A deep clean should be done by a professional at least twice a year. From a look and feel perspective, the colour and texture choice should work with the style of the space. Your office interior designer will assist with these choices.

Contract quality

Contract quality and commercial grade finishes are specifically made for high traffic areas and offer the best wear and tear for your budget. They are easier to clean and maintain while offering good acoustic properties for noisy places. It’s never a good idea to use residential fabrics even though it would be the less expensive option as you’ll find yourself replacing the finish in no time at all.

Office chairs

Usually upholstery fabrics are made specifically for use on office chairs. The fabric must be extremely durable with the right amount of elasticity to ensure that it won’t be pulled out of shape once on the office chair. Again, a minimum of 25000 rubs is your go-to number for the right upholstery fabric. If you end up choosing the incorrect fabric and material for your office chairs, you’ll end up replacing it in a matter of months. Having the right fabric should ensure you 10 years of use depending on how well it is looked after and used.

Carpeting is still in

No matter what interior design trends may come and go, carpeting still remains a classic for office spaces. There are many exciting ranges and applications available. Carpeting continues to be the most advisable flooring application for an office because it assists with the acoustic properties in an office environment.

There is a vast range of office carpets available on the market, ranging from entry-level, cost-effective to imported, expensive options. Office carpets are manufactured for high wear and foot traffic. Carpet fibres used range from synthetic to pure wool and various forms of carpeting are available from carpet tiles to rolls of carpeting. The application is best advised by an office interior designer or carpeting professional.

A greener office with the not-so-unconventional

Materials that were once considered unconventional are no longer viewed as such. Reclaimed timber and packaging material such as pallets and bubble wrap are now used in many types of spaces. Repurposed furniture is appearing in more and more office spaces to create an eclectic collection of old and new in the modern office environment. The trend of using recycled fabrics is very popular in the United States but is unfortunately not available in South Africa for upholstery or carpeting because the processes used in manufacturing are expensive.

Although consumers tend to think of the aesthetics of the office space, thinking about the finer details of the correct fabric and material for your office design will ensure you save money and have an elegantly finished office space.

Now that you’ll be able to choose the correct fabric for your next office renovations, download our insightful guide to create the best office space design for your business.

Download the Guide

Or if you’re ready to recreate your workspace into a more productive environment, find out how much physical space you need with our Space Calculator:

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time&space team

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