Luxe: a brief history of velvet

Luxe: a brief history of velvet

7th October 2016

Favoured by the rich, renowned and, of course, royal, velvet has the luxe factor we’re all looking for this winter. Here’s a quick romp through the heritage of this most luxurious fabric

We’ve said it before – and we’ll no doubt say it again – if you want to keep ahead of the Joneses in the home style stakes, look no further than what’s trending on the catwalks of the major fashion shows. This year’s ‘it’ fabric – as showcased by Prada, Christopher Kane and Giorgio Armani among many (many!) others – is soft, tactile, luscious and luxe velvet. But what is velvet and why is it so darn gorgeous and covetable?

From left: Prada, Christopher Kane and Giorgio Armani for autumn-winter 2016

From left: Prada, Christopher Kane and Giorgio Armani for autumn-winter 2016

Velvet 101

A few fast facts about this fab fabric…

1 You might be surprised to learn that velvet isn’t actually a material, it’s a weaving technique creating a soft, dense pile that covers the base cloth, forming the sumptuous plush surface we all know and love.

2 Velvet can be made from any type of material – traditionally, silk was used but with pure silk velvet costing hundreds of pounds a metre, it’s more usual nowadays to find it woven from silk blend, cotton, linen, wool, mohair or synthetic fibres such as viscose.

3 There are many types of velvet, including:

  • Crushed – produced by twisting the fabric while it’s wet so the nap is pressed in different directions
  • Pile-on-pile – ultra-luxe version of velvet, where piles of differing lengths are used to create pattern
  • Nacre – a pearlescent, shimmery velvet
  • Devoré aka burnout velvet, where areas of the pile are dissolved to leave a raised pattern

Divine devoré

Divine devoré

4 Many people think velvet and velour are the same thing… but they’d be wrong! Velvet is woven (see fact 1, above!) while velour is knitted.

The royal treatment

Velvet has been a favourite of the rich and famous since it first burst upon the clothing scene. Because of its high price point, it was an easy way to display wealth and power to the common people. The fabric quickly gained the royal seal of approval and was the material of choice for robes of state – Good Queen Bess was particularly fond of the fabric (especially when embellished with lots and lots of gold!).

Elizabeth I as portrayed by Nicholas Hilliard in 1585

Elizabeth I as portrayed by Nicholas Hilliard in 1585

A fabric as old as time

Examples of velvet have been found dating back to the Ancient Egyptians, with Cairo being a production hotspot around 2000BCE. The technique then travelled along the Silk Road (appropriate as silk was the core material for velvet back then) to Europe from the 12th to the 18th centuries – it was around this time that velvet started being used for upholstery, curtains and wallpaper in addition to clothing. Once the Industrial Revolution dawned, the fabric became much cheaper to produce and more widely available. The link to wealth and status continued, though, with velvet being the go-to material for glamorous garments (just ask the Dowager Countess of Grantham!).

Dame Maggie Smith rocking the velvet look, Downton Abbey,

Dame Maggie Smith rocking the velvet look, Downton Abbey,

Bring a touch of velvet to your home

If you fancy jumping on the velvet underground, then a statement sofa in this luxury finish certainly ticks all the style boxes. Here are just three of our DFS faves…

Catherine the great

Feminine and elegant, the Catherine sofa has classic lines and comes in five perfectly pretty colours


Make mine a Bailey

With its beautiful button back, the Bailey sofa will make its presence felt in any room


Shine like the star you are

Plush, squishy and velvet soft, the Shine sofa definitely has the wow factor


For more autumn/winter style inspiration, including more on sensuous velvet, check out our new Style Sourcebook, online now.

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Spice it up with carnival-inspired brights

Spice it up with carnival-inspired brights

9th June 2016

It’s Olympic year and we’re all feeling a touch of Rio fever here at DFS towers, so we thought we’d kick it up, samba-style, with some tips on how to make the carnival colours that the city is so famous for work in your home.

Ok, so the Olympics don’t kick off until for another two months, but we’re already feeling the ripples of excitement surrounding the world’s biggest sporting event, especially as we’re the proud partners of Team GB!

Think Olympics, think Rio (well, for 2016 anyway; we’ll be Tokyo-bound in 2020)… and think Rio, and you can’t help but think of street carnivals, samba dancers festooned in feathers, and ‘scorchio’ colours bursting out all over the shop. Pair this with the fact that, when it comes to home decorating, exotic Brazilian themes, full of bright, vibrant shades, are bang on trend this year, and it’s a match made in heaven. All you have to do is choose which rainbow shade is right for your home…

Tickled pink

It was fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (Coco Chanel’s great rival) who introduced us to ‘shocking pink’ back in 1947, and its bold, intense shade still turns heads today. A hot pink statement sofa in an otherwise neutral living space looks stunning… accessorise with boldly patterned cushions in contrasting shades as anything more subtle will get overpowered.

We love

Quartz Chaise Sofa in Pink – a modern classic with deep seats and dark-wood legs.

Quartz Pink Corner Sofa

Perfect with

Cecile Scatter Cushion – with its Impressionist-style landscape design.

Cecile Cushion

Hello yellow

Psychologically speaking, yellow is the happiest colour in the spectrum, bringing to mind sunshine, optimism and creativity, so a yellow sofa could be the ideal way to brighten up both your living room and your mood. Play up the ‘wow’ factor by accessorizing with gold-toned cushions and brass or copper lighting, or really go for broke and stack it with throws and cushions in other neon-brights, such as hot pink or turquoise.

We love

Fling Sofa Bed in Citrus – a comfy 3-seater sofa bed that zing with style.

Tiana Citrus Sofa

Perfect with

Brass and Concrete Table Lamp from Dwell – the industrial look and copper tones will suit any modern space.

brass and concrete table lamp

Tangerine dreams

Orange is the Marmite of the colour wheel – it’s certainly not a ‘take it or leave it’ shade, but if it floats your boat then it can look marvelous in both classic and contemporary rooms. It evokes similar feelings to that of its close cousin red – warmth, energy and passion – and a striking orange sofa makes a perfect focal point. Dress it up with accessories in tonal shades of browns, russets and wood.

We love

Zapp sofa in Orange – elegant simplicity in an eye-catching colour.

orange zapp sofa

Perfect with

Doodle Rug in Orange from Dwell – the perfect retro-inspired rug.

dwell rug

Looking for more inspiration?

Check out our newest Style Sourcebook online now, full of style advice, latest looks and decorating inspiration, including loads more sofas in hot shades, perfect for the Rio Fever look!

Don't forget to follow dfs on our road to Rio 2016 on Twitter, Instagram & YouTube.

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