6 best sofa fabrics for a calming home - the materials recommend by experts

These soothing textiles are proven to trigger feelings of calm

White linen sofa with yellow and green cushions in front of white panelled wall
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

When you choose a sofa for your home your first criteria will likely be size and colour, but choosing the best sofa fabric for a calming home shouldn't be an afterthought. 

When picking the best sofa for a calm living room that feels relaxing and comforting, fabric choice should be carefully considered. Of course, you should first consider the best low-maintenance fabrics for a sofa that will match your family's needs, but you should also consider how the fabric makes you feel. 

A recent study found that different textures spark varying emotions when touched. Silk, velvet, leather and fur were associated with happiness, while sandpaper and sponge were associated with fear, disgust and anger. 

Therapeutic textiles are already used to help soothe individuals who are neurodivergent or living with dementia. Still, we could all benefit from introducing feelgood fabrics into our homes, particularly on a large piece of furniture like the sofa, which is where we spend time alone and with loved ones, relaxing and socialising.

6 best sofa fabrics for a calming home

You may already be using your sofa fabric to help soothe away stress at the end of the day, whether it’s conscious or not. ‘People who use textures as a way to regulate their emotions will often run their hands over a soft texture like brushed wool, play with the tufting on a sofa, or unconsciously smooth out the appearance of velvet while in conversation,’ says design psychologist and style director, Amber Dunford

‘For many people, a rough texture is generally considered unpleasant. However, a looped texture such as boucle offers a soft textural experience that provides stimuli without the irritation of being rough, which can be very appealing to those who use textures to self soothe,’ Amber explains.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted or identify as highly sensitive, this can also influence your textile choices. ‘Extroverts can handle a more stimulating space and therefore a wider range of textures on upholstery, such as a mix of boucle, wool or chenille; in fact, they will appreciate the varying textural experience,’ Amber explains. ‘Whereas an introvert might feel overstimulated by too many fabric changes and prefer the simplicity of a smooth leather or linen sofa.’

We spoke to furnishings experts to find out the best sofa fabrics for a calming home.

Amber Dunford design psychologist
Amber Dunford

Amber Dunford is a former mental health clinician turned interior stylist and one of only a handful of design psychologists with expertise in the connection between space design and mental health. She spent years in private practice as a therapist before merging her passions for design and psychology, lecturing on design psychology and offering design psychology sessions to anyone looking for ways to enhance their emotional wellbeing through design. Amber is also the style director for online furniture and home furnishings retailer, Overstock.

1. Velvet

A living room with a velvet sofa, graphic cushions, a wall print and a large radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC/Kasia Fiszer)

A colourful velvet sofa has become a go-to for stylish interiors in recent years – and it makes us feel as good as it looks, according to the experts. 

‘Velvet is a wonderful choice as a calming sofa fabric, especially in serene hues like soft dove grey or muted seafoam green,’ suggests Franky Rousell, founder of sensory interior design practice, Jolie Studio. ‘The plush texture of velvet encourages you to sink into its embrace, providing a tactile experience that soothes the senses. The gentle caress of velvet against your skin evokes a sense of luxury and comfort, while its ability to absorb and reflect light adds to the tranquil atmosphere.’

While matt cotton velvets offer a plush and luxurious feel, David Harris, design director at Andrew Martin, recommends slub velvets for an extra calming and tactile touch. ‘For a contemporary twist on traditional velvet fabrics, slub velvets feature irregularities in the yarn, which create a unique texture that adds interest and depth,’ he says. ‘And don’t overlook vintage velvet fabric. With its rich, plush texture and subtle sheen, vntage velvet brings character and charm to any living space.’

Franky Rousell founder Jolie
Franky Rousell

Founded in 2017, Jolie is an interior design studio specialising in the power of emotionally driven experiences that can be influenced by environment and interior space. Their research focuses on human behaviour related to sensory experience; collaborating with neuroscientists in each sensory field, Jolie carefully sources and combines materials and fragrances to imagine each interior. 

2. Linen

White linen sofa with blue cushions in front of white panelled wall in nautical themed room

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Linen has long been used in the fashion industry, where research shows it can have a calming and soothing effect on the skin. ‘It is said to relax the nervous system, provide better air circulation and heal inflammatory sensations. Linens are also easy to maintaining. It is twice as durable as cotton,’ according to this report

Linen is just as desirable as a sofa covering – and it's surprisingly easy to clean a linen sofa, too. ‘In terms of sofa fabrics, this year is about embracing a variety of textures that elevate the sensory experience and create a sense of comfort and calm,’ says David Harris from Andrew Martin. ‘Chunky linens, with their organic feel and timeless appeal, are making a strong statement, bringing a relaxed feel into any space, particularly in the more muted, natural colours such as white, cream and beige. 

3. Wool

Navy blue sofa next to light blue armchair with glass coffee table

(Image credit: Loaf)

‘The way in which we view our homes has changed significantly over the last five years. While functionality is still important, renewed emphasis is placed on feeling – we are all looking to create spaces that feel comforting and relaxing to escape the stresses of everyday life,’ says Patricia Gibbons, head of buying at Sofa.com.

Key pieces of furniture are central to this – after all, we spend more time in our beds or on our sofas than anywhere else. As well as seeing a resurgence in the popularity of deep-filled cushions and larger modular designs, Patricia says that fabric choices are just as important as the form of a sofa. 

‘They not only effect the aesthetic but also how each piece feels to the touch,’ she says. ‘Wools deliver a more tactile experience that induces a sense of restfulness and calm. Velvets in richer colours and loose linens in neutral colours are also seen in schemes which promote restful living.’

4. Boucle

Sofology marble arch 2 seater in marble arch cologne plain ivory mink mix

(Image credit: Sofology)

The boucle furniture trend is here to stay, and it’s no surprise that the teddy-bear texture is felt to be one of the most calming sofa fabrics (especially as it's easy to clean a boucle sofa). 

‘The tactile nature of wool bouclé fabric invites you to run your fingers across its looped yarns, reminiscent of a gentle embrace, making it another great choice for evoking a sense of calm in your home,’ says Franky Rousell from Jolie Home. ‘The textured surface adds depth and warmth to your sofa, and opting for gentle hues, such as soft beige or dusty lavender, can enhance the soothing effect, enveloping you in a cocoon of serenity.’

Gisela Lancaster, head of buying at Sofology, agrees.

‘As we look to create calming atmospheres in our home, choosing comfortable and tactile furniture is essential for lounging and relaxation, with touch and sensation being an important part of how we experience our environment,’ Gisela says.

‘Boucle is a timeless, versatile fabric that offers a soothing balance between comfort and style. This sumptuous fabric is perfect for adding texture and depth to a space because of its natural chunky texture and inviting look and feel. With inviting soft woven yarns, bouclé sofas are ideal for sinking into and relaxing.’

5. Cotton

cottagecore living room ideas, living room with panelled walls painted in a pale green, neutral sofa, wooden coffee table, blue floor lamp, artwork, navy armchair, jute rug, orange cushions, plant

(Image credit: John Lewis)

With the trend for touch-feely fabrics and feelgood homes, crisp, functional cotton has had a makeover for sofa fabrics.

‘Texture, tactility, and touch are at the heart of how we think about our products, so it’s really exciting to see how much texture has been coming through in fabric in recent years,’ says Nicky Line, chief product officer at Loaf

‘We're excited to see demand for loopy textures and more earthy hues, and that’s why we introduced our new boucle-like fabric, Clever Wobbly Cotton, which is a blend of cotton and linen, giving it a gorgeously textural natural handle and tonal colour palette, perfect for creating a calming space in the home.’

6. Leather

Three seater leather sofa in living room with panelling

(Image credit: DFS)

‘A timeless option for sofa fabrics, leather proves to be an enduring favourite primarily because its supple texture begs to be touched and, as the closest material texture to human skin, offers a sense of familiarity and comfort,’ explains Franky Rousell from Jolie Studio. 

Colour plays a part in choosing a leather sofa for a calming feel in your living room. ‘Earthy tones such as warm caramel or rich chocolate enhance the soothing effect, evoking a sense of groundedness and tranquillity. The natural grain and subtle sheen of leather add a touch of elegance to your space, while its durability ensures years of relaxation ahead.’

Whichever fabric you choose, aim for one that feels good to the touch and fits in well with a soothing colour scheme, for feelgood calm and relaxation.

Andrea Childs

Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for idealhome.co.uk.