Are Designer Fabrics Worth It?

There is a big debate here.
This fabric, made by Raoul Textiles, is hand blocked 
in California in small quantities.
The colors are saturated and the feel or 
"hand" of the linen is rich.
 Debbie and I recently went up to the 
Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles to 
check out, specifically, 
Raoul Textiles, China Seas and 
Galbraith and Paul...
some creme de la creme of printed linens.  

These fabrics are over $100/yd
(some WELL over) wholesale
and often require three to five yard minimum orders.

 A client recently wanted a designer look with 
fresh pillows and slip covers.
We needed six pillows.
By the time we picked the pretty fabrics and included
$45 for expert fabrication
(22" to 24"square, surged seams, flat flange and/or micro-welts,
 hidden zippers),
$30 for deluxe inserts, plus the fabric, tax and shipping...
the pillows averaged $150 each. 

  That was giving her my wholesale cost and 
not yet charging for my time.    She was aghast.   
$750 for six pillows???  

Even though she knows a local retailer sells one 
in one of the same fabrics but just an envelope 
with no zipper 
and no trim for $300 each plus tax 
(our tax is 8-9% here in California).
Am I boring you?  I am boring myself.

More pretty and costly fabrics.

Bottom line:  if you have kids I don't recommend $150 pillows...but even Pottery Barn pillows can add up.  I like 
THIS ONE below.  It's $77 not including tax or shipping.

For people who want the look and can afford gorgeous fabrics...they should have them.

Woodyliana made these designer pillows for me 
two years ago and they still look great...
even with my son and his friends all over them.
Liana is Thee Pillow Expert.  She is so busy 
with custom work, her Etsy shop is closed 
and she barely has time for my pillows now (sob!).  
Oh man.  I love this Chaing Mai Dragon linen. 
See the texture? 

But look at the difference in background
with the two samples though.
That's why you should get a cutting for
approval to check the colors.

I never get tire of it...
Is it worth the expense?
  I think so.  

Speaking of fabric...ugh.

Enter...Container Store!

Liana was over last week and we LOVE to talk fabric.
She believes that good quality fabric is worth the investment...
in terms of durability and style.  But even she takes the good pillows
 off when her boys are on the couch.

I washed this linen slipcover and tried to put it 
back on damp...but it was impossible.
The manufacturer had not pre-washed it...
but it was my mistake.
I saw this fabric at the design center for about 
$35/yard wholesale and then fortunately saw it at 
Dorell Discount Fabrics for about $10/yd.   
I washed it, added a zipper instead of velcro 
and shortened the length a bit.

Just saying that I like to save money...but
know that the right fabric, even with a big price tag,
can really elevate a look...to me, it's worth it.
It's probably the same way some people feel about shoes :)


  1. I love the look of the high end fabrics, but as often as I change pillows and color schemes it doesn't make sense for me. I buy the best I can find at the discount fabric stores. Hugs, Marty

  2. I think the shoe analogy is right on! When I have pillows made, the fabric is very important (as far a the content) as well as a good invisible zipper and a down insert. It makes all the difference. Sometimes just putting that one pop of color (a great fabric) via a pillow or two can make the difference between a nice room and a fabulous room. A $150 pillow is well worth it. Most of the time when I am spending a lot for a pillow fabric it is because I am using a gorgeous solution dyed fabric that will cost more. That way it is just fine to use with animals and kiddos. Even big kiddos :D Great post Mary Ann!

  3. It is quite the debate: just how much to spend, is it worth it, and do you "benefit" in the end. I think it's a matter of total personal choice... not to mention budget. I could spend a lot more on fabrics, for slipcovers and pillows. But, personally, I won't do it. To me, it's not worth it. I can find wonderful fabrics and premade pillow covers (Etsy must have, what, thousands ???of pillow covers) but it just takes some time.
    Having actually designed, and worked for, the high end fabric companies I certainly know what goes into their products! The colors and design are impeccable.But in the end, of course, it is a very personal choice!

  4. Ditto, ditto, ditto!!! Nothing can compare to the look of designer fabrics and beautifully fabricated pillows and soft furnishings. And there is definitely a time and place for those, it sets a look apart, gives a room a unique appearance not gotten through the mass produced, DIY, pinterest driven design world. (which BTW, I like as much as the next girl, it's just that I like the custom look better, champagne taste on a beer budget!)

  5. For me, it's all about the mix. Toss one spectacular designer pillow against a few HomeGoods finds and it elevates the entire look -- as long as the HomeGoods finds are good quality.

  6. I agree! It's worth it to spend a bit more. Not only does it look better but it usually wears better (this goes for wardrobe too!) Sometimes a lesser expensive item can be added in but I think as a general rule you get what you pay for.

  7. I am of the high/ low group. A couple of high end pillows in the Living Room or bedroom, we all know the difference they make. However I have found beautiful pillows (I watch for sales at Pottery Barn, Home Goods and Target) at a reasonable cost that I will not be concerned with rowdiness, spills, party mishaps. Iif you need inserts, get down!

    2013 Artists Series

  8. Since I just had several pillows made this year for my new sofa in the family room, I had this very debate with myself. I can not tell you how many samples I ordered and there is definitely a difference in high quality fabrics and once you see it you find it hard to choose a lower quality fabric. I think it is like anything, just look for good quality like you did with your barstools. I have always said whether you can afford it or not, familiarize yourself with good quality so you will know it when you see it at a bargain price. Woodyliana made some of my pillows and she is definitely the queen of quality. I miss her shop!!
    Happy Monday,

  9. I love high end fabrics, I gravitate towards them as soon as I walk into a showroom. I have plenty in my home, but it also poses a problem. I spent so much money on the fabric I can't justify changing anything out. And I like change. So I am on the fence as to whether it's worth it or not.

  10. It's worth it for me. I'm just not satisfied with the budget options having seen the gorgeousness of the more expensive. These fabrics you've shown are to die for beautiful!!

  11. I agree with you, Mary Ann. Great fabrics definitely elevate a space and a design. I think the key is to use them sparinlgy and in places where they'll have great impact. One pillow done in that Chaing Mai Dragon would have a huge impact all on it's own.

  12. I am in love with the Chaing Mai print. I really want the wallpaper for my powder but I think with the order minimum, it blows the budget.

  13. Sadly, there are no fabric stores out by me, they all closed... I remember the days of walking thru Calico Corners just to look at all the pretty fabrics... and even then they didn't have Chaing Mai goodness.

  14. I definitely think they are worth it! But I would never blow the budget by using them everywhere. So wonderful and wise to mix it up. Love your new slips!!

  15. Hi - in regard to to the price of pillows. I recently purchased new bedding - comforter etc. and was looking for pillows to adorn it. I found them to be more expensive than the bedding and took it upon myself to find some fabric that I absolutely felt I could afford and made beautiful pillows that look stunning on my bed for 1/4 of the price. Less than $150.00 made three pillows for my bed and two for chairs in the bedroom - that look quite stunning.It is a good feature that I can sew - but there are many people that cannot. So find friend that can as they are so easy to do and save yourself a lot of money. If you have the money go right ahead and buy them.

  16. Totally with you on the fabric debate. But why was the slip cover shrinking your mistake? Aren't you supposed to be able to wash them? In any event, love the new ones! Best, Beth C.

  17. Mary Ann...I agree...There is a big difference with the feel and look with expensive fabric....I always have to sets of pillows for my family room...one for laying on and a good pair for company...I was in Orange County this weekend working on a job...I cant believe all the great shopping and great out lets for fabric...I have to drive an hour away or more to shop...You are so lucky to have this at your finger tips...

  18. LOVE this post! like you said - with little ones you might not want to put pricey fabric on pillows that will get spilled and thrown up on. but i'm thinking that chiang mai might end up above my kitchen sink in the form of a roman shade where they can't ruin it :)

  19. Love the high end fabric and would select it in a heartbeat if I had it in the budget! I try to visit the fabric outlets to find the higher end stuff at more reasonable prices...once we get all the kids through college, my decorating budget will open up :)

  20. Yes, in the smaller doses you described it is totally worth it. Your example of the manufacturer not pre-washing is what aggravates me the most. They want to save money by getting more from the bolt. There are stages for all of this. Now that my kids are older, I will invest in better quality items. It's my husband that breaks things :)

  21. Beautiful fabrics...love the Chaing Mai!

    A drag about your slipcovers, but the new ones look great. Since my next sofa will probably be slipcovered, I do wonder how many manufacturers "pre-wash" the fabric. Definitely something to remember in the future.

    Linda in S.D.

  22. High-end fabrics do make a huge difference in the outcome of the look. Every time I bring a swatch of a cheap fabric or a knockoff (they do make those too) it looks cheap in my home. Once you start upholstering, slipcovering and decorating with high-end fabrics it is hard to settle for those of lesser quality. I have bought Bennison linen fabric for some throw pillows and put it in the washing machine and dryer and it came out perfect, looking as if I never did that...FABULOUS! I just wish it didn't cost so much. It is just like buying high quality shoes, lol.

  23. Hi Mary Ann,
    Boy, some of the examples of the high end fabric could make anyone want to spend the extra, it's just a matter of priorities. I love some of the prints but believe I'd be happy with a few of the less expensive Dorell Fabric pillows. Speaking of Dorell, I saw you today with a client at Dorell when I stopped by to pick up some pillow forms. I almost introduced myself but you were clearly engrossed in design business and I didn't want to interrupt...so "HI", if I see you again sometime I'll introduce myself and tell you in person how much I enjoy your posts. :D

    1. Karen...wish you would have stopped me!!! My client was on her lunch hour and we had to pack it in. She has two babies...why we need the discount fabric...but we are going to mix in a couple more expensive ones where they can't get to them.

  24. Well think it all depends just how much you love it..I used Chiang Mia for our loggia pillows and honestly just fell in love, there was no other choice even if I had to skip a few meals lol. Which believe me I could benefit from but thats a whole other story!

    And LOVE that Brunchwig and Fils leopard velvet, have it in my living room RIGHT NOW in that color and just love seeing it there, but since that room is not being tackled right now the sample shall remain:) I think the high and low approach can work very well with pillows..there are many gorgeous and affordable choices but when you fall in love with that one...think its worth the splurge (in moderation). All gorgeous fabrics!!

  25. This is always a tough sell especially since clients can walk into any large store and find pillows for $10 or less and/or inserts for $6. I try to explain quality details like saturated colors, matched patterns, durability etc but they aren't listening. So I let them purchase their cheap pillows and wait for them to call me when that $10 pillows is a lumpy mess. Great article!

  26. From one fabric lover to another.....these fabrics are gorgeous! And if you could just buy what you need for a couple of pillows it wouldn't be that outrageous! But with more companies wanting a minimum yardage order....those high priced, luxury fabrics might only be a sparkle in your eye! But then....it never hurts to dream!! Woodyliana's pillows were wonderful and I'm sorry she is not longer on Etsy, but then very happy for her that her business is booming. I too, love the Chaing Mai Dragon pattern and saw it about 5 years ago in Hawaii in another color and have been obsessed with it ever since. Thanks for putting "lux vs. less" into perspective and making it OK to do what works for you!

  27. Thanks for a great post and a great debate! I always like to mix high and low/custom and ready made and tell clients that it is really worth it to spend a little more on a few higher end fabrics. It really does show in a home and makes a difference. Gorgeous fabrics you showed too.

  28. Mary Ann ... always the struggle ... but I do believe the designer fabrics are worth the money. You can literally "feel" the details, plus the little details that are missing from the less expensive ones. However, I am totally fine mixing the hi and low to keep everyone's budget in line!! Great post! xo

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  30. You bring up some interesting points. The swatches that you have in the third picture are some of the exact same patterns that I have in my son's bedroom. I have not changed these for 20yrs (guilty!). They went from our bedroom to the child's bedroom. Just today someone walked into his bedroom and looooved it! In all they would've probably cost me less than $75 today (inflation etc. incl)for the quilted bedspread, mix n match cushions etc. Mind you I do not compromise on the cost for my home decor. However, having worked with Ralph (Lauren) and others comes in handy in picking up the right fabrics. Probably your post brings up a good-point for me to ponder about...how about getting it on Etsy.

  31. Your photo of the shrunken slip cover was painful as this recently happened to me. We even tore the box pleat trying to put it back on. I am not taking that cover off again. Now what do I do? Ugh. :) Always love your fresh choices. :)

  32. I'm with you.....nice fabrics really add a LOT to a room. If I have to choose, I always go cheap on other rooms, so that I can have a wowzer fabric in the main rooms. I will also use something reasonably priced for window treatments...they are lined and interlined, so they look good...noone ever questions the cost of the fabric :^)
    Blessings to you,

  33. While I'm so, so happy that WoodyLiana's business is going well, I'm crying on the inside as I've lost a wonderful resource for well crafted designer pillows. I love that I have Schumacher pillows (sewn by Liana)in my home. Sometimes it's nice to have items that aren't readily available at mass retailers.

  34. I am a massive fan of Chiang Mai Dragon and I don't think anything can go around it for quality and colour. I bought a few cushions from etsy and ebay and they did cost me a bomb, but so worth it! They liven up the room endlessly. I found a couple of Scalamandre cushions one day and I agonised over the shipping, I did buy them, but the cost of the shipping was as exxy as the cushions I bought.

    I think they are worth it, but I mix cheap with the dear and it can work out ok.

  35. Love your slipcovered bar stools! Those have to be the best buy ever!

  36. I am the biggest fan of gorgeous fabrics, and when I know I can't use them on large items, I generally splurge on pillows, small chairs and dining chairs. Just love the fabrics on your design board!

  37. Very nice interior design.Thanks for sharing this beautiful house.
    Buy Youtube Comments

  38. My goodness, I saw your puppy on A Stroll Thru Life, is that a Frenchie or a Boston? Looks like a frenchie to me, I have a white one and he is the best dog ever!

    -Brittany Ruth

  39. I just found your blog from Marty on A Stroll Thru Life, and I love your house! I totally agree that designer fabrics can be expensive, but worth it for those that can afford them. I love your new slipcovers. I just used that same fabric to make some roman shades for a client. You got a great deal on it!

  40. Of course I think it is nice to get some of the more expensive fabrics...and mix them with others. It can really help give you a more unusual look instead of just getting the ones everyone else has....and there are lot's of ways to save money...by putting the really expensive fabric only on the front:)

  41. Etsy is a good place to find designer pillow covers. If you can find them in the patterns you want, it is so much cheaper than buying fabric and having them made yourself (even with trade pricing).

  42. Mary Ann, I always debate this question myself. I always include some high end fabrics in my pillow selections for clients but use certain pillows as fillers along with the high end pillows. Like the potterybarn solid pillow with jute braiding, the Mongolian pillow from west elm and a few border pillows from etsy. I think you have to mix it up!

  43. I have found Fabric Carolina on carrying the fabrics to hit the market. I am Very existed to get top quality indoor and outdoor designer fabrics in the widest variety of patterns, textures and colors.Top quality indoor and outdoor designer fabrics, Diamond Fabric, Robert Allen Fabric in the widest variety of patterns, textures and colors at fabriccarolina.com


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