Ask the Expert: Gina Wicker on Fabrics
We asked Gina Wicker, Design and Creative Director for Sunbrella, for her expert advice on your fabric quandaries.
I have three little boys and I’m constantly scrubbing spilled food off my dining room chairs’ upholstered seats. I’m ready to change the fabric—what’s a good choice that feels soft, looks good, but won’t wear out with scrubbing? -Allison K., Santa Fe, NM
The wonderful thing about performance fabric such as Sunbrella is that the styling, color and softness of the fabrics provide you with plenty of options. With advances in how our fabrics are made, their softness is only exceeded by their styling versatility. For a dining room setting, we recommend a fabric with a little surface interest like a textured yarn or a simple pattern. These types of fabrics will be a little more forgiving and will help hide any small spills. For textures, you could consider our soft, chenille, Plush, and for a little more casual look, our boucle solid, Canyon is a great option. Additionally, there are dozens of stripes and patterns to match virtually any design aesthetic, so go online to select a fabric that you absolutely love.
Just remember, Sunbrella doesn’t require “scrubbing.” A gentle cleaning with a soft bristle brush and a mild soap solution will usually do the trick. For stubborn stains, you can also clean our fabrics with full-strength bleach if needed. For more information on a thorough cleaning for Sunbrella fabrics, click here.
I entertain a lot on my small patio. It doesn’t rain a lot, but it does get foggy. Is it safe to leave outdoor pillows out all day? How should I clean them? -Clara T., Alameda, CA
People often believe that if you have outdoor furniture or pillows, you should bring them inside at night. That seems like a lot of extra work, and defeats the purpose of a relaxed, outdoor retreat! If your outdoor pillows are made with Sunbrella fabric and have a fill that can withstand the weather, it is safe to leave them outside all day and all night. If you’re in an area where winters don’t allow you to enjoy your outdoor space, we do recommend storing them in a cool, dry place for the off season. If you give them a good cleaning before storing them, you’ll be ready to enjoy at the first hint of spring weather.
Remember when cleaning furniture upholstered in Sunbrella fabrics, it’s best to start with a simple solution of soap and water and a soft bristle brush. For ultimate ease, make sure that your pillow and cushion covers are constructed with zippers to allow removal and easy laundering. Just remember not to put them in the dryer. It’s best to put them back on their inserts and allow them to dry outside for a nice fit.
What’s the newest material in outdoor furniture? I like wicker, but I’m ready for a fresh look. -Thomas N., Carson City, NV
Outdoor living is the new frontier in interior design, and there are plenty of outdoor furniture materials to consider. Wicker is beautiful and today’s all-weather wickers are made to stand up to the elements without the needed maintenance of traditional wicker. Another timeless option is teak, which you can oil regularly to keep the warm brown color, or allow it to age and patina to a beautiful grey color. There are even reclaimed teak options available for an added earth-friendly story. For a sturdy, low-maintenance material, go with aluminum, which is available with a powder-coated finish. Pair any of these materials with cushions and pillows in your favorite Sunbrella fabric and you’ll be set for years to come!
Gina Wicker is the Design and Creative Director for Sunbrella® fabrics with oversight of fabric design for the casual, residential, contract, and catalog markets. With more than 20 years’ experience in the textile industry, Wicker manages the creative elements related to the Sunbrella brand, including photography, advertising, collateral, website design, and sampling. She earned a BS in textiles with a concentration in design from NC State University and an MBA from Duke University.
A self-described home décor and garden enthusiast, Wicker is happiest when surrounded by beautiful fabrics and furnishings, abundant plants and flowers, and friends and family.