We asked Gina Wicker, creative director at Sunbrella, for her expert advice on using indoor/outdoor fabrics in your home and yard.
Ask the Expert: Gina Wicker on outdoor fabrics
Gina Wicker, Sunbrella Creative Director

We asked Gina Wicker, creative director at Sunbrella, for her expert advice on using indoor/outdoor fabrics in your home and yard.

Gina Wicker, Sunbrella Creative Director

A friend of mine just put in an awning made of “marine” fabric at her house. What’s the difference between that and standard indoor/outdoor fabric? In the rainy Pacific Northwest, is one better than the other for awnings? —Amber Martin, Bend, ORMarine and awning fabrics – which we refer to as Sunbrella shade fabrics – have basic woven constructions to ensure optimum water repellency and breathability. They also have a topical finish specifically designed for installations where the fabric needs a stiffer body and is kept relatively flat, such as an awning or boat cover. We would definitely recommend Sunbrella shade fabrics for awnings and other shade structures — both on land and on the water.

Sunbrella shade fabric and standard indoor/outdoor fabric – Sunbrella upholstery fabric – share a common fiber technology, which is the source of their fade resistance, durability and ease of cleaning. However, Sunbrella upholstery fabric constructions vary widely from a basic plain weave to dramatic Jacquard patterns. The topical finish used on this family of fabrics is engineered to make it easier to clean up spills without sacrificing the hand or softness of the fabric, ideal for pillows, cushions and other upholstery and drapery.

My living room is West-facing and gets brutal direct sun in the evening. I previously had colorful patterned drapes, but they faded in the afternoon sun. Is outdoor fabric a good option for drapes? Are there any particular ones that will pleat and drape nicely? —Jane Zappa, Santa Barbara, CAHigh-performance fabrics like Sunbrella are a great option for direct-sun areas because they are fade- and stain-resistant. And, with Sunbrella, there really isn’t a difference between indoor and outdoor fabrics.

Our upholstery fabrics are specially designed with color-infused fibers to provide luxury and high performance indoors and out. Jacquards, chenilles and textured patterns can be used for your indoor sofa or drapery as well as your outdoor seating area. Outdoor fabrics don’t have to feel like plastic to stand up to the elements.

For drapery applications we recommend Sunbrella upholstery fabrics which are soft to the hand and will drape nicely. Another option is Sunbrella sheers which allow natural light to infuse every corner of a living space, providing a sense of warmth and luxury. Sunbrella sheers also offer the same excellent fade resistance and cleanability characteristics you expect from Sunbrella upholstery fabrics.

This trend of not matching every piece is wonderful for outdoors! BUT I’m scared to try it in my own yard without guidance. Where do you recommend starting? Right now I just have an iron dining set on my patio (and my house is a pale blue). –Stella Rugby, Reno, NVThe key to making this look work in your own outdoor space is to coordinate fabrics, not match them. At sunbrella.com/showroom we have an online fabric showroom that allows you to find all the information on your favorite fabrics as well as coordinating fabrics for upholstery/drapery and shade. By using the online fabric showroom, you can find pairings of different patterns that you might not have discovered on your own. And because our fabrics are made from a common color palette of yarns, it is easy to coordinate the fabrics with each other – stripes with florals, solids with graphic patterns, and so on.

Considering the dark iron color of your dining set and the pale blue house exterior is a great place to start. Try a color palette that coordinates with the cool shades already presented – blues and greys will work nicely in your space. For a pop of color try decorative accent pillows in shades of yellow or find a fun pattern to add interest. Consider your home’s pale blue exterior color if you are interested in adding a retractable awning or other shade structure as these colors should coordinate enough to work well in the same space but not get lost in a sea of blue. The possibilities are endless – good luck!

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