Fabrics Made for the Outdoors Move Indoors

High-performance outdoor fabrics—like solution-dyed acrylics—are softer, brighter, and more durable than the old stuff of awnings and cushions and are finding new uses indoors.


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Photo by Brad Knipstein, courtesy of Kristina Wolf Design

Bringing the outside in is the latest idea in fabrics for home interiors. There has been a surge in the use of high-performance outdoor fabrics—like solution-dyed acrylics—finding a new place inside the home.

“Design has moved toward what people need, furnishings that can be lived in,” said interior designer Kristina Wolf, who opened her Oakland-based firm nine years ago. “The fabric makers recognize the need for durability, and the technology has made it possible.”

Solution-dyed acrylics have been the mainstay material for awnings and cushions that have to withstand a beating from the sun and surf. These durable outdoor fabrics are practical, but in the past, they felt stiff and only came in bland, flat colors—attributes hardly suitable for everyday indoor living.

“What has really improved with the solution-dyed fabrics today is the look, the aesthetic,” said designer Laura Martin Bovard. “Digital printing has had an impact. You can put gorgeous designs and colors on this really tough, synthetic fabric.”

These synthetic textiles are so durable, almost bullet-proof and colorfast, because of how the fabric is made. Most fabrics start out as colorless fibers that are woven into yarn and then dyed. With these high-performance acrylics, however, the color is infused right into the fiber, along with an acrylic solution, and then spun into yarn. This process creates a super-strong fabric and locks in the color. The improved technology, paired with the better designs, has created indoor/outdoor fabrics that are soft to touch, robust, and easy to clean up. Making them even more appealing is that more are coming in a host of stylish, vibrant colors and patterns.

When it comes to fabrics for home interiors, the word synthetic can turn some heads away, including designers. “I prefer organic, natural materials in the home spaces,” Bovard said. “But when you need durability, these solution-dyed fabrics are a good option.” She suggests these acrylics for use in high-traffic areas like breakfast nooks or on furniture, pillows, or cushions to manage “jammy hands.” The fabric also does well on stools, ottomans, and benches in kitchens and entranceways. With all the benefits, these newly improved, hardworking synthetic fabrics are being used more and more inside.

“Initially I used synthetics like these with clients who had small children who didn’t want to invest in higher-end fabrics that their kids would trash,” Wolf said. “Now these are my go-to—an option for everyone.”

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