Investment Piece: The Velvet Sofa
Velvet: soft, smooth, and silky. The fabric of kings. Historically, yes, but today the material brings its luxurious touch to a casual lifestyle. Nowhere is that more prominently rendered than in the contemporary velvet sofa, which has evolved from a stuffy, proper Victorian-era relic to a modern and unfettered style to anchor your living room. But why stop there? Additionally, velvet throw pillows and curtains styled with velvet sofas adds a regal feeling to anything. (Though we generally like to avoid velvet paintings, but never say never.) Altogether, not only does this fabric bring a depth of richness with its sheen velvet carries a long and storied past.
The Velvet Sofa Today
Today, velvet sofas have been elevated to everyday luxury. Furthermore, style hasn’t been sacrificed in the name of comfortable seating made from this fabric. To demonstrate, with several finishes to choose from — shiny versus matte, crushed versus smooth — velvet is a star choice. This holds true not only for sofas but also accent pillows and drapes. One can transform a vintage mid-century style into a truly unique piece of furniture through the application of upholstery, for example. In contrast, Art Deco styles also lend themselves to a velvet treatment suitable for daily use. On the other hand, If comfort and stateliness are your vibes, there is also a velvet sofa for you. Henceforth, a look at some of the most design elevated velvet sofas available now.
Royal Throne – The Oscar Contemporary pedestal-style couch shown here in pink comes in a variety of colors to accommodate whichever colors you wave.
Longue Lounge – The chaise lounge, a staple of the Art Deco period, is reimagined here as a sensuous curved sofa with quilted back nestled atop a bronze base and complemented with horn detail.
Space Odyssey – Jonathan Adler’s Ether sofa takes it cues from the heavens above with this lozenge-esque silhouette which beckons despite its fierce brass legs
Velvet’s Ancient Beginnings
As today’s interpretations have been defined, a look back at its not so humble beginnings is in order. Notably, velvet has been found as of 400 B.C., during China’s Warring States period. The textile with the dense short pile and gleaming sheen, can trace its provenance to the Qin (circa 221-206 B.C.E.) and the Western Han (206 B.C.E.- 23 C.E.) dynasties in China. Others claim its discovery in Iran and Egypt, where pile weaves woven from silk and linen resembling velvet were thought to come from Cairo in approximately 2000 B.C.E. Because the technique of weaving the fabric by hand was long and arduous it was generally reserved for royalty.
Eventually the Silk Road opened the West to many of the treasures of the East. Velvet was no exception. Italy was the first of the European nations to establish its velvet industry, and wealth soon spread to municipalities who joined the trade. In due time its most famous consumer was the Medici family, whose coat of arms was woven into a silk textile by a Florentine supplier.
From the 12th to the 18th century, Italy was the dominant supplier of velvet to Europe. Florence, Genoa, and Venice reigned as producers. Quickly competition for technique and design was so intense that weavers were forbidden to leave their town of origin lest they take their trade secrets with them.
Ultimately wealthy merchant families were eager to establish heritage on the lavish material, as were wealthy churches of the time. Simultaneously during the Renaissance from 1400 to 1600 (velvet’s golden age), Spain began to produce velvet. It was a status symbol in one’s home, with furniture, upholstery, curtains, and wallpaper created from it.
The storied Venice velvet maker Bevilacqua, which traces its family’s weavers back to 1499, created the Stemma Medici pattern referencing the series of balls found on the Italian ruling family's crest in the form of flower pistils. Correspondingly, another famous motif was the pomegranate, as it pertains to religious symbolism.
The Velvet Revolution
The industrial age brought innovation that sped up the production of materials and introduced cheaper raw goods, making velvet attainable to a wider range of consumers. However, this development didn’t diminish its perceived value, as the fabric maintained its regal reputation.
By the 1800s, signs of refinement and culture were witnessed in the salons of well-heeled families’ homes, especially on their velvet canapés. Recently fascinating examples of those velvet creations from the industrial age were on exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute. At the same time, mid-19th-century artists such as Pennsylvania’s Gertrude Rapp achieved the original look and feel of velvet by re-creating ancient techniques on new, opulent fabrics for use in the home. After that, the early-20th-century velvet designer Maria Monaci Gallenga re-created the opulent silk-velvet look in a more durable fiber: She used cotton and printed in metallic inks instead of silk and gold threads, for example, to achieve historically influenced fabrics.
With its Edwardian and Victorian-era mood, a velvet sofa was considered a sort of stiff settee; meant for a dimly lit, heavily paneled, and dark salon. But as the 1960s and ’70s ushered in an era where velvet was used in everyday clothing. At this time, velvet sofas and couches picked up in popularity, proving the lush fabric made for a comfy daily seating option, too.
Instantly, velvet textiles can transform any family heirloom sofa or vintage-hunt find into a truly spectacular piece. Velvet fabric house Dedar Milano, founded in 1976 and located in Lake Como, Italy, is a family-run business known for combining contemporary flair with the latest textile technologies. In particular, the firm carries an ample array of styles – from standard to devoré and bold patterns - to fit any mood or décor. Additionally Jerry Pair, one of the premier American dealers of home textiles since its establishment in Atlanta in the 1960s, carries the luxurious Dedar as well as other manufacturers.
Velvet Throw Pillows
However, if you love velvet but aren’t quite decided on how big a commitment you want to make — i.e. a sofa — there are plenty of throw-pillow options to liven up your current couch. For example, Nest Casa has options from Missoni Home, Tom Dixon, and Saved NY, whose devore velvets are made in the style of traditional Mongolian deel costume fabrics. Comparatively, Artemest offers a pop of garnet red from LO decor that’s like adding a lipstick-red kiss to your couch for a smooth and soft finishing touch.