Tufting: the Smart Girl’s Guide

A while ago, when asked by a male client about a political belief, I thought for a moment about taking the bait, when something inside forced me to pause, draw a deep breath and blurt out with sweeping earnest yet playful zeal…”I  believe in tufting.” We both burst out laughing as I successfully and politely declined to answer…while offering an opinion that in the long run would serve him better as his designer. This man needed tufting….not my opinion on Obamacare.

Examples of tufting at the Maison & Objet show

To tuft or not to tuft…if this is the question…the answer is yes. Most any room does well with the sculptural interest and instant upscale verve that the right tufted furniture piece adds. Forget your grandmother’s avocado green tufted 96″ sofa…this tufting is all about a fresh, modern point of view.

The Skinny

Tufting was all over the most recent Paris Maison and Objet show and remains a classic upper end flourish when used correctly. Tufting is basically a beautiful dimpled effect in upholstery in which the upholstery fill and padding is anchored with heavy thread in a deeply pleated pattern and topped off with a fabric covered button. Here’s an example of diamond tufting, also called biscuit tufting.

Here’s an example of tufting’s first cousin, called a button back style. In the case of a button back, as you can see, the fabric is not pleated so deeply.

The Upside of Tufting

  • The high and low points tufting creates forces highlights and shadows on upholstered furniture, hence the sculptural appeal
  • In bench cushions or sofa cushions, tufting adds firmer support
  • Due to the added firmness noted, a tufted ottoman can do double duty as a coffee table when not used as seating or a leg rest
  • It is striking looking! 

The Downside of Tufting

  • It’ll cost you. It can take a single crafts person one whole day to tuft the back of a full sofa.
  • It eats fabric yardage…which will also cost you. Each pleat on a standard diamond tufting can require 6-8″ of fabric…do the math across the tufted back of even a 36″ wide chair on all or those tufts and it adds up to quite a bit more yardage vs. a non tufted identical item
  • Tufting distorts a fabric pattern and is not ideal for linear patterns, large plaids, large patterns or graphic patterns (button backing, due to its more shallow pleat is more forgiving here). I opt for solids, textures or small to medium sized patterns when diamond tufting

Come on in and dip your toe in the tufted water. I love to sprinkle it on upholstered headboards, seat backs, benches or ottomans to spice up a room. The look, I assure you, is rich. Or, in the words of one of the great interior design sages of Philadelphia…(ahem)…”When the going gets tuft, the tufted get going”…with an instant shot of “Ooh, baby that girl’s got style.” I tuft you not!