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These Are the Most Promising Functional Fabrics for Home

Functional fabrics are redefining more than just athletic apparel—they’re finding their way into interior textiles, too.

At Heimtextil in Frankfurt last week, textile engineer Gerhard Sperling from Verband der Deutschen Heimtextilien Industrie pulled together the most promising in functional home textiles in a new-to-the-show section dubbed the Library.

These fabrics are sound-absorbing, flame-retardant, water-repellent, hard-wearing—and some of them are all of these things at once. Because just as much as clothing should wick sweat, upholstery fabrics should be able to repel liquids bound to spill.

Here are some of the leading fabrics bringing better performance to textiles for interiors.


sound absorbing textile

As consumers seek calm amid global tumult and increasingly retreat into their homes as a sanctuary, textiles are rising to the occasion to absorb some of the noise.

“Typically, sound-absorbing effects are achieved through the use of innovative, three-dimensional weave constructions or multi-layer structures,” a display in the Library read.

Anafi, made by U.K.-based Muraspec Wall Coverings, for one, is a decorative polyester backed foam vinyl wall covering made with water-based inks that absorb sound.

In a nod to sustainability for sound absorbency, Italy’s Bartolini Home created Danzica fabric for hotel and office use out of 70 percent recycled wool.

For contract upholstery, there’s Extrema Wave, a quilted, coated fabric that’s flame-retardant and sound-absorbing, but still delivers on the level of aesthetic expected from Italian fabric covering firm Flukso.


flame retardant textile

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Particularly in public buildings, flame-retardant textiles are critical for safety, and in this category, new developments abound.

“To achieve the required level of flame retardancy, textiles can be treated with flame retardants or be made of inherently flame-retardant materials,” the Library noted.

Dutch home decor and textile firm A House of Happiness’ Sonora F.R. (flame-retardant) is a trendy mesh semi-transparent fabric for curtains that’s made with recycled PET from plastic bottles. The flame-retardant fabric comes in nine colors and with a sustainability story to suit the current market.

Zeus is Tintoria Sala’s F.R. offering for upholstery and curtains. The Italian manufacturer makes a 100 percent Trevira CS viscose-linen effect created with its Zeus yarns in the warp and weft.

With Luxory COEX, Italy’s Martinelli Ginetto is turning cotton into a naturally fireproof fabric used for bedding in medical centers and hospitality. Using 400-thread-count 100 percent cotton percale, the manufacturer then finishes the fabric with the COEX treatment that makes the material completely fireproof through an innovative patented process the company says “doesn’t use chemical additives or flame-retardant resins that may come in contact with the skin and environment.”


water repellent textile

More than for outdoor furniture, water-repellent properties are key to improving performance for interior textiles.

“Because water-repellent properties include the ability of textiles to repel other liquids, these textiles have key functional properties for indoor use as well with regard to stain protection,” the Library noted.

Spain’s Piel offers indoor fabrics treated to be placed outdoors in The Bahia Collection. The fabric is manufactured with polyester PES and PP (polypropylene), designed for use in upholstery for hospitality and home.

“This fabric has been treated to repel water and resist solar rays in a way that indoor fabrics would never do, but keeping the indoor style and design,” the company noted.

In Poland, Runotex Produkcja has created water-repellent cotton velvet. The 100 percent cotton velvet has a soft hand and a delicate feel, making it ideal for use in pillows, curtains and blankets, as well as women’s apparel. The finish on the fabric makes it waterproof, crease and dirt resistant, and it can still be washed in water.

“Cotton is a high hygroscopic fiber and has very good useful properties,” the company noted.


hard wearing textile

Because “hard-wearing” is really table stakes for home textiles, those categorized for their durability come with other functional properties, too.

What’s most important to note in this category, according to the Library, is that “the level to which textiles can withstand wear and tear depends on numerous factors, including the material which is used to make the textile, the weave construction, the weight of the finished product and the type of equipment. Hence, finding a balance between functional and aesthetic requirements depending on the application is paramount.”

As such, German cover fabrics firm ATN has developed Allegra 230 x 4541, an imitation leather that comes plain or in seam optics, plus 18 colors and a metallic effect option. The fabric is free of key chemicals like pentachlorophenol (PCP) and azo dyes, it’s durable, non-irritant, flame-retardant as well as UV, salt water and perspiration resistant, making it good for use in interior design, restaurants, hotels and shops.

Also hard-wearing, flame-retardant and water-repellent, Poland’s Sanwil Polska’s Soft Marine offering is designed for upholstered furniture in public interiors and cafes, as well as for nautical upholstery.

Multi-faceted performance fabrics

functional fabrics heimtextil

Endeavoring to outperform in the performance category, Germany’s Vowalon Beschichtung has made a fabric featuring all four of the key functional traits.

The company’s VOWAled Amali phthalate-free leather-like upholstery collection is “highly flame-retardant, nonabrasive, scratch-proof and, thus highly durable, plus it is supposed to minimize sound and water absorption.

Similarly, but with an altogether different aesthetic, Austria’s Baumann Dekor has served up Salsa 46741, a flat woven fabric with a bi-color basket weave that starts off as flame-retardant, abrasion resistant and sound-absorbing, and offers the option for a water- and dirt-resistant finish.