Home & Design Trends

Is the Internet’s Favorite Fabric Actually Practical?

Can you eat spaghetti and meatballs over it? (Asking for a friend.)

March  9, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

The textures, weaves, and raw materials that go into producing fabrics are things the everyday consumer might not think too deeply about. The couch is stain-resistant? Great. The curtains don’t fade? Check. This pillow can be machine-washed? Perfect. However, once you’ve tackled a big home project—or even hired an interior designer—you’ll come to find that textiles (as well as where they come from and how they’re made) are a topic of pretty intense passion. The latest in a long line of much-talked-about fabrics is a material called bouclé, and we are seeing it crop up just about everywhere.

While you might not know it by name, I’m willing to bet you’ve seen this cream-toned, ultra-popular fabric before—on curvy couches, cozy pillows, and elegant chairs. It’s highly textured, which is likely why it’s become so favored in the design world as of late—it adds a layer of visual interest to a room or piece that would otherwise be relatively neutral. “Ten years ago, I hated it,” writes designer Emily Henderson, “it always felt dated, very ‘decorator-y’ and ’80s or ’90s. Too curly, too loopy and not what I wanted in any of my designs.” But now Henderson, like many others in the design world, is changing her tune.

From the French word boucler, which means “to curl,” bouclé is a heavy fabric made from looped yarn, often referred to as “nubby” in texture. It’s somewhere between the soft fluffiness of sherpa fleece and the natural texture of marled linen. Its most popular application lately is as an upholstery fabric on sleek, modern sofas, as well as soft, curvy arm chairs. Traditionally, it’s woven from wool or mohair, but like anything that gains popularity and wide appeal, there are now versions made from merino, alpaca, linen, silk—even polyester and cotton.

I’ve seen many a thrifted chair upcycled into something that looks plucked from the Restoration Hardware showroom—such is the power of bouclé. Says our resident expert on all things textiles, Nicole Crowder: “Bouclé makes anything look and feel luxurious—even if it’s just a simple seat, and you only paid $10 for it.” Indeed, a previously dated chair becomes instantly warm and Scandinavian in vibe, and all without the impossible-to-clean fibers of sheepskin. One of my favorite interior YouTubers, Kiva Brent, agrees, adding that, “bouclé is perfect for a home yearning for coziness.”

For reference, bouclé goes for about $30 to $70 a yard, depending on what it’s made from. This makes it a not-inexpensive fabric to work with, especially when faced with an entire piece of furniture to upholster. So, we’re left with the question… is it worth it? And... is it practical?

While the answer is, of course, subjective, we’re pretty firmly in the “yes” camp. Unlike sherpa or sheepskin, bouclé won’t become matted beyond repair, and when it’s made from linen and cotton, it can actually be machine-washed. Brent confirms from experience that shedding isn’t a prominent concern, and according to Crowder, “the quality is usually extremely durable and it’s not very susceptible to fading, either.” The only major drawbacks of this material are its affinity for catching pet hair within the fibers, and given the usual creamy white color, it’s not the best fabric for a home with children (or adults) prone to spills. So, okay, maybe it's not the most practical, but it sure is beautiful on a chair you don't eat spaghetti and meatballs over.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not bouclé deserves its popularity (yes!), and in the meantime, we’ll share our favorite items that make this fuzzy, loopy fabric shine:

Ivory Bouclé Pillow, Food52, $120

Ivory Bouclé Fabric Lounge Chair, Article, $429

Photo by Article

Gwyneth Ivory Bouclé Chair, CB2, $899

Photo by CB2

Euro Boucle Decorative Throw Pillow, Target, $30

Photo by Target

Boucle Atticus Armchair, Anthropologie, $898

Photo by Anthropologie

Stature Ivory Chair, CB2, $329

Photo by CB2

Kayra Curved Ivory Sofa, Article, $1299

Photo by Article

So, what are your thoughts on bouclé? Tell us us below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns a commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jackie
    Jackie
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    Caroline Mullen
Assistant Editor, Home52

8 Comments

Jackie March 14, 2021
I LOVE it!!!! Beautiful, cozy, timeless and rich looking! I’ve seen it in high end places and think it looks fabulous. Thanks for the information and great ideas!
 
Kate March 11, 2021
Yuck!
 
Linda B. March 11, 2021
Good grief! That is the ugliest fabric ever! Good luck getting pet hair off of it. Maybe if you don't have pets and like something that looks like you worst pilled sweater nightmare. I make custom home decor items and I wouldn't work on that for any amount of money. Sorry. Obviously I'm not one of the seemingly thousands of fans. Perhaps I'm too old.
 
M March 10, 2021
If it's practical because you can machine wash it, and most of your suggestions have the fabric on upholstered pieces that can't be machine washed, how is it practical?
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. March 11, 2021
The practicality lies more in the fact that it doesn't get matted like sherpa/sheepskin, doesn't shed, and is actually durable. If it can be machine washed (like pillows) then certainly a chair can be spot cleaned with laundry detergent and water.
 
Linda B. March 11, 2021
I would not recommend laundry detergent and water unless you know that's what is underneath it would not be damaged.
The drawbacks far outweigh the "advantages" to me. Talk about a scratching post made in heaven! So, not good if you have pets, children or are somewhat sloppy. Yup, just what I want.
 
Matt H. March 20, 2021
Why is it up to the most vocal detractors to just assume that everyone has (or even likes) pets and children…
 
Linda B. March 20, 2021
Matt, I, being the most vocal detractor, do not assume everyone has pets and children but there are a whole lot of readers who do have at least one of those. My point was that it is not pet or child friendly fabric. For all of the rest of you who have neither and find that fabric attractive, jump on it! I'm sorry I did not clarify my response in a way that you and others without pets and children would understand. On the other hand I am not the least bit sorry for pointing out the drawbacks in that fabric for those of us who do have small furry and not so furry cohabitants in our living spaces.