Outdoor comfort

Outdoor living is an important part of South African lifestyle – and therefore comfortable garden furniture is a must but it is important to make sure the upholstery is suitable and can withstand natural elements such as sunlight, rainfall, dust, and the like. Outdoor fabrics should also be breathable to provide comfortable seating.


Interior decorators and designers usually recommend the use of performance fabric for outdoor upholstery. These fabrics, including options from brands such as Helm Fabrics, Sunbrella, Hertex, Home Fabrics, U&G, Stuart Graham which are all versatile, durable and comfortable.

Outdoor fabrics need to be UV resistant and capable of withstanding harsh outdoor conditions.  They need to be fade-proof, water-resistant, stain-resistant, and capable of resisting mould and mildew. The fabric and dying techniques need to ensure that shape and colour is retained.

The most commonly used upholstery fabrics for garden furniture include:

  1. Polyester: Spun polyester lasts for years and is twice as durable when compared to cotton, which makes it an excellent option for cushions and seating in outdoor areas, especially in homes with children or pets. The downsides of polyester, however, is that it is prone to staining and with time, the material stretches and loses its shape. It is also sensitive to heat, making it unsuitable for places that experience high temperatures during summer.
  2. PVC mesh: PVC mesh is a synthetic material coated with either acrylic or vinyl to protect it from the outdoor elements. It is strong, flexible, water-resistant, and stain-resistant, but it is prone to fading, especially when exposed to UV rays.
  3. Vinyl: Vinyl is easy to clean and hardy, but under direct sunlight, as temperatures rise, like other woven fabrics the darker colours can become hot to the touch. Compared to woven fabrics, vinyl products do not absorb moisture or sweat but they are water resistant. Sunbrella’s upholstery fabric collection includes an engineered synthetic leather, named Horizon(R), that offers exceptional style and performance for use in the marine upholstery space as well as for cushions in homes.
  4. Performance fabric: Performance fabrics, are UV and fade proof, besides being resistant to mould, mildew and stains. Moreover, these fabrics are bleach cleanable. They are durable and retain their vibrancy for years as colour is at the core of the fabric.


Outdoor upholstery fabric can be used for a variety of applications in the garden such as cushions, curtains, sun blinds, sunshades and more. They are suitable for use on furniture in the backyard or garden to provide comfortable and stylish cushions. Performance fabrics can also be used for outdoor curtains and blinds to protect against the harsh rays of the sun.


Mary Interior Decorator has a range of performance fabrics which are suitable for outdoor use.  For information and advice call 011 268 0329 or email

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