Color and fabric update

The outfit is familiar: pre-washed denim, rugby stripes, Oxford shirting, cable knit and flannel. But this particular ensemble is being worn by a plump, slightly rumpled sofa, not your accountant on his day off.

Apparel fabric used as upholstery is the single hottest trend at this fall's International Home Furnishings Market, where it's sometimes hard to tell where the sitter ends and the settee begins.


Alex Bernhardt, whose company introduced a unique home furnishings-clothing boutique concept last spring, told a press gathering on the first day of market that "People like to sit on what they wear."

Mr. Bernhardt is certainly not alone in covering the market with comfortable, familiar weaves.


Mitchell Gold's Design Line Ltd. was one of the first to show the versatility of these durable fabrics, offering washable slipcovers in denim and twill a couple of markets ago.

But now the trend has gone mainstream, with manufacturers in all price ranges showing apparel fabrics on their sofas and chairs.

The other big fabric news maker this market is the whimsical novelty print, which turns up as everything from vintage seed packet reproductions to trompe l'oeil china plates, and from impressionist paintings to naive barnyard scenes.

Florals -- from scholarly, botanical renderings to the exuberance of country wildflower bouquets -- remain a powerful motif throughout all price levels. Plaids, checks and stripes mix and match throughout many showrooms, layered to create a cozy, lived-in look.

Toiles, scripts (where the design is simply words on fabric) and other subtle, one color-on-white combinations look fresh.

Leather is not always a big player in October, since this is really a market for spring styles, but Mitchell Gold created a stir with buttery soft leather slipcovers on a generously proportioned sofa.

Green continues to be the marketplace's dominant color, especially in yellowed tones of olive, moss, lichen and sage. But blues are strong, too, including both light and dark denim shades and bolder cobalt and cornflower.

Tomato-soup red pairs nicely with the hot new gold shades of corn, soft butter and ocher. Pearson showed a sofa in a buttery shade accented with welting the color of strawberry jam.


And purple -- a minor accent color a couple of markets ago -- now shows up all over in shades of plum, aubergine, magenta, grape and more. Pearson showed a luxurious nubuck leather chair in brilliant purple; Century offered touches of violet in a subtle print.