Trend: Victorian-Era Tufted Style

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Tufted furniture was a style that stemmed from necessity and has retained popularity throughout the years as a classic and comfortable style.

Now, with the scramble to add a hint of nostalgia to every design, it’s hard to ignore the scores of tufted designs promoted by furniture designers and retailers. Everything from traditional armchairs to modern chaise lounges, to sturdy leather ottomans or ornate velvet sitting stools, makes use of this technique.

“It somehow seems to bridge traditional and modern, and that’s what’s in trend right now,” says Loreen Epp, interior design/merchandising professional. “It provides a tidy, clean look that both traditionalists and modernists love.”

Historically, tufting was used as a technique to secure cushions to furniture frames, says William Silveira, vice president of merchandising at Z Gallerie, an American home furnishings retailer.

Tufts are created by passing a thread through fabric at regular distances, which creates depressions in the upholstery, he explains. Traditional tufted furniture features deeper depressions that are secured by buttons. A modern take on tufting usually has shallower depressions and “blind” tufts, with no buttons. 

That transition from traditional to modern is a sign of tufted furniture’s current popularity. “It is being shown in non-traditional homes,” he says. “Contemporary sofa frames enhanced with tufting create textural interest and movement in sometimes static designs.”

Of course, since tufted furniture has never really been out of style, it’s hard to call it a trend, Silveira says. At Z Gallerie, “we tuft everything that can be tufted, including placemats; we love what it adds to a piece.”

The benefit of tufting, regardless of style, is the texture and character it adds to fabric. “It looks beautiful in pile fabrics like velvets and some microfibers,” Epp says. “Buttons pull the fabric down and give you those shadow lines. It looks great in lather, too.”

Epp adds, “You’re creating little pillows on the seat. It’s a puff of fabric, for lack of a better word. It makes for a firm but comfortable seat.”

Of course, there are always drawbacks; deep tufts act like magnets for dust, crumbs and dirt, and it is very hard to clean. Shallow tufting or tufted backs of seats (instead of bottoms) can help curb the mess.

Both Epp and Silveira say that tufting can be a dramatic look that will act as a focal point. Epp recommends an accent chair or button-tufted sofa. “Pick one piece, rather than a room full of it,” she says. “It’s a great way to accentuate and avoid overkill.”

Simplicity in the other features of the furniture piece will allow the tufting to take center stage, Silveira says. He points to the simple leg design of the tufted Lola bench from Z Gallerie.

As for colors or room styles that are most suitable for tufted furniture, Silveira throws caution to the wind: “There is no limit. Think of tufting as just another way to elevate design. We have probably tufted every imaginable color and material.”

Tags: tufted, furniture, traditional, modern