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: