Learn your stripes: a guide to decorating with striped fabrics and upholstery

Aldingbourne 3 seater sofa in Grain Sack Stripe Red

Striped fabric is one of those perennial classics that never dates. Rooted in tradition yet always fresh, stripes evoke a sense of history and permanence while adapting to contemporary tastes. They have adorned everything from grand halls to seaside cottages,  with a timelessness that never falls out of fashion.

At the heart of this lies their versatility.  A striped design can sit either side of the line between minimalist refinement and maximalist boldness, making them the perfect addition to any design aesthetic. They also bring real value to a design scheme, adding visual interest and depth to a room. Vertical stripes can lend height to low ceilings, while horizontal stripes can widen a space, giving you endless possibilities to transform your interiors. This optical playfulness is part of their enduring charm.

Whether you’re looking to make a statement with wide, bold stripes or add a touch of sophistication with narrow, understated lines, there’s a stripe for every style.

We delve a little deeper into the different types and variations of stripes, their heritage and their individual characteristics, to inspire you to incorporate this versatile pattern into your home decor.

Why stripes work in various settings

Pinstripe, ticking, awning – stripes come in many moods and guises. They can be deliciously bold or quietly subtle and are deceptively versatile, capable of elongating, emphasizing, or elevating a space depending on their style and usage.

Treading a line between minimalist and maximalist style

It’s unusual for a pattern to harbour the ability to be both bold and subtle, but the stripe is a brilliant example of a print that complements multiple design styles. Caitlin Sharp, trade manager at our Chelsea showrooms notes that “Stripes are so timeless and offer a sophisticated design element that can elevate any room in a home. They add visual interest into a space making them a favourite among interior designers. Suitable for almost any design scheme, from a beachy coastal retreat to the rustic charm of a country farmhouse, stripes are a sure way to add texture, depth, and visual appeal.”

Create a focal feature with striped fabric upholstery

Patterned upholstery might seem like a bold choice, but there’s nothing more classic than a stripe. Stripes come in every width, colour, and even can vary in shape – just because they follow a vertical line doesn’t mean they have to be stiff and rigid. Used on a sofa or an armchair, they ebb and flow, creating a really interesting, energetic focal point. For a soft, country feel, go with a thinner ticking stripe on upholstery. Or, to create more impact, choose wider stripes, or a more complex arrangement of narrow and wide.

An elegant, bold striped fabric sofa. Exbury 3 seater sofa in Ganton Woven Linen Stripe Red.

Exbury 3 seater sofa in Ganton Woven Linen Stripe Red

Add a subtle stripe with accessories

Stripes are a good way of introducing a hint of pattern. Accessories like cushions, lampshades, or rugs are simple ways to incorporate stripes without making the print the core focus of your design. A subtle border on a rug or the trim of a cushion is a perfect way to add detail to a room.


Teaming a red striped fabric cushion with a floral print sofa. Lyndhurst 2 seater sofa in RHS Botanicals Mark Catesby Grosbeak Natural

Lyndhurst 2 seater sofa in RHS Botanicals Mark Catesby Grosbeak with bolster cushion in Stockport Stripe Rose

Mix and match stripes and patterns

Stripes happily blend with every other type of pattern. For instance, they can bringing clarity or calmness to a floral scheme. Stripes can also act as a ‘glue’, pulling together a mix of patterns, for example, in a group of scatter cushions on a sofa, creating a collated feel that looks like it’s evolved over time. The key to mixing patterns and stripes is to ensure that the motifs vary in size, which will create contrast and interest. You might also wish to alternate the direction of the pattern, so instead of placing a stripe in one direction only, you might switch things up by using them horizontally as cushion or a border to a curtain.


Striped fabric curtains with a botanical print sofa. Helmsley 3 seater sofa in Warwick Manhattan Acorn and RHS Botanicals Ferns Toile Bark.

Helmsley 3 seater sofa in RHS Botanicals Ferns Toile Bark, and Manhattan Acorn, with scatters and curtains in Stockport Stripe

Use stripes to make your space feel bigger

Stripes can create the illusion of a larger space, just like mirrors. Whether featured on upholstery, laid on the floor or painted on the walls, stripes naturally draw the eye and give the impression of a taller or longer space. For example, striped window dressings add height to a room as they can elongate a wall.  A wallpaper with a vertical stripe will similarly draw your eye upwards to help create the feeling of additional height. On floors, stripes can be used along the length of the room to create a lengthening effect.

A glossary of striped fabric patterns

To help you choose the perfect stripe for your next interiors project, here is a mini glossary of different types of striped patterns:

Pinstripe Pinstripes are thin, vertical stripes that are narrower than pencil stripes and a little more subtle. Pinstripes are usually one to two yarns thick and are sometimes broken. The widths between the stripes vary but are always wider apart than hairline stripes for a more decisive pattern. Originating in men’s business attire, particularly suits and shirts and, symbolising professionalism and elegance, a pinstripe fabric will bring a similarly refined touch to upholstery that is equally at home in traditional or contemporary settings.

Pencil stripe Pencil stripes, also referred to as dress stripes, bridge the gap between pinstripes and candy stripes. They tend to be thinner than their adjacent stripe and ground, lending clean, sharp lines to the fabric.

Elegant and contemporary sofa in linen striped fabric. Exbury 3 seater sofa in Baldersby Woven Linen Stripe Blue

Exbury 3 seater sofa in Baldersby Woven Stripe Linen Blue

Candy stripe Candy stripes are usually spaced at intervals of around ⅛” and tend to consist of solid stripes (often pastels or bright in colour), alternating with white stripes of equal width.

Candy striped fabric armchair. Cooksbridge chair in Simple Stripe Bilberry.

Detail of Cooksbridge armchair in Simply Stripe Bilberry

Ticking stripe A ticking stripe usually features a central coloured broad stripe flanked by thin stripes of the same colour creating the look of a wider stripe without being too bold. Ticking is typically made from 100% cotton or a cotton-linen blend in a herringbone weave and was originally used for mattress covers and pillows due to its durable, tightly woven nature They have since become popular in interior design for their timeless, classic look, often used in cottage or farmhouse.

Detail of striped fabric sofa. Otley 3 seater sofa in Rustic Ticking Stripe Ivory

Detail of Otley 3 seater sofa in Rustic Ticking Ivory

Bengal stripe Similar to candy stripes but wider, a Bengal stripe usually consist of a solid, coloured stripe alternating with white or a contrasting colour. Its origin lies in Indiam in military attire, inspired by stripes used on local cloth, becoming popular during the Regency era in Britain. Bengal stripes are often used in wallpaper, as well as upholstery fabric, and work very well mixed in with other patterns, pulling together a complex colour palette.

Butcher stripe The butcher stripe sits between Bengal and Awning stripes in width and derives its name from the classic design traditionally found on butchers’ aprons. Colourways are kept simple, with a solid color alternating more often than not with white.

Awning or cabana stripe Awning stripes are generally the widest stripes found in upholstery fabrics. They are bold, vertical, balanced stripes that look like the material used for awnings and outdoor furniture. Wider stripes like these work well in casual settings, but tend to be used mostly for casual settings and have playful connotations.

Fancy or broken stripes Fancy stripes refer to stripes that are multicolored, more creative, and perhaps more chaotically or unevenly spaced. There are many different fancy stripe designs in our fabric collections, including our exclusive Stockport Stripe design which features pencil stripes overlain with horizontal stripes, giving a ladder or ‘zip’ effect.

Striped fabrics for upholstered and soft furnishings. Stockport stripe exclusive to Sofas & Stuff

Stockport Stripe in various colourways, on the Kentwell loose cover armchair in Sole Linen

Several of the designs in our exclusive collections designed in collaboration with the V&A play with the notion of a stripe, including Ikat from from V&A Brompton Collection which has a broken stripe effect.

Striped fabric effect with the V&A Ikat design from Sofas & Stuff V&A Brompton Collection. Shown here in Basil.

Anglesey chaise in V&A Brompton Collection Ikat Basil

Sulawesi Splendour, from our V&A Threads of India Collection, also has echoes of a striped pattern. This wonderful design draws inspiration from a block-printed border detail from a 14th century ceremonial banner from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which is a stylised representation of interlocking trees in a densely forested landscape. It’s shown here on our Porthallow footstool, with a little corner of the Exbury 3 seater sofa in V&A Threads of India Mughal Arbour Hunter visible in the foreground.

Fancy striped fabric design. Porthallow footstool in exclusive V&A Threads of India Sulawesi Splendour Indra Winter.

Porthallow footstool in V&A Threads of India Sulawesi Splendour Indra Winter

Shadow Stripe Shadow stripes consist of a classic, simple stripe with another stripe woven directly adjacent to it, creating a shadow effect. Shadow stripes generally vary in width, with the shadow line itself fine and usually consisting of two or three different colours. The Askrigg design in our exclusive Woven Linen Stripes collection features a shadow stripe element.

Woven linen striped fabric. Askrigg Woven Linen Stripe Blue, exclusive to Sofas & Stuff.

Detail of Askrigg Woven Linen Stripe Blue


Striped fabrics for everyone room and for anyone

Striped fabric can elevate upholstery and lend a sense of cohesion to an interiors scheme. The range of styles is vast, so there is a stripe for every aesthetic and lifestyle, from elegant, traditional designs to pretty playful versions. Never a fleeting trend, stripes are a design classic that has stood the test of time. Their ability to adapt and evolve with changing tastes ensures that a striped fabric will always remain in vogue.So, why not stripe up your life with a stylish edge to your interiors? Add a versatile and stylish edge to your interiors with this beloved pattern. Whether on upholstery, as curtain or soft furnishing accessories, stripes are the perfect way to bring enduring charm to any room.

Why not start your search for the perfect stripe or combination of patterns with our online fabrics samples. Even better though are the almost limitless options we hold in our fabric libraries, so visit your local showroom, or request a free design consultation and we can start designing together.

Abby Gadd