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Investment Piece: The Velvet Sofa

The royal textile has become an everyday, but never common, fabric.

Today, velvet sofas have been elevated to everyday luxury. Furthermore, style hasn’t been sacrificed in the name of comfortable seating made from this fabric. To demonstrate, with several finishes to choose from — shiny versus matte, crushed versus smooth — velvet is a star choice. This holds true not only for sofas but also accent pillows and drapes. One can transform a vintage mid-century style into a truly unique piece of furniture through the application of upholstery, for example. In contrast, Art Deco styles also lend themselves to a velvet treatment suitable for daily use. On the other hand, If comfort and stateliness are your vibes, there is also a velvet sofa for you. Henceforth, a look at some of the most design elevated velvet sofas available now.

As today’s interpretations have been defined, a look back at its not so humble beginnings is in order. Notably, velvet has been found as of 400 B.C., during China’s Warring States period. The textile with the dense short pile and gleaming sheen, can trace its provenance to the Qin (circa 221-206 B.C.E.) and the Western Han (206 B.C.E.- 23 C.E.) dynasties in China. Others claim its discovery in Iran and Egypt, where pile weaves woven from silk and linen resembling velvet were thought to come from Cairo in approximately 2000 B.C.E. Because the technique of weaving the fabric by hand was long and arduous it was generally reserved for royalty.

By the 1800s, signs of refinement and culture were witnessed in the salons of well-heeled families’ homes, especially on their velvet canapés. Recently fascinating examples of those velvet creations from the industrial age were on exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute. At the same time, mid-19th-century artists such as Pennsylvania’s Gertrude Rapp achieved the original look and feel of velvet by re-creating ancient techniques on new, opulent fabrics for use in the home. After that, the early-20th-century velvet designer Maria Monaci Gallenga re-created the opulent silk-velvet look in a more durable fiber: She used cotton and printed in metallic inks instead of silk and gold threads, for example, to achieve historically influenced fabrics.

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