What To Look For When Specifying Textiles For Commercial Interior Design

There’s a lot to look for when it comes to specifying textiles in commercial interior design. We love public, high-traffic interiors that push us to think outside of the box. Commercial interior designers are insanely talented at analyzing how we can use our environment in new and fun ways. 

Think about it; every surface inside your office, local government buildings, hospitals, and doctor’s offices are chosen by a designer. Whether you consider yourself a design novice or not, we’re happy to share our top tips when it comes to specifying commercial textiles. 

Material Testing

Many people are surprised to learn how much testing goes into grading a commercial fabric. We do this for a number of reasons but, most importantly, to ensure a longer lifespan of the material.

If you took your nice, soft lounge chair from home and threw it into a doctor’s office waiting room, chances are it wouldn’t look nice for very long. Someone could accidentally spill their drink on it, kick it with their dirty shoes, set their handbag on it after it was just sitting on the floor, and sneeze on the material. 

If something isn’t upholstered correctly, it could take just a few weeks for the item to look out of shape. Because of the wear and tear on material, we test for how much abrasion a material can withstand. There are a handful of methods, and our favorite is known as the Wyzenbeck Abrasion test. 

This test is conducted by a machine that pulls a material by both the warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) and rubbed back and forth until breakage is detected. This total number (known as double rubs) is then labeled on each finish’s tag. The goal of a manufacturer is to make sure a client is aware of the material’s durability. The higher the number, the longer a fabric will take to wear down. 

Next time you’re selecting a material, know if it needs to work for high traffic (office lounge area) or low traffic (private office) areas. Some designers prefer to err on the side of caution and add materials with a higher number of double rubs just to be safe. Each project is so different, and that’s why it’s essential to be aware of your options when specifying textiles.


Nothing brought the cleanability factor into focus quite like a global pandemic. Before 2020 most commercial spaces with cleanability concerns were either hospitals, clinics, or doctor’s offices. Now more people are looking for easy-to-clean materials that can withstand various levels of cleaning agents. This is why so many healthcare spaces choose vinyl materials; they’re easy to clean and are inherently more stain-resistant than fabric. 


Like we mentioned before, each design project has its own unique set of circumstances. We never plan to encounter a fire, but know that textiles can play an essential role in fire safety. Fabrics can be tested and rated under a flammability class, and each material burns at a different rate. 

When choosing a material, take a look at the tag to see what notes exist regarding flammability. Within the US alone, there are a variety of tests that can be run on a textile. As for commercial spaces, it’s essential to research any local requirements and regulations as far as flammability is concerned and follow their specific protocol. 

While it may feel like an unnecessary step, the goal is always to put safety first. Your favorite fabric for your next commercial project might not be the safest option, so it’s always important to check. 

This might go without saying, but it’s essential to be extra cautious when it comes to any material that could be close to an open flame or heat element. Think kitchens, break rooms,  science labs, and fireplaces. Other accessory items notorious for starting fires include space heaters, hot plates, and heated blankets. By specifying a material with a Class 1 or 2 rating, you’re creating an overall safer environment. 


Our favorite thing is working with different manufacturers to bring a designer’s dream to life. If you’re not familiar with the acronym COM, it stands for Customer’s Own Material. This is a phrase often used by furniture manufacturers, designers, or textile companies when selecting a specific material to be used on a piece of furniture that is not included in the manufacturer’s existing product line.

Suppose a designer falls in love with a specific textile and a furniture manufacturer doesn’t carry it. In that case, they will note a COM along with their furniture order with details regarding the alternate fabric. It’s essential to connect with both the textile and furniture manufacturers regarding the order details. While it may take a bit more work to coordinate on the front-end, it’s always worth seeing the final result!


Question: Are commercial design projects always going to have different materials than residential projects?

Answer: No, not necessarily. This is why it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the various ways in which a material can be graded. 

Question: Where do I find commercial-grade textiles?

Answer: You can shop KOVI commercial materials here. 

Question: What textiles are best for commercial spaces?

Answer: There’s a variety of textiles graded to commercial spaces, but overall, a vinyl material creates the look of leather while being stain-resistant.

Question: What’s currently trending for interior design in 2022?

Answer: We’re big fans of color and will see more people specifying fabrics with recycled materials in 2022.

Question: How can I see KOVI textiles in person?

Answer: All of our textiles can be ordered as a sample. Choose which ones you’d like to see in person and add them to the cart!

Textile Specification

Specifying textiles for any project can be intimidating in the beginning. There’s a lot of details to consider beyond the visual beauty of material when designing a commercial space. 

Always take the time to review a fabric’s detailed information to ensure it meets your project standards. Good luck specifying for your commercial project! 

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