There's plenty of articles out there that discuss which colours are great for this and what patterns work well for that, but very few actually discuss the real issue about your choice. The fabric and weave itself.
So before you begin looking at pattern and colour schemes, have a think about the piece of furniture first.
Will the intended piece of furniture receive a lot traffic? If so a heavy duty fabric and weaves are going to be much more suitable. An upholstery weight chenille or jacquard will be far more suitable than a light-weight cotton print, which ideally is designed for curtains and light soft furnishings.
It's important to ensure your fabric is flame retardant if it's being used for upholstery and that it meets the specifications for use with upholstery.
For instance in Britain, fabric used in upholstery will need to adhere to the British Standards. You can read more about it here as well as here. Upholstery fabric that is used in public places will be require a more effective flame retardant treatment, which is commonly referred to as CRIB5 in the UK.
Often overlooked. A fabric that is stain resistant is often highly desirable for use in upholstery and even more so with homes with children and pets.
Once you have shortlisted the type of fabric and weave, it is often a good idea to enquire with an upholsterer about your selections to see if they are indeed suitable. Alternatively, you could try asking the supplier of the fabric for their opinion. Some suppliers are more than willing to help you choose the right fabric and will even send you free samples of the fabric.
Standard Cleaning Codes
Although somewhat uncommon, some manufacturers do attach a code to their fabric for what methods are best for cleaning. Many chenille and jacquard woven fabrics can be dry cleaned only, whereas others such as plain cottons may be cleaned with water based elements.
W – Can be cleaned with water-based elements.
S – Can be cleaned with solvent-based elements.
W/S – Can be cleaned with either type of elements.
X – Can be cleaned with light brushing or vacuum only.