Style crush: Tufting used to be fussy, now it's fab

Pucker up.

Increasingly modern adaptations of tufted home furnishings are transforming a formerly fussy upholstery style into a look designers are describing as transitional, contemporary and even modern.


Created by pulling strong thread or twine through layers of fabric and interior filling, tufting is a labor-intensive upholstery technique that provides a dimpled, cushioned surface often in a diamond- or biscuit-shaped pattern.

Spaced approximately six to eight inches apart, tufted divots are finished with buttons, but not always. (Tufting without buttons, is called "blind tufting.")

"Deep tufting is a very old-world look," according to interior designer Carol Poet, owner of Los Angeles-based Poet Furniture. "What I'm doing, and what a lot of people are doing now as we update the fashion and the style is to tuft in a very shallow manner. It's still tufting, but it's not as deep."

Round Tufted Ottoman, $1,395 at ModShop.
Round Tufted Ottoman, $1,395 at ModShop. (ModShop)

Putting a new spin on the centuries-old style keeps the look fresh, she said. "It fits in very well with all of the architectural styles we're working with right now."

"It's not as puffy," Los Angeles-based interior designer Nicole Sassaman said of the latest look in tufting, "it's flatter."

Sassaman credits manufacturers like Restoration Hardware for renewing the popularity of the tailored, pillow-top upholstery style.

"I think people are moving into a transitional kind of look," Sassaman said, adding that "it's traditional mixed with modern. It's a comfortable place for a lot of people right now, and it leaves room to include that [tufted] Chesterfield couch."

In addition to lower profile padding, creative top stitching, vibrant color choices, contemporary color palettes and patterns are also ways to modernize the classic, old-world design.

"Tufting works well in any fabric," Sassaman said, "leather, solids, linens … it's a good, timeless look and I think it can be modern or traditional depending on how it's put together in the space."

"There is nothing new on the face of the Earth," Poet said, "What we do is we reach back for well-established styles and give them a twist."

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