With collective backgrounds in architecture, graphic design and photography, James and Ewa Powell’s creative juices are plentiful. So, when James was designing prototypes for a furniture manufacturer and was troubled by the amount of fabric that went to waste, a question came to mind: Is there a way to repurpose the scraps and rolls of remnant, high-end, gorgeous fabrics? Through testing the market and beating the pavement to forge supply chain partners, the answer was a resounding yes with the creation of Modern Fabrics.

Three-seater couch with wood frame and light green, patterned cushions from Modern Fabrics.
Only 10% of Modern Fabrics’ inventory is visible online, so a call to discuss reupholstering needs might lead to an even better pick for your furniture.

“We feel good about the work we do every day. Our 25,000-square-foot renovated grocery store warehouse, and our 6,000-square-foot store in Charlotte, NC are filled with fabrics that would have ended up in the landfill,” Ewa says. Solving this problem has led to helping a lot of different people solve their reupholstering and remodeling challenges.

Light peach chair with metal legs.
So what does Modern Fabrics do with their scraps? Their leftovers are donated to charities that use the fabric for fundraising projects.

Ewa suggests, “If your furniture is older than 15 years, consider reupholstering it rather than replacing it. It’s likely your piece was built with higher quality material than is commonly used today. The fabric, foam, and padding can be removed and rebuilt into a one-of-a-kind piece; and you will have a story to tell each time someone admires its uniqueness. You won’t find one like it in any of the retail stores, that’s for sure.”

Olive green mid century chair with wooden legs.
Timing is everything, so start on your upholstery project soon. Upholsterers’ busy season starts in September; and come October, you might as well push the project to next year.

Weekly arrivals of top-of-the line fabric feed James and Ewa’s passion for mid century design. They hand-select mid century designs from manufacturers such as Knoll, Maharam and Kvadrat, which have become increasingly popular amongst Mid Century Modern enthusiasts. An enormous supply allows them to discount their fabric from 50-80%, making their formula a success.

A variety of colorful fabrics rolls with mid century fabrics.
Not everyone needs the harsh-weather, pricy specialty fabrics that are available from manufacturers. The majority of Modern Fabrics’ inventory overflows with high-end and extremely durable treasures.

For James, his affinity for all things mid century grew from flying to exotic destinations with his father, a pilot for Pan Am Airlines. Ewa has always been drawn to the artisan qualities of fabric, and her passion for mid century design has developed into an expertise. Owning their mid century home in rural North Carolina, outfitted with some spectacular fabrics, has allowed them both an opportunity to talk the talk and walk the walk.

What started as scraps on the floor is now a thriving business that allows them to do what they love, even if they never would have imagined it.

Up-close shot of thick, high quality patterned fabrics.
Use Modern Fabrics’ patterns to make an accent pillow. It might be a pop of color, a new texture, or something completely out of character for you. The financial commitment of creating new pillows is low, so embrace the higher risk of a print or color that you may not normally choose.

Making The Mid-Mod Match with Modern Fabrics

Ready to give your comfy but outdated furniture a retro makeover? Check out Ewa’s expert tips for picking the right fabric for your mid century piece:

Keep it simple.

You have chosen the clean lines and minimalist look, so you want to continue your efforts when choosing fabric. If your color preferences are more subdued, pick textures and solids. If you like a more lively color palette, steer toward bold solids or patterns and shapes that repeat in other items in the room.

Choose traditions over trends.

You want fabric that will showcase your furniture. Great fabric upgrades the piece by not upstaging it with a distracting, overpowering print or color. “We carry fabric from Kvadrat, a company specializing in re-issuing classic Mid Century Modern designs like Hallingdal. Many of the fabrics are wool or wool blends, making them a great choice for classic mid century pieces,” Ewa says.

Ask the expert.

There will be times when you simply must ask for assistance. With shipments coming in weekly, Ewa has new knowledge to share and swatches to send. Most importantly, she loves to help others make informed choices, and especially enjoys when customers call just to say, “The fabric you sold me is incredible.”

Looking to upgrade an entire room? Check out our favorite entertaining decor to get your house ready for guests (even if they only come through video chat!).

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