I recently went furniture shopping, and found that when you go to real, fancy furniture stores (not the Swedish assemble-it-yourself kind), the sales representatives really try to push fabric swatches on you.
As I got home with a stack of leather and fabric squares, I laid them out on my desk and thought “What am I supposed to do with all these?”
Suddenly, it came to me. As I sipped my tea while staring at the swatches, I…wait for it…placed my mug on a swatch. It is clearly just a coaster. A free coaster. It may not be that durable, and perhaps the leather won’t hold up to a handful of uses with a boiling-hot mug, but it was free, so who cares!
The process is simple: go into a nice furniture store, one that will make custom-order upholstery. Sit in some couches, say “I’m really not sure if this will match the energy of my space. My grandmother’s Eames chair is more of a walnut and this oak simply won’t do.” Then ask the sales person if they have some fabric swatches you can take home.
You can get an assortment of cloth in various colors to make a set, or get every shade of leather the company offers. If you don’t want to enter a physical store in these times, many furniture companies offer free swatches online:
Then, to get really fancy, you can go to a kitchen and bath showroom to see if you can procure some samples of their stone countertops. This set of marble coasters costs $30! But with some finagling at a stone warehouse, you can easily get four marble squares for free. Now go forth and enjoy this endless supply of small patches on which to rest your beverages. You are enlightened.