A Fabric Journey ... From Contemporary to Tropical to Traditional
Updated: Feb 11
(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)
If you were asked to describe the style of any one of your rooms, you’d probably first look at its furnishings. But, just as dark, carved mahogany, clean-lined maple, scrolled iron, teak, rattan, gold gild, and walnut inlay all convey different styles, so too do fabrics. Fabrics can also convey a mood, an intention and even a memory. Such was the case with a master bedroom that I designed – twice.
In the realm of home improvement, two trends remain strong: Homeowners are focused on their kitchens and bathrooms. And, they are increasingly opting for a modern style - or some version of it.
Whether remodeling or cosmetically upgrading, there are good reasons for these two enduring trends. The rewards of well-designed, functional and aesthetically-pleasing kitchens and bathrooms are not only enjoyed on a daily basis but are ultimately realized in financial returns. In a climate of stock market and economic uncertainty, these improvements can be sure investments.
However, as excited as my clients were, I knew deep down, they were more traditional than what the metal threads suggested. So, for the companion fabrics, I intentionally avoided ultra contemporary abstract and geometric patterns. I also avoided casual plaids and florals that would contradict the sophistication of the metallic. The logical solution was solids. But not all would do. They would have to hold up to the dramatic Duralee. With this in mind, I found a dusty lavender-colored, slubby, silk. The “dustiness” meant that the lavender color had been neutralized with a grey undertone.
While there are different types of silk, I chose Dupioni because of its prominent slubs (crosswise irregularities). Its texture coordinated with that of Duralee’s. By the way, my guess is that Dupioni gets its name from the Italian word for “double”. Dupioni silk is formed by two worms united to spin a single cocoon which is therefore composed of two filaments. You might think silk would be too delicate for bedding but it has the longest and strongest filament of all natural fibers. And, proof is in the pudding. Twenty years later, the duvet and shams were in good enough shape to give to my clients’ daughter.
The concept behind this original fabric scheme was to choose one “wow” fabric and others to support it and the overall style goal.
Fast-forward twenty years and my clients were ready for another bedroom makeover. This time, they also wanted new furniture, new paint, and hard wood floors to replace the carpet. The new design was wide open.
I showed them a few of my favorite new fabrics including those with a tropical theme - which they ultimately chose. I was secretly thrilled because I’ve always wanted to design a tropical space. Not corny or kitsch but something subtle yet authentic. The three winning fabrics were solid white, solid espresso brown, and a large green fern pattern on a white background. All were linen. I also had planned to contact an American duo living in Bali who produces batik fabrics. But you what happens to the best laid plans…
Because my clients wanted all new furniture, I took them to the San Francisco Design Center. One-stop shopping where you can find pieces not seen in retail stores. They also have fabric. And that’s where my plans derailed. My clients, who had just returned from a London stay at a luxury hotel, spotted a Ralph Lauren floral and basket linen. Bali was off the table and Covent Garden was on. Truth be told, this was not a big surprise. Remember, they are traditional at heart.
So, with no holds barred, I designed bedding and window treatments using traditional floral linen and green, striped silk. Since these patterns were strong, I opted for calm, solid beige linen on the loveseat. My clever seamstress who made this all possible also built and upholstered a scalloped ottoman.
As the saying goes, “God is in the details”. In a formal, European setting, details mean cording and fringe which I applied to the pillows and ottoman. It also means linking together small, decorative elements. In our case, the crackled wood drapery rod mimicked the crackled wood lamps and Ralph Lauren’s basket image was reinforced by the carved basket design in the new bed and nightstands. In the end, we created an enduring memory of their stay in London on this side of the pond.
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