We all love the magical transformation that fabric can offer our home. Whether we opt for a minimalist or traditional décor, the material we put on our sofas, pillows, window treatments and bedding transforms our space and helps to identify our style and preferences. I love unexpected fabric choices, like flannel on throw pillows in a modern room or seersucker curtains in a formal area. Of course it’s the layering aspect of choosing different fabrics together that make a room feel well-done. Often times it is the textural qualities add a great deal to the design of a space, and I enjoy the feeling and look of crewel work and other textured fabrics that show craftsmanship. Choosing fabric has been one of my favorite parts of decorating, so when I was invited by Kravet Fabric House for a tour of their design studio in Manhattan to view the nuts and bolts of what goes into creating fabric, I was thrilled. Although I’ve bought a good deal of fabric over the years, I had never fully understood and appreciated the work that goes into making the material. Let me bring you into this world for a moment, it is fascinating.
One of the older English fabric companies I have long admired is Lee Jofa. Their quintessential cabbage rose florals in muted colors have graced the sofas, curtains and bedding of many area homes. I knew I would enjoy this unusual glimpse, but what completely surprised me was the incredible artistic inspiration that goes into making fabric, as well as how much hand-painted technique is still used in coloring these patterns.
As we toured the studio, I was struck by the hundreds of inspiration boards on walls, tables and desks, all taking cues from museum exhibits, fashion shows and nature. These talented professionals are like sponges soaking up all the trends and cultural nuances to create beautiful patterns. Fabric houses are now pairing with fashion designers to create home lines that take cues from what we see on the runway. The tour guide walked us through how each new pattern was transformed from a runway dress or skirt and made to fit within the contexts of home design.
I was equally impressed with how the original prototype of many printed patterns is made. Each pattern is painstakingly hand painted and sent out to print for larger quantities. To watch the artist work at her desk with palette, paint and brushes splayed around her, gave me a deeper appreciation for the end product. Many of these large panels take more than one full day’s work as the designer fills in layers of colors in the details of the pattern. Justifying the price per yard on many fabrics has been something I have struggled with over the years, but after witnessing the work involved in making fabric, I am impressed.
Now when holding my thick linen-printed floral I look at this beauty with fresh eyes, remembering the artists hard at work, first when looking at the world for ideas and ending with painting on a blank canvas and hand coloring. It’s refreshing to see that Old World principles are still being implemented, and reaffirms to me that quality is one of the most important elements when putting items in our homes. While many may be pinching pennies these days, it appears we still opt for well-made items that stand the test of time, but in order to stay on budget we may simply purchase a little bit less of it.