Saturday, February 23, 2008


I love fabrics. For years they've been one of the more interesting subjects I've followed in my career as a magazine editor. Colors, designs, histories, stories, crafts, new technologies and materials—textiles are simply fascinating.

My appreciation for the role and skills of interior decorators also continues to grow, maybe in a way that I couldn't have ever fully appreciated without going through a decorating process like I am right now. Last month I placed an order for eight pieces of upholstered furniture from a company called Lee Industries. (That's a story I'm going to save until later when the furniture arrives.) One of the perks of my job is the relationships I've developed over the years with home furnishing manufacturers and the "inside" access I often have to that world.

Twice a year I attend the International Home Furnishings Market in North Carolina, more commonly referred to as High Point (which is the small Southern town that has long been the center of the American furniture industry). In brief the visit is one continuous series of appointments to see new designs from the largest pieces of furniture to the smallest accessory. Of course, I have my favorite appointments with some companies who make beautiful furniture and always inspire ideas for stories with their designs.

Some of these companies have names that people even only slightly familiar with the industry would recognize, but there are other companies (like Lee Industries) who are designing and making furniture that is truly affordable and accessible (but usually as private label for large retail and mail order sources. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, and I want to talk more about Lee when I can actually show pictures of the pieces I've ordered.

In the meantime, I wanted to talk briefly about what a challenge it was to pick the fabrics from swatches (small roughly 4-inch square samples). Wow. More power to the skills of decorators! I mean, I've looked at fabrics for so long and thought it wouldn't be too challenging to pick a few that would work well together. I do like color (but not crazy color) and layers of pattern, but it's been interesting process (also a little nerve racking). My choices were even narrowed down in that I only chose fabrics from Lee Industries' collection of fabrics. So the options were a fraction of what they could have been if the entire world of fabrics were open in this exercise.

So, the fabrics above are the ones I've selected for the living room. The order was placed in early January...and I've just gotten word that delivery will be in the next couple of weeks. More later. In the photo above, you'll see an Ikat (a favorite type of woven), a cotton denim (like the contrast with the silk Ikat), a woven Persian-ish fabric, a classic natural linen and a faded printed floral. I can't afford to make any mistakes that will need to be replaced. I think these are going to work together, but things can change significantly when a pattern is on a large piece of furniture...and various shades of blue don't always work together. And, then there's the factors of the paint colors in the room and the colors of the Brazilian slate floor. More later....

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roller Shades

I've been living in the house for the past month with no window coverings. I'm in the country with no neighbors close enough to necessitate them for privacy, but I do need the light control during the day and just feel more comfortable at night when I can cover the windows. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I need window coverings to do and just as importantly what I don't want them to do. I knew that I didn't want a look that was too fussy but a style that was more in keeping with my retro farmhouse look.

A few months ago in the House Beautiful office, I was looking at the film we had shot of a house in Saratoga Springs by one of my new favorite interior designers, Nancy Boszhardt. (See the bedroom in project #6 of her portfolio.) Senga Mortimer, our editor-at-large and someone of immense taste, commented on the chic dark roller shades in the bedrooms. They looked crisp, bold and above all honest. I knew immediately that this was my solution, but it took me months to track down a source. Ironically, the source found me—a mail order catalog called Great Windows. And, they offer next day delivery for many of their products! With 14 tall windows to dress, though, I wanted to make sure that the Tropez roller shades I found were the right choice. The darkest color they offer is black, so I ordered one last week to make sure it would be the right choice. I chose a spring loaded, inside mount style.

The box was waiting at my door when I arrived at the house on Friday, and I hung roller shade Saturday morning. I had a little trouble installing the brackets with a Phillips head screwdriver, but when I switched to the nut driver it was easy. I know a lot of people are nervous when they're expected to take their own measurements for an order like this, but I had followed Great Windows' guide and the Tropez was a perfect fit.

I'm going to order the remaining 13 roller blinds that I need this week...and will have a project installing them to look forward to next weekend. Luckily, I'll have a little help from my father who will be visiting.

The roller blinds are phase one for the window treatment plan. Now I'm looking for cafe curtains to layer on top of each window. I'm going in this direction, because cafe curtains in a simple white linen or cotton will give me filtered light for privacy over the lower have of the windows, and most of the time this is all I'll need. In fact, the only reason anyone will probably ever use the roller blinds upstairs in the bedrooms is when they want to sleep late. Light and views are a big and wonderful part of the experience in every room of my house. So the cafe curtains won't block any more than is necessary of either. In fact, they'll leave the sky showing in all it's glory (day and night) through the upper half of the windows. But, then I'll have these wonderful black roller shades for light control when needed.

Oh, I ordered the regular Tropez roller shades, without the light block lining, which would have made them white facing outside the house. Regular roller shades roll off the back of the roller, which with the light blocking liner would have made my roller white at the top of the window—not the look I wanted. The good news is that the regular black Tropez doesn't need the lining. It's perfect.