It’s a game interior designers know well. They play with a variety of fabrics to obtain a sophisticated environment. The best know how to mix patterns and colors without the design appearing jumbled. We asked four South Florida designers to provide insight on how they select rich fabrics to create a lush look.
By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub
DESIGNER: WILLIAM EUBANKS
PHOTOGRAPHER: KIM SARGENT
William Eubanks loves using beautiful rich fabrics – everything from silk damask to tightly woven linens. A Palm Beach designer with an international clientele, his signature look combines French and English antiques, Oriental porcelains, sumptuous silks, damask fabrics and jewel-tone colors. Not limited to Old World design, he also creates a contemporary look with fine fabrics and plenty of texture.
“We may use 10 different fabrics in a room,” he says. “They are all compatible. Putting together a room is like doing a painting. One fabric has a little fire that sets the room on edge. The others are quiet. It’s a layering process.”
Although he likes to use silk, wool damask, silk velvets and linen velvets, he prefers silk velvets.
“Silk velvets are like a fine wine; they get better with age,” he says.
He doesn’t worry about using silk as window coverings. His solution is to line them with a heavy fabric that adds to the beauty of the drapery and protects the fabric.
Eubanks says good quality fabric will hold up even under conditions when the owner has pets.
“Who would have thought a hand-screened Fortuny fabric I used on a Knoll sofa in my house in Memphis would be just as beautiful 30 years later. My Great Danes often sleep on it. Whether it will last depends on the quality of the fabric and the tightness of the weave.”
DESIGNER: JENNIFER GARRIGUES
PHOTOGRAPHERS: NICK SARGENT (SHOW HOUSE)
AND DANIEL NEWCOMB (HOME)
Jennifer Garrigues, a Palm Beach designer known for her textured eclectic look, says fabrics don’t have to be expensive to look rich.
“Some less expensive fabrics can look rich if they are in saturated colors,” she says. “If you put two or three rich fabrics together it makes a statement. A rich fabric can make a less expensive one look richer.”
Garrigues loves to use ikats, a fabric in which the yarns have been tie-dyed before weaving. One of her tricks is to use expensive fabrics as runners or as a throw over the back of a sofa. Remnants make beautiful pillows and add glamour.
“Scale is very important,” she says. “You can pick up the same colors but use them in a larger scale, medium scale and small scale. If you use three over-scaled fabrics in different colors, it wouldn’t work.”
Silk can be a problem if it is used in draperies without lining because the Florida sun can cause it to disintegrate. If the room has a lot of light, she uses silk in the center of the room or on pillows.
DESIGNER: ALENE WORKMAN
PHOTOGRAPHERS: TROY CAMPBELL (BAL HARBOUR PENTHOUSE), BETH SINGER (CLEVELAND BEDROOM), KIM SARGENT (PALM BEACH ENTRY)
Fort Lauderdale designer Alene Workman proves a design can be contemporary but doesn’t have to be cold. The addition of rich fabrics can make contemporary warm and inviting.
“A rich fabric could be tactile, or it could just be a beautiful fabric like a silk or a mohair or a velvet,” she says. “It could be used in traditional or contemporary. Sometimes in a more contemporary environment it is nice to bring in a textural fabric or a silk or woven with a beautiful sheen.”
If the client has children, Workman uses more durable fabrics with a rich appearance such as cotton and wool mohair or a solution-dyed chenille.
“The chenilles are phenomenal,” she says. “We are just finishing a penthouse where the client has visiting grandchildren. We used a beautiful white solution-dyed chenille on the living-room sofa. It is a rich look but very practical.”
The new polyesters are another option that she says can fool the best of us into believing they are silk. They make a better alternative for window treatments because unlike silk the sun does not damage them. They also can be woven to 120 inches wide, which means no seams are needed in most applications.
DESIGNER: BARBARA MURTAGH NASH
The idea of using cotton as a rich-looking window treatment may sound counterintuitive. Barbara Murtagh Nash insists it isn’t.
“You can get beautiful refined cottons that have a gorgeous hand [feel],” she says. “They are not like your mother’s little cotton draperies. Believe it or not, we use a lot of cotton velvets. It is a very heavy-duty fabric that can take a lot of wear and look very luxurious on windows. They can be sophisticated and dressy and can also look contemporary.”
Silk draperies can work even in a beach home if you use the proper heavy lining. If you use a traditional lining on a silk drapery at the beach, she says it will rot. Salt air can be another factor that damages silk. She recommends polyester blends that look like silk for western exposures.
In a master bedroom in Weston, Nash combined several luxury fabrics for a couple who wanted their bedroom to be an elegant retreat. The draperies are hand-painted silk. The headboard and footboard are velvet with a Fiber-Seal protective coating so it doesn’t get stained with hair oil. The pillows are silk, and the duvet is a polyester blend.
“Many designer washable fabrics have also come in the market,” she says. “It is not always about price. You want to get the look. I can’t imagine running to the dry cleaners all the time.”
Jennifer Garrigues: Jennifer Garrigues, 308 Peruvian Ave., Palm Beach, 561-659-7085, jennifergarrigues.com.
William Eubanks: William Eubanks, 340 Worth Ave., Palm Beach, 561-805-9335,
Barbara Murtagh Nash: Blue Sky Environments Interior Decor, 13798 NW Fourth St., Suite 308, Sunrise, 855-341-1401, bseid.com.
Alene Workman: Alene Workman Interior Design, 805 E. Broward Blvd., Suite 302, Fort Lauderdale, 954-989-0898, aleneworkman.com.
HOW TO GET THE LOOK AT HOME
Often when we think of opulent fabrics, stately homes and palazzos in Europe come to mind. But these imported fabrics are also showing up in some upscale South Florida residences as well. Depending on your budget, rich fabrics can be used on pillows, chairs or elaborate draperies. Here are three elegant examples in homes designed by John Hall Nelson Interiors and available at J Nelson showroom in Hollywood.
Sabina Fay Braxton Paris’ “Topkapi” silk and cotton brocade is custom colored with trim from Sevinch Passementerie designed for a Palm Beach client. Braxton has made a reputation for her ancient hand-printed textile techniques. Designers such as Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Armani, Alberto Pinto, Peter Marino and Juan Pablo Molyneux have used her fabrics.
Luigi Bevilacqua’s “Le Fleur,” woven at Palazzo Bevilacqua on the Grand Canal in Venice, is Italian silk damask in Yellow Iris. It is shown here with made-to-order silk trim accented with Swarovski crystals designed for a curtain ensemble in Palm Beach. Luigi Bevilacqua, founded three centuries ago, continues to use traditional weaving techniques and original Venetian looms dating back to the 18th century.
Nelson took this hand-carved, painted and gilt wood Louis XVI-style chair and upholstered it with Mariano Fortuny’s “Sèvres” pattern in silvery blue for a Palm Beach client. The back and sides are upholstered in bespoke “Otello,” a hand-embroidered traditional trellis design custom created on luxe calf suede from Beaumont and Fletcher London. Trim is made of custom silk tape with micro bronze nail heads.
John Hall Nelson Interiors and J Nelson Showroom, 2866 Pershing St., Hollywood,
– Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub