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What About Fabric?

Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.  - Walter Benjamin

Sherry Hayslip: Designer 

I guess it isn’t really treating her like a client.  I don’t have to track my hours, tally the reimbursable expenses, all the detritus I dislike.  And she doesn’t have to worry about design fees.

But there is a little distance, a little parrying around, respecting and testing each other to try to understand the rhythm.  I am all too aware that she has minimal funds but wants something that satisfies her innate need for order and a beautiful surrounding.  She has been this way since she was so small… making everything around her tidy and pretty.  Peyton was never a tomboy, always feminine.

So, short of magically finding unlimited funds to underwrite the project (which, then, would veer too severely into making the project mine), rather than simply channeling her own forming vision, we are working with less cash and more inspiration and focus since we now have this chair and ottoman.

The room in progress – THE CHAIR (aka, la Duchesse Brissèe) 

Given the limited budget, small space, and the large needs for the space, we WILL create a beautiful, functional and satisfying nest for Peyton… one that reflects her unique and funny personality, her aspirations for a beautifully lived life, her practical everyday habits, and her taste.  My role is to guide and help implement and come up with some damn good ideas that she likes.  She is my client/daughter, after all…

So after lots of soul searching, list making, and budget scratching, the chair has appeared.  This broken duchess of a chair, so eloquent of some tragic parting, so suggestive of a shabby yet aristocratic life… this chair that became the passion that Peyton could not resist.  She nobly would say, “I know it’s too expensive, it’s OK if we don’t get it… but it is sooo beautiful.”  “Think of the money we’ll save if we don’t reupholster it… the fabric is just perfect as is.”  “I don’t really need a packing table, I can put my suitcase on the chair.” …and so on with many sweet rationalizations. We are always that way with new loves.  We only see the good.

So, I thought to myself, how can I break my daughter’s heart by saying “no”?  Both her daughters have grown up and gone away, she is alone with Oscar, that sweet but dopey looking guy (dog, I mean).  She glanced at me with shy eyes, she couldn’t keep from smiling about the chair. 

Madame Recamier by Jacques Louis David 

So we started with the chair and ottoman in a grayish green linen damask and nicely patinated wood frame.  I suggested she also get a pair of charmingly painted armless chairs at the same resale shop, to use one at her dressing table and leave the duchess in the center of the room, all lounge-y and waiting for Mademoiselle Recamier Hayslip to appear.  And, of course, to use as a packing table, plenty wide enough for her suitcase. 

Now we have to complete the room with much less money than we had, though no less numbers of things to consider and a great deal more ingenuity.  In searching through books and samples, Peyton was intrigued by some prints with words or phrases in the designs.  She is a literary type, that girl… very Emily Dickenson obsessed at one point.  She writes, reads, acts.  She wrote a one woman play about an ancestor’s experiences in the early days of Texas and also performed it.  Of course she likes words, on fabrics, everywhere.

But for me, selecting a commercially printed fabric seemed ordinary.  I was thinking along the lines of finding a lovely matte silk fabric and hand lettering some beautiful phrases onto it, painting the fabric and creating a unique effect just for her.  She was warming to the idea and we had begun searching for some fabrics to cover her clothes racks, since actual clothes cabinets now seemed too pricey.

Then I stumbled across a company ( that actually prints your own phrases on fabrics.  My goodness, what a coincidence!  I was just thumbing through a magazine I rarely pick up, Country Living, and there was a chair with words all over it and an offer to create your own fabric for you.  Ha!  There really is a decorating god, after all! 

So Peyton sent for samples and has found some wonderful quotations.  

I have some slightly odd ideas for this room, but for now we will pursue the painted fabric panels hung from painted pipes we will suspend in front of her clothing racks.  She has organized them and reconfigured them and is well on her way to a new, airy, feminine and interesting new room. 



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