Planning and executing a refurbishment in your home can be hard work. Once the painting and DIY is done and the furniture is in place it is tempting to breathe a sigh of relief, wash out your paint brush and call it a day. However, this often means that those essential finishing touches never get, well, finished. In order to complete an interior design, it needs styling, adding layers to a space to transform it from a house into a home. Whether it’s pictures on the walls, house plants or your favourite knick-knacks, the styling is as important as paint colour and furniture. When you get to this stage, the fun really begins; if while adding those finishing touches to your home you are not sure where to start, think fabric.
Fabric is a great way to introduce different patterns and texture to a room, bringing comfort with its tactile quality. It can lift a space in numerous ways, so don’t just stop at curtains and cushions: imagine a fluffy rug on the floor providing warmth and comfort underfoot, a beautifully patterned headboard in the bedroom or a newly upholstered reading chair. If you want to push the boundaries further, cover a screen or some wardrobe doors, or hang your favourite piece on the wall like you would a painting. Wallpaper originally derived from the more elaborate decorations of textiles such as silk embroidered chinoiserie and woven tapestries. It is said that, during his reign, Henry VIII had as many as two thousand tapestries hanging in various palaces; if it’s good enough for Henry, it’s good enough for us. Take a look at the room you want to perfect and think outside the box. If you don’t already have a hoard of fabric waiting to be used, go hunting for that special piece to provide your ‘wow’ factor.
I like to collect pieces on my travels and some of the treasures in my own home are those I stumble on in vintage shops, normally when I am shopping for someone else! I know if I resist, I often regret it later, so snap up those one-off pieces when you have the chance. In my constant crusade to reduce, reuse, and recycle where I can, one of the shops I frequent is Salvage Style. Recently opened in Bridport’s South Street, owner Tracy Caden McArthy has a treasure trove of fabric to drool over. ‘Salvage Style’ is a phrase coined by Vogue during the ‘60s, referring to the art of customising and upcycling old fabric following the make-do-and-mend attitude of WWII. Tracy began her career at The London College of Furniture, studying interiors and upholstery and enjoying unlimited access to the V&A’s archives. After running an interiors shop in Islington, she relocated to Bridport in 2009, opening a shop in St. Michael's trading estate selling fabric and unusual, one-off pieces of furniture. Since expanding the business, Tracy’s aim is to inspire all who walk through the door with the large and varied selection on display. In her own inimitable style, she describes her approach to design as a ‘colour-driven explosion, accidentally curated, with a love for fabric that doesn’t compromise on quality or creativity.’
Choosing fabric is a lot less overwhelming than designing a room from scratch; if a client is struggling to decide colour combinations for their home, I often suggest looking in their wardrobe. The shade and materials we gravitate towards with our clothing will be pleasant to our eye in any space. The interiors and fashion industries’ roots have always been intertwined so, if you need inspiration, look at your favourite dress or tie and invest in a copy of Vogue as well as interiors magazines. Fabric evokes emotion when your eyes rest upon the design and your hands feel the texture; you either like it, or you don’t. You can choose similar colours to match a room or add contrast by selecting a piece from the opposite end of the colour spectrum. If you purchase the fabric first, use it as a tool to influence your interior design. The possibilities are endless and once you have dipped your toe in the water it is hard to look back. The most common comment I hear in a textile emporium, always uttered with disappointed resignation is, ‘I can’t allow myself to buy anymore until I’ve made use of the huge amount I already have!’ But if you are already drowning in fabric, surely there’s room for just one more orphaned remnant?
Published in the June 2019 edition of Bridport Times magazine: bridporttimes.co.uk