Fabric for the Designed Interior

Fairchild Publications, Inc.

Written by Frank Theodore Koe
Press Photo

Learning clients’ preferences while educating them on possibilities.

One of the most important points in designing with fabrics is to enjoy mixing colors. Don’t shy away from color or combining tapestries, stripes, and damasks in one room. When a variety of colors and textures are thoughtfully grouped, the grouping takes on a timeless quality. There are so many fabrics of all qualities and prices that it would be unfortunate if we, as designers, didn’t attempt to take clients beyond the slate gray palette and show them the range of possibilities.

It’s important to listen to what clients say and want, but it’s also important to take them outside of their comfort zone and help them explore. To qualify you to do this, it’s necessary to get to know your clients. Every client is different. You must carefully observe how your clients live in all aspects of their life - the way they dress, their selection of art, what they do for fun - and pull them forward, helping them express their individuality. Determine if your clients are subtle or materialistic. They will give you many clues as to who they are and how they live if you are prepared to receive them. And it’s important to attempt to have everyone who lives in the house participate in the preliminary conceptual design phase, as well. Try to observe, as much as possible, those who live in the space in order to understand better what direction an interior needs to take. Designers have to be critical listeners. We need to give to our clients our best possible work that fits their way of life. We can’t have a preconceived or preplanned idea of how people live based on a photo of a house. We have to find an unobtrusive way to relax and enter the minds of our clients and take them places they thought they were not able to go.

Regarding acquiring fabric, it’s very important to follow-up on written and acknowledged orders. If you’re promised a 16-week delivery on a special order and told after 15 weeks that it will take an additional 8 weeks, it’s best to select a different fabric. And dealing with reputable fabric companies is a must! Be cautious about who you do business with. Your suppliers have the ability to affect your work and reputation positively or negatively. Fewer items are stocked these days, so if a company says that you’ll have to wait, you want the wait not to be in vain. This applies to carpet orders, as well.

When clients see a sample carpet, believe it’s beautiful, and want it in a large area of their house, the designer has to take another step. He or she needs to make certain that the clients understand that scale of pattern, proportion, and lead time in ordering can affect their overall level of satisfaction. The sample that excites them in a showroom may not elicit the same level of enthusiasm when the carpet is full-sized and installed. This is why a large rendering of the carpet for the client review is so important. What the clients saw earlier as a sample may have been better on stairs than on the floor in a library.

Furthermore, designers need to help clients understand something about the loom that will manufacture their carpet. If the loom produces only 27-inch-wide goods, and seams will appear every 27 inches, the client must be informed of this before the manufacturing process begins. Placing an order to have an expensive carpet woven and not being clear to the client exactly what the end product will look like could be disastrous! Educating and communicating with the client is an important part of being a designer; otherwise, you may literally pay for your mistakes.