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Fabrics of our lives alter mood, style

“Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus (540 BC – 480 BC), Greek philosopher, from Diogenes Laertius’ “Lives of Eminent Philosophers”

Paint has long been considered the workhorse of design. It still is, but next in line surely has to be fabric. Fabric creates fashion, style and mood.

That realization of fabric’s versatility hit me was many years ago in a workroom in Connecticut. There was a beautiful, very ornate, Victorian sofa, complete with curved legs and wood trim all around the upholstery. And, the upholstery fabric — wow – was a very bright, geometric print. At first glance, it appeared totally out of place, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized how that fabric had totally changed the mood of that piece. The substance of the piece and its grandeur was still there, but it had a totally different attitude. It was waiting to go to its new home, which was in the lobby of a spa.

If the sofa had a traditional floral, stripe or some other period fabric, it would have fit nicely into a traditional/Victorian sitting room or bedroom. But it was moving up and out into the public eye. All because of fabric.

Changing the look of a room also can be as simple as changing out the fabrics. Granted, changing fabric is not as inexpensive as changing paint, but it has an awesome impact. Many of you may have experienced this by seeing your children grow up. A small child’s room has more juvenile fabrics on the windows and bed linens. As the child becomes a teen, the fabrics will more than likely change again; and when the child leaves home, mom and dad get to have new window treatments and linens to create a great guest room.

The same premise applies to any room. We’ve all seen rooms in design magazines that have evolved through the years. The wall colors may have changed, but the biggest change is always the upholstery and window fabrics. The seating pieces will remain the same, but get an entirely new look.

Popular fabrics, colors and patterns have also evolved through the years. Some years it was wild and vibrant geometric prints, some years it was earth tones, some years country patterns were popular, and sometimes more ethereal and softer fabrics stole the show.

For a minute, just imagine a standard living room arm chair. And then visualize the same chair in different fabrics: checks for a country den, toile for a bedroom, elegant linen in a living room, bold stripes or geometric pattern for a game room, or nubby cotton or velvet for a theater room. The same chair works in all of these places.

The fact that most folks understand how fabric can change moods is the reason for the popularity of slipcovers. I’ve talked about slipcovers before and how they can transform your space from season to season. Slipcovers are a great way to change the look without a huge investment. You may want to change a chair or sofa and not all of your upholstery.

Another easy fix to get a different fabric look is to change out your dining room chairs. If your chairs have an upholstered seat only, the switch out takes literally about five minutes. All you need is your new fabric and a heavy duty stapler. The look of your dining area can change instantly with this easy switch.

Fabric shopping can be a little confusing. You first need to decide what “look” you are going for and what color palette you want. Do a little research online or at your local fabric store to see what might work in your space. Obviously some fabrics are sturdier than others. Be sure the fabric you select will not only provide the visual you want, but will “work.”

Learning about fabric before you purchase will help you appreciate what you are buying. You will learn about “hand” (feel), strengths and weaknesses of the fabrics, how best to use them, and their care. I scoped out a website you may wish to check out: http://www.fabriclink.com/Dictionaries/Textile.cfm. It is a pretty good reference to help you get started. And then one of the most fun and satisfying parts of buying fabric is to go to the stores and touch them. Yummy!

Whether you want to change the look and mood of your entire space or just want to give a piece a new look, fabric is the key.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a design consultant, expert home stager and creator of beautiful spaces. Questions can be sent to her at creativemuse@cox.net.

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