Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thread Counts

48" width
53% Linen
47% Viscose threads
Machined background embroidered pattern
Hand embroidered detailing
15.5" vertical repeat
24" horizontal repeat
Teflon finish available.
Not inventoried.
Made to order in colorway of choice
3 to 4 month lead time
 MSRP $390.00 per yard


A terrible thing happened when I went to see BeeDee about her  bedroom.
Last year, about this time, she called to say she never uses designers, does  most of her own sewing and some of her own upholstering. She was very clear, " I do not need your services. I just need for you to come to my house and tell me what colors you would recommend. You will understand when you arrive".

Quite the invitation.
Since the design business is closely tied to both construction and real estate , we also are down, as an industry, about 60%. More in some areas. So odd invitation or not it at least represented a consultation fee. I went. I immediately fell in love!
First with BeeDee herself and then with her house.
She has a newer style 5000+ sq. ft. cottage on the lake. The rear of the house is almost solid window walls to capture the breathtaking  north facing views of the lake and  mountains. Seriously, in the first few minutes, I could not follow her conversation because of the distraction of the view. "Purple mountains majesty" is way more than a song lyric in this location.

Back to BeeDee.  There is much to admire. She is a tiny little spitfire of a woman. Beautiful without any artifice, interference or apologies for aging naturally. There is evidence of the journey etched into her face but it is mostly the result of a fully lived, laughter filled, journey. She raised 5 children, pretty much alone, while her  husband invested long, long hours in his globe trotting executive career. She came from a monied family, he did not. When he asked for her hand he promised her Dad she would not suffer  for loving him. They have lived in 17 homes on 4 continents. They have been married  40 some years and share 17 grandchildren.  Two years before retiring he told BeeDee, " I owe you . Pick wherever you want to live, build whatever you want."

 She chose this location because all of the kids and grand kids can get there in a day by car. She wanted to build a home which would become the family "lake house" for successive generations. With a fund set up to care for the property in perpetuity. How could I not admire this?

 Once I got beyond the distractions BeeDee explained she was ready to "freshen the nest". She explained about the  17 houses, that she and the kids had "done them" all.
All of her children can paint, sew, upholster, garden and cook. She said many of their furnishings had traveled with them, like old familiar friends, just getting new looks for each new location. She was very clear on never liking  houses which have that "designed" look. She much prefers homes to reflect the character and interests of the occupants.  I agreed. Pointing out a house with a "designer look" was the definition of failure. Her home is meant to be about her life, not my talents. To have "a" look is the definition of failure as a designer.

For the record. The majority of my clients are smart, capable people with beautiful homes. Most have never contracted a designer and most have a healthy disregard for my profession. Often they call because they are busy and want someone to "expedite" their needs not "design" their needs. I understand. I would have a very hard time allowing a stranger  to come into my house and set about changing it. When a project is converted from "expediting" to actual "designing" I am thrilled. I like to ring the bell.

What she wanted was to re-upholster every piece of furniture on the main floor (except in her Master Suit.)
upgrade all window treatments and, add a little " zip" to the overall statement. She was about to go traveling through multiple states, loved shopping for textiles and wanted me to evaluate her color balance and put together a new color scheme for her to take with her. " Just so you know, I will NOT be buying any designer fabrics from you".  I nodded my understanding, took some photographs and scheduled a presentation conference  in a week

Being a competitive sort I presented her with a color scheme with an ensemble of 22 of those designer fabrics. Demonstrating not just the color palette but also the value of contrast in scale, texture, weight and mood of each fabric.  I knew she would never find equivalents in her travels.  I presented them to her in a conference setting and then in the individual rooms in her home. She bought every single one.

The  entire family gathers for a week  every Spring.
BeeDee reported all the kids and all the grands loved everything.

Recently she called to say it was sad but true her bedroom was looking " dowdy" in comparison to the other spaces on the main  floor. The vintage looking Toile in her bedroom did look great with her four poster but a little stuffy for a lake house. " Come for tea and bring fabrics" she said.

Honoring that invitation was a date I looked forward to.

 I know it sounds odd to some but the exact color, the exact fibers, the exact pattern, the exact mood of a single fabric can be an obstacle to many women. I have met  women who have let their drapes literally rot in place because they could not find a fabric they loved as much as the original.

I get that.
If it fails to evoke that since of "right" for the woman and for her home then it will be an expensive daily thorn.

Before our appointment I ordered in samples of fabrics to be presented. One did not arrive so it was necessary to bring the swatch book to the presentation. Bee Dee and I had a nice visit  then got down to work. Everything started just fine. But, while we were looking at the proposed fabric in the swatch book it slid off the bed and onto the  floor . When I picked it up it was open to the  swatch of the embroidered fabric seen in the photograph  at the opening of this post. You probably noticed the colors in that fabric are exactly the colors out the window of the view across the lake to the mountains. It has an airyness, a traditional statement but, in a more  contemporary  flow. Much like BeeDee's airy, traditional cottage with a contemporary flow.

She plucked the entire sample book out of my hands.
" This is it!"
" BeeDee. Lets go back to the other swatch."
" Fishy! I adore this fabric. It's perfect in every way."
" BeeDee, it's beautiful but that is an investment fabric".
" What kind of investment?"
"Significant. I think we could get a yard, maybe two of this to add impact. We shouldn't consider this for your draperies. You have this entire window wall  and ten foot ceilings which requires 35 yards of fabric"
"We are not poor!"
"I noticed. But like you told me before , you do not want any fabrics in this house which will not hold up to peanut butter and jelly fingers. That you want all your grands to feel welcome and loved in every room. That you did not want your children to have a melt down if their kids put feet on the furniture. This textile does not meet this criteria. Can we go back and look at this other swatch?"
" No. I like this one the best of everything I have seen today.
Let's use this as our inspiration fabric and move forward."
There was a pause before responding,
" Great".
BeeDee gave me a measured look.
ANY designer would love to have a client say " I want what I want  damn the costs". Certainly BeeDee can afford anything she wants. But this is not her "show and tell" house it is her "lake house" and  while she loved this fabric, I knew she would not buy it.
" Fishy."
" Um hum"
" Investment fabric? What does that mean?"
"In this case it means the fabric is a tight gauge, combed linen ground with hand embroidery made to order which is reflected in the price."
" Is this one of those hundred dollar a yard fabrics?"
"Well then, lets continue on".
I started pressing buttons on a calculator.
"It's $413.40 per yard including tax.
According to this calculator, 35 yards  would cost  $14,469.00 plus shipping from India."
Teflon coating to make it  jelly proof would be a few hundred more." 
There was a sudden stillness in the room.  I wasn't certain but I thought there was a fifty fifty chance she  might succumb to the urge and smack me with the swatch book. I looked her in the eye and said,
" Hand me the book BeeDee"
She did not. She was still taking my measure.
" Why did you show me this fabric  Fishy?"
" I did not  SHOW you the fabric. It was in the swatch book with a fabric I did want you to see.
Let's forget about this fabric and go back to our options."
" Why did you even bring this book onto my property?"
" Do you want me to go  put it in the car?"
" I am just so mad. Is this what designers do? Bait you with love and hit you with dollar signs?"

I looked around at her multi-million dollar views in her multi-million dollar home and thought to myself what client would buy this fabric? It is beautiful. It is also quiet, understated.  Not too many would.  A few maybe, like BeeDee who has a love for beautiful handarts and the funds to indulge that love.

" BeeDee, let me tell you about this  fabric. It's made in India. In a horrible building. There are women there with babies in their bellies and another strapped to their back. They sit on the floor on a pile of scraps for back breaking hours  trying to concentrate on the perfection of the stitches. There is an overseer who walks down the rows to keep the women from chatting too much and, to make sure the workmanship is impeccabe. If it is not they will not be paid for the days work. They will maybe earn  a dollar for every linear inch  they embroider. That's forty eight inches. They will not earn much for their artistry, sacrifice and effort. That dollar is life to them. That's the real 'investment' of this fabric.   You actually can afford  all of this you could possibly want, it just offends your sense of decency. Mine too."

After a lengthy pause she said,
"Do you drink?"
"Yes, please"


Aunty Belle said...

uhm....almost speechless --gracious.

I can identify wif' lettin' draperies fray to shreds rather than choose a "colorway" that ain't perfect. I has --of necessity--had to learn to like shabby because the world of design controls what colors and designs are "in". Fer that alone, "designers" irk me. I doan mean FISHY of course, I mean them who decide from some Valhalla that mustard is the new ivory.

I like yore BeeDee.

fishy said...

I'm pretty creative but I just cannot imagine a "speechless" Aunty!
Is you speechless over the price or the situation for the embroiderers?

There is a fabric "valhalla" and it irks the bejeebers out of we designers, most every day. You'se a writer, it would be like someone took away a letter of the alphabet and expected you to be able to carry on.

The good news is we did find bedroom fabrics for BeeDee, within her criteria and her budget. She is very happy. Me too as I so like and admire this woman. And, there is that bell ringing compulsion ...

chickory said...

The situation with the indian fabric is killing artists everywhere. here and there. In a shop a few months ago betty and i were standing near the register where we admired some small handcrafted bags (about 6 x8) which had layers of fabric hand stitching and lots of beadwork. 18 dollars. what a deal! said a lady in a group near by. "yeah, if you like slave labor! How much do you think the maker of this item gets...18 dollars here, that means roughly 9 dollars wholesale, probably less...trickle down to some dollar a day seamstress in the third world"

horror on sales chick and groups face. Betty hooked my arm and led me out of the shop saying "we'll just be leaving now"

I like you and beedee! how does one get an invitation for drinks! Im ready. and my hands are jelly free!

thoughtful story....and interesting work you have, Fish.

fishy said...

I would so love to sell yards of these fabrics if I thought the women perfecting the handcrafts would be getting the rewards. I am sure many start in this by age 12 or 13 ....

My guess is you would adore BeeDee. She is awesome. I love her wisdom in not getting out the checkbook at every new house or continent. Instead she helped all her children unite as a family by having everyone participate in making the new location "home".

There is something truly very wonderful about the mothers of this era. Maybe it was that they were not forced to work and parent. Maybe it was a culture which supported, and respected, marriage, family, motherhood and individuality. BeeDee topped the charts in every category.

If it wasn't for women like BeeDee
keeping the beliefs alive how would we prevail?

Come on over to the Carolina's ... we'll have drinks and thumbprint cookies.

Jenny said...

there's a version of this in the world of plastic; I was in an Office Max the other day looking at an acyrlic Ipad stand. Retail price: 14.95. It's clearly hand made (not injected molded) and fabricated with thick acrylic ($$$) The work is flawless. I couldn't sell it for $14.95 and make money.

That fabric is stunning, btw. Too bad those woman aren't considered artisians instead of day laborers. What a waste.

LOVE BeeDee stories... more please.

Sharon Rudd said...

Dear Fishy,

I love your stories, and this one is tantalizing and thought-provoking on so many levels.

Please keep 'em coming.

xoxo, eggy

fishy said...

I've read enough history to understand a world shift happens every so many centuries. I find the current level of horrors not too different from the slave trade.

The fabric is very dear.

About BeeDee, she is such a gem of a human. So is her husband who is on his way to being a very successful rosarian. Why? Because roses are BeeDee's favorite flowers. They moved so often she could never have a rose garden so the garden is a thank you note to BeeDee, his Irish Rose, with love.

You've given me an idea.
I should write not a blog, but a book on clients over the years. The people and their stories have inspired me for decades.

I am still searching for that darn recipe! I should have never mentioned. Thanks for your kind words. I am always surprised when I look at the site meters and see how many people read these posts and how few comment.

Pam said...

I want to come for drinks too! What a grand lady. I love her. But most of all, I want to know, did she invest or did she go with something else? And speaking of clients, whatever happened to the elderly couple up the road from the Pond? Did they ever get their house re-done? Oh yes, the stories you could tell. Sounds like a series of little British-style mystery novels. Designer comes around to redecorate, finds a body, solves the murder, gets on with the paint job.

fishy said...

How is it being grande?????
I am so tickled for you, give 'em all a good fish hug.

There is a perfectly dreadful mystery solving designer series.
The Den of Antiquity series by Tamara Myers. The titles are funny,
" Gilt By Association", "The Ming and I" , "Baroque and Desperate".
and so forth. The books are awful. The lead character is hideous, the writing is heavy handed and sometimes just plain stupid . The crime here is her series is set in Charlotte, NC and clearly the writer does not understand the culture of the South. Horrid.

BeeDee is a jewel and no she did not "invest". She could, but she never would. By the time you add linings, workroom services and hardware it was about 18k just for the draperies.

I did start over. I promised to find her a fabric she would love to build a room around and within budget. It is perfect and holds up nicely to the jelly fingers.

Maybe I should write a follow up post about folks I've introduced you bloggers to. Let me sleep on that.

moi said...

Have you read a book called Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster?

Part of it deals with the slave labor you describe to create certain so-called luxury goods. Which these days are mostly NOT created by well-paid artisans with years of history in the industry, making beautiful things for the truly rich, but about slave laborers in third world countries making so-so items for a song to sell to upper middle class housewives who are more logo-happy than anything else. About the only people who pay their artisans well are Louboutin, Hermes, and Chanel. The rest of the stuff out there . . . don't get me started.

grins said...

I've been to India and loved it, but the beggars are like mosquito's. It's hard not to resent them. Children are "owned by what they call Indian mafia and sent out to beg. There are sweat shops every where and everything is very very cheap. even life. I went to a Jain orphanage and found out all the girls had parents, but parents do not want daughters they only want sons so they pay to have them in orphanages and would not allow us to adopt one. In Delhi there was a small blurb about a man killing his wife for not giving him sons. You can imagine what would happen to daughters of a poor family.
Fishy, you would burn my house down before decorating it. I am far too poor to understand the culture of the south. It's interesting to look at though. I like you people.

fishy said...

I read part of that book before I threw it out the window in a fit of unrequited rage.

I do believe there is significant cultural and historical value in crating beauty in art, architecture, objects, literature. " Starving artist" is more than a cliche. It is a harsh reality for many. I admire those who have elected to "support"
artists, recognizing the value of their contributions. I have an entirely different view of those who "exploit" artists.

I understand if folks like me do not sell this product then the embroiderers will not get paid.
The new business model is no longer about the "supply chain". it is about the "demand chain".
In this format I surely squandered an opportunity to create a demand .... all true but I was positive BeeDee would never, ever buy that fabric.

Welcome to the Pond.

I 've been to your fine state. The outdoorsy types I met there are not too different from our natives of the lake and mountain district of the Carolinas. We have lots and lots of rustic log cabins and lodge style architecture. I have yet to see a home that had no merit. One of my most favorite design project ever was to design a tree house retreat for a corporate executive!

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