Soften Your Surroundings
Your contractor has finally vacated the premises; surfaces are vacuumed, cleaned, and dusted; and now you’re unpacking your kitchenware for their designated homes in your new cabinets and pantry. But is your renovation really complete? Not until you’ve added all the finishing touches. First you have to paint. (Choosing wall colors is one of the most stress-inducing decisions in decorating.) But with the new space being a well-curated collection of hard materials (flooring, cabinetry, countertops, backsplashes, and appliances), you need some softness to convey warmth and comfort, as well as help absorb sound. This is definitely the purview of textiles and wallpaper: window treatments, upholstery, throw pillows, area rugs, and accent walls. Whether your taste leans toward monochromatic neutrals or pops of vibrant color, there’s a fabric solution for a personalized, intentional space.
Let’s first hear from an expert in the field: Frank Tucci, General Manager of Norbar Fabrics. Frank has 30 years of experience in the textile business, first on the mill side, and now working directly with decorators and designers. Not surprisingly, Frank’s top recommendation for all types of seating and banquettes is high-performance upholstery and decorative vinyl. High-performance fabrics are exceptionally durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean. And no need to scoff at the thought of using vinyl: today’s vinyl is virtually indistinguishable from leather, and is available in an endless array of colors and embossed patterns. Additionally, vinyl is your most kid-friendly choice for seating. Gray and blue colorways are still holding sway in popularity, while cut velvets and jacquards are currently trending. For windows, metallic fabrics are in high demand.
When conceiving a monochromatic scheme, the rules for avoiding a boring, one-note result is the inclusion of texture and varying color values and tones. In this predominately white kitchen by designer Fabrice Garson, the banquette cushion and chairs are upholstered in a taupe tweed fabric. Accent pillows are a subtle taupe and white geometric stripe. Even the chandelier brings some texture with its off-white woven fabric shade.
Even more texture can be found in the bay-window breakfast area of this kitchen by senior designer Tom Vecchio. While the walnut table and chair legs echo the walnut island, the textiles in here echo the limestone floor, bridging the gap between the kitchen’s light and dark hues. The banquette cushion is light taupe linen, and the slipper chairs are cream. Over a dozen throw pillows in this inviting spot vary in size, color, and pattern: nubby cream and medium taupe square pillows are mixed with lumbar pillows in a jacquard weave. There’s also a dark brown and black striped fringed lumbar pillow for contrast. Roman shades sport a cream woven fabric with silver threads. All the textiles are stain and water repellant.
Sometimes you want just a dash of bold color and pattern. This classic white kitchen by Fabrice Garson features two different countertops: one is white with gray veining; the other is gray with white veining. To connect those gray tones with the much-used banquette, its cushions were covered in a soft gray and white tweed. The surprise accent are the vibrant orange and white pillows with a medium-scale stylized scallop shell and palm print.
At the opposite end of the kitchen is the family room. Although the sectional repeats the gray, here it’s rendered in a suede fabric adorned with silver nail heads. Assorted patterns are added for this casual space. Pillows with stripes, dots, and geometric shapes in shades of gray, blue and tan are a lively touch. Two club chairs sport a gray, tan, and white strip, while a white faux fur throw invites lounging. A tan tufted leather ottoman serves as a coffee table. To extend the relaxed vibe, a distressed wood-look wallpaper was applied to the ceiling between the coffered beams.
A bolder hand with color is seen in this waterfront kitchen by senior designer Randy O’Kane. The spectacular views are practically begging for a comfy spot to gather and lounge, and this banquette fits the bill. The entire unit is completely upholstered in a navy-blue tweed, tufted on the seat and back for an elegant, plush feel. Cut velvet pillows in sea-glass green and sunset orange add a playful touch. So as not to compete with this colorful moment, the side chairs are cream, tying into the island’s Caesarstone top.
More fabric is utilized for a clever triple window treatment. Though you might not think you can have too much sunshine, there are times when the glare and heat need to be tempered. At other times you need privacy from the busy nearby dock. The solution is a light taupe valance concealing two different fabric shades: one is a translucent sheer for light control; the other is opaque denim for privacy. Colorful textiles deliver beauty and practicality.
Some people celebrate color and unapologetically mix it up throughout the room, as evidenced on this eclectic kitchen by senior designer Randy O’Kane. It starts with the cabinetry colors: pale sage green on the perimeter and rich eggplant on the island.
You might assume they’d repeat these tones in other areas of the room, but instead they utilized dark neutrals to ground the space. The island stools have black leather seats, while the large banquette and Lucite dining chairs have metallic charcoal leather. Both are resistant to food and beverage spills. The banquette’s back is tufted for extra comfort, while the pillows are navy blue in a dotted chevron pattern.
In the adjacent family room, sueded slate blue fabric covers the sectional sofa, with both chocolate brown chenille and leather on the club chairs. The navy and turquoise colors in the bold abstract artwork over the couch is repeated in the flame stitch and geometric stripe pillows. Taupe and cream pinch-pleated drapery panels in an oversized moire’-like print add an unexpected yet subdued touch.
The use of beautiful textured fabric continues into the butler’s pantry just outside the kitchen. Instead of having typical glass fronted doors, Randy chose to sandwich a glistening fabric in between the two panels.
For an unconventional take on the traditional formal white kitchen, senior designer Tom Vecchio made the unique choice of ice blue on the perimeter for a display in Bilotta’s Manhattan showroom. Not wanting it to read as a “pastel” kitchen, he anchored the space with rich walnut on the island and eating bar. Taupe and white marble on the mosaic backsplash, hood, and countertops provide a neutral balance. These tones informed his decision for the heavy-duty upholstery fabric on the two elliptical banquettes. The back and seat cushions are a taupe and beige stylized trellis jacquard with subtle touches of gold. Lumbar pillows are a woven taupe and cream mini hound’s-tooth pattern. Both fabrics are high performance.
Sometimes you need just a small touch of fabric to help reinforce a design theme. Senior designer Randy O’Kane’s goal was to create the client’s dream antique farmhouse kitchen, albeit with all the modern conveniences. The color scheme started with the green enameled range, with the wood floor’s stained green diamonds forming a checkerboard pattern. A dark oak island tempers the white cabinets and daffodil yellow walls.
Apron front sinks are very popular now, but this sink goes one step further: it’s styled like a country utility sink with a raised rim and back, and dual wall-mounted faucets. Randy designed an oak cradle with turned legs for mounting the sink. To conceal the plumbing below (never an attractive look), a gathered “curtain” in a charming green and yellow calico print now performs a practical function and serves to tie in the room’s color scheme.
Originally a tiny kitchen with equally tiny dining and family rooms, the homeowners wanted to open up the entire space in favor of an open concept kitchen, breakfast, and formal dining areas. Designer Fabrice Garson selected the client’s favorite color – navy blue – for the center island to offer contrast to the white perimeter cabinetry, white marble counters, and white subway tile backsplash.
Navy then became the theme for the cozy dining nook. The surprise splash that brought vibrancy to the alcove was the oversized abstracted ikat-patterned wallpaper in navy, beige and white. A navy and beige textured weave covers the banquette’s seats and backs. As a neutral counterpoint, a beige fabric with metallic blue threads was chosen for the Roman shade and island stool cushions.
An L-shaped transitional open plan kitchen by senior designer Danielle Florie combines two separate dining areas, along with a bar and sitting room. Textiles help define the spaces. The glazed paint and rift cut oak cabinetry finishes lend a traditional air, suggesting the need for a bit of elegant décor.
The formal dining chairs are upholstered in an arabesque-patterned chenille that complements the trellis pattern of the marble backsplash. Dressmaker details of tailored, pleated skirts and oversized buttons up the back add a chic touch.
At the opposite end of the room is the everyday eating spot: a table that looks like it’s attached to the island is actually freestanding and can be pulled away to accommodate more diners. Here the chair seats are covered in chocolate brown leather. Around the corner, adjacent to the rich oak wet bar, is an even more casual seating area, delineated by a turquoise, gray, and white abstract rug. Swivel barrel chairs are covered in distressed brown leather. An invitation to snuggle up is found beneath the console table: a pair of two-toned gray jumbo crocheted throws are readily accessed from woven iron baskets. Translucent white honeycomb shades provide privacy and sun protection.
An exuberantly fun use of fabric can be found in this reimagination of one of Bilotta’s traditional showroom displays by interior designer Jessica Jacobson for an “Art of the Table” event. Inspired by mid-century design, Jessica set out to prove you don’t have to go “all in” on a design theme in order to pay homage to an era. She fell in love with a colorful graphic linen print inspired by a painter’s watercolor palette. Shades of turquoise, navy, yellow, pear green, with touches of burnt sienna, hint at the mid-century geometric minimalist mindset.
Jessica had custom slipcovers made for the 50’s-style splayed leg chairs, with the print used on the back, and solid cream linen for the seat and short flirty pleated skirt. Extra print fabric was fashioned into hand towels to drape over the range’s handle. For a homey touch, the setting is anchored by a woven rag rug that pulls from the slipcover’s colors. The window treatment also adds a strong graphic element, but is tempered by the use of textured sheer fabric. Jessica urges you not to shy away from sheers for fear that it’s too old-fashioned. In fact, sheer fabric is a great way to let in the light, yet control it with subtle pattern. As a side note, though not technically a fabric, the hydrangeas on the table were cleverly fashioned from coffee filters!
So once your kitchen renovation is complete, don’t forget to add the individualism, texture, and softness that only textiles can provide. And, as always, have fun!
This post was written by senior designer, Paulette Gambacorta. Paulette has been designing kitchens with Bilotta for over 25 years.