Betsie Weatherford, the sole representative in Dallas for Fortuny fabrics and owner of Ellouise Abbott Showrooms, just got back from Fortuny’s first sales meeting in Venice. She was kind enough to share some stories with me. Mariano Fortuny, a modern-day Leonardo da Vinci artist and inventor, developed a new printing technique in 1907 with layers of shifting color. New York designer Elsie McNeill took over the company upon Fortuny’s death in 1949 and moved to Venice, where she promptly married the Count Gozzi. Elsie McNeill from Macon, Ga., became the Countess Gozzi, which is what she was called until her death in 1994. Designs from the archives are being added to the already glorious display of Fortuny fabrics at Ellouise Abbott. And there’s stock in New York now, too. Instead of waiting six months for two yards of fabric that may or may not look like your original sample, now you get fabric in a few weeks.
I’m excited about the re-do at the Donghia showroom in the Dallas Design Center, featuring re-issues of some of the original pieces that Angelo Donghia designed for his clients before he debuted his line at David Sutherland’s showroom in Dallas in 1980. There is the iconic Fifth Avenue Sofa designed for Ralph Lauren in 1970, long before Lauren dreamed of entering the home furnishings market. Also, the Paris desk that he created for his Manhattan apartment—timelessly modern with tapered legs, in black lacquer with an embossed leather inset.
Donghia retained the curves but removed the swirls in traditional furniture. Together with John Hutton, he revolutionized American furniture design, bridging the gap between contemporary and traditional.
Exciting things are happening in textiles within the next several months at Allan Knight & Associates. Imagine embossed micro suede in intricate patterns and leather heavily embroidered with flowers; as Knight says, “If Granny wore leather…” One of last season’s Oscar de la Renta couture gowns is the inspiration for yellow silk panels embroidered with pearls, and silk squares are encrusted with chips of real turquoise to create awe-inspiring pillows. Imagine a large portion of this custom handwork on bolts at Knight’s showroom available this summer to cut and take with you. Now, do I have your attention?
The inspiration for all this brilliance came from the needs of huge hospitality clients such as Wilson and Associates, to provide their high-end hotels with “super luxury” embellished fabrics that look handmade. The challenge for Knight and his team was to amass handwork from all over the world and sort it into a modern context. The result is that the shopping desires of the rich are helping those in poor in countries such as India and Pakistan. “These ancient sewing and weaving techniques are being kept alive in small workshops of just two or three people, as new generations learn the trade. The skills are there, our biggest challenge is housekeeping—how to keep the curry away from the white silk,” Knight says.
If you think you know what to expect when you go in East & Orient on Slocum Street, think again. In keeping with her mission to sell collectable art and antiques, owner Betty Gertz is shaking up the store’s exquisite 18th century ambiance with custom-painted art guitars, including one by noted New York graffiti artist Crash. It’s a favorite of Eric Clapton—he autographed one and it sold for $700,000 at Christie’s in 2004. For an old rock-and-roller like me who also loves fine antiques, this is nirvana.
Scott + Cooner is adding a Flexform “shop in shop” in their Decorative Center location, and it’s the first Flexform store in the country outside of New York. So, why are Emily Summers, David Cadwallader, and Neal Stewart such big fans? Flexform is at the top of the quality quotient and is designed by Antonio Citterio. They are also initiating a trend of—gasp—higher backed Italian seating. Seems those flexible Italians are aging, too.
Anyone questioning the “wallpaper is back” theory, take note. All those background textures, little prints, and faux stone papers are so yesterday. Now, it’s the big, bigger, and biggest pattern you can find. Some of the best are from Designers Guild; the “Amalienborg” collection features flowers as big as your head.
Niermann Weeks has moved from Allan Knight to the Lewis Mittman-Edward Ferrell showroom inside the Dallas Design Center. The extensive Italian chandelier collection is a great addition to the showroom, and the signature celadon painted tables and chairs are great in combination with the lavender color that Lewis Mittman-Edward Ferrell designer Jamie Drake favors.
Go to www.blog.dhomeandgarden.com for more designer gossip from Peggy Levinson.