In her book, “Be Your Own Decorator,” Susanna Salk emboldens her readers to find inspiration in the masterfully decorated rooms of top designers featured in her book. Her design philosophy is practical: find what you love about these rooms and repeat it in your own home. But is it easy? We challenged Susanna Salk to recreate the essence of four rooms from her book using key pieces from Ballard Designs.
The cheerful pair of love seats that faced each other in front of our living room fireplace were starting to fade. The zest of their brown and green stripes — once so chic and cozy — had aged under the constant company of dog paws and human loungers. The whole space sagged as a result.
I did my research: replacing them was costly and I couldn’t quite duplicate their unique shape and size. Reupholstering them was the best answer: while still costly there was a familial element attached to their makeover that felt comforting: we knew they already looked proportionally perfect in our living room.
First, the fun part: falling in love and taking a slight risk on a new fabric. Ballard Designs is my go-to fabric destination because it offers a selection that’s not overwhelming but just enough options to make you feel like you did your homework. (And the price point is delightfully affordable. No more dangerous liaisons with $100 a yard fabrics pour moi!)
Also they send swatches out immediately so you can touch and feel your investment in context. I must confess however, that I didn’t even get the free sample: I clicked and enlarged the swatch on my laptop screen, held it up in the general area of the sofas and imagined the lively juxtaposition and transformation and decided to make the leap.
The chartreuse Ikat pattern I was flirting with felt just enough right and scary: I wanted bold, but bold embedded in a classic pattern that was exotic to enliven my little living room without taking over.
If my mantra was to decorate fearlessly, here was the very opportunity to make the leap. I didn’t worry about it exactly “going” with the Chinese red vintage bar set up behind it: together they’d be like two lively dinner companions.
The nuts and bolts part soon followed: I had emailed a picture of one of the sofa and its dimensions to my upholsterer and she guestimated the amount of yardage I needed to order. A week later a large roll of fabric arrived from Ballard Designs at my doorstep and of course I didn’t show it to my husband. He knew about the project but would have thought me insane for going with a pattern other than a quiet chintz.
The sofas were soon picked up and taken away: it was as though they were being sent to get facelifts at some secret spa in Switzerland.
Midway through their two weeks hiatus I drove by the upholsterer and visited them. I had always wanted to see what the actual process looked like and the trip did not disappoint. One of the sofas was actually being worked on when I entered, its stuffing exposed and coiled black hoses hooked in. A cheerful craftsman man with an Italian accent broke into a big smile when he heard it was my sofa. “Is a good fabric! Is exciting!” he exclaimed and confirmed with me exactly how he was going to line up the the repeat across the widest part of the sofa.
A week later the finished duo was slipped back into place before my husband got home. Everything was the same and yet so different.
The reaction? The upholsterer couldn’t have said it better: “Is exciting.”