A few weeks ago, I dragged my husband along to visit the inaugural Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse. It's always interesting to gauge these things through the eyes of someone who couldn't care less about design. He routinely mistakes Thom Filicia for Tom Ford, and he thinks that chinoiserie is a fancy word for take-out. While we were both duly impressed with the main rooms on the parlor floor of this traditional brownstone townhouse, it was on on the very top floor that my husband declared to have found “the winner”. I could not agree more. Brooklyn-based Fearins | Welch Interior Design certainly did not tackle the easiest space in the house: it was dark and awkwardly proportioned, with just a small window off-center. And yet, this office/lounge exuded such a strong personality: confident, original, intriguing... everything just belonged. The designers used the lack of daylight to their advantage and implemented a dark and moody color palette, punctuated by a heavy dose of exuberant chartreuse in the form of a glamorous velvet-upholstered daybed. The lush texture of the velvet had a luminous glow and gave the space a chic and sensual feel.
It comes as no surprise to me that velvet is having quite a moment right now, both in home and fashion design. I still remember fondly the go-to wardrobe staple of my early twenties: a simple black cotton velvet blazer from a sample sale that I wore with everything, from jeans to dresses. When my daughter was younger, she fell in love with a blue velvet dress she insisted on wearing all the time, even on a 90-degree humid summer day. I chalk it up up to the softness/color combo. Not only is velvet immensely “pettable”, it also projects color in the most intense way, making this a truly rich fabric.
It is of course important to note that velvet refers to a type of weave, and can be made using a number of fibers or blends thereof: cotton, linen, polyester, rayon, silk, cashmere... Because it’s not a flat-woven fabric, velvet requires more yarn and takes multiple steps to produce. Yarn is first woven together on a loom between two layers of backing. The fabric is then split down the middle, creating two identical pieces, each with the upraised pile that provides its soft, heightened texture.
Velvet has a definite nap or direction of the pile. When you run your hand over the fabric, you will be able to tell whether the nap feels smooth to the touch (the pile is going down) or pushing against the pile (the pile is going up). If the nap is up, the velvet looks darker. If the nap is brushed down, the fabric looks lighter. When planning upholstery, the nap should fall downward, toward the floor, and all sections on the furniture should follow that direction.
In addition to its good looks, velvet fabrics come with a lovely bonus. Because of their volume and weight, they are fantastic for absorbing sound and improving acoustic qualities, especially in larger spaces. And then, there is the insulation factor: there is nothing better than velvet window treatments to keep the heat in, and block drafts and cold air. Consider a velvet curtain right inside your front door: hang it high to elongate ceiling height, encompass the transom as well as the door, design in a tie-back ... so chic!
Because of velvet's pile, colors get a more intense, dimensional read. That makes for a really dramatic look that needs little else in terms of decorating, especially when working with jewel tones like deep teal, amethyst, garnet and bronze.
Highlight the gorgeous texture and color of your velvet by choosing an upholstery piece with tufting details, for a look that is both stylish and timeless.
Because of their unique sheen, velvets in grey and golden colors can sometimes read as having a metallic look, very cool!