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  • Writer's pictureMme Vanessa Williamson

Ohh that’s French fabric !!!!

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Our French house has wall upholstery. From fabric set into 18thc timber panels to whole walls lined with beautiful vintage & new designer French fabrics.

I started my working life at 15, at a two shift a week job, in a boutique shop selling curtain & furnishing fabrics. A passionate sewer surround by velvets, chintz, bold & wild 1970s cotton prints I was in my hearts home. It was not long before my fabric source for clothes moved from the dress fabrics to furnishing textiles. There began a life long love affair with fabrics.! As I tided the falling rolls, rewrapped the bolts of cotton each shift, I lingered over stunning prints dreaming of clothes to create.

I don‘t recall if I ever knew walls could be decorated with fabric. Or that the French wove special fabrics 2.80m wide especially for walls & sofas. It was a joyeous discovery, when we started fabric shopping for our new home in France. We purchased 3 rolls of French toile de jouy 2.80m wide in Sydney before we left to move. Importing the fabrics back to France, carefully wrapped up in our huge shipping container. A shopping expedition across the city, found them tucked away amongst piles of seconds & fabric roll ends, in a rare surviving furnishing fabrics discount store; sadly sewing & curtains in Sydney have declined.

Two years later, now living happily in France our clients & guests are amazed on arrival to their rooms to see the walls covered in what at first appears to be wallpaper. Joyously decorated patterned abundance. Creating a feeling of a spring garden in the Giverny room. When told it’s vintage fabric made in Mayenne, visitors are amazed & gently touch the walls, then turning to us smiling, with the discovery that it so.

Down the long first floor hallway of our house, the walls were once upholstered in natural linen. The linen was stained, & no longer stable, the long hallway was crying out for redecorating. Little did we know how difficult replacing it would be. Finding a fabric we could afford & did true justice to our magnificent home was hard enough. But attaching the framework to mount the under wadding & then fabric to fragile 18thc horsehair & mud plaster surface, became a labour of perseverance & continuous problem solving.

After many months of stops & starts & consultation with an engineer friends. Simple new solutions were tried with success. Over January this year the fine timber frame work went up a second time. The wadding called moloton held, then by spring the joyeous fabric purchased so many months previously went up like magic. I was beyond delighted, not at first confident of my fabric choice. It’s simply fabulous.

Matt was now an expert and faced the Barons Room timber wall panel insets with the confidence of a professional. The french designer Manuel Canovas fabric bought from the factory sale in Laval was precious. We only just had enough, we hoped. We could not afford the €130 price for even a few extra meters. The red & purple Raj toile de jouy was of course a stunning success. A well deserved reward for Matt after so many months of work to completely renew paint, carpet, fabric, lights, wiring & ensuite. Restoring every surface of the room.

The luxury of rooms with timber & fabric covered walls is a joy, they insulate rooms from the cold of stone walls, & dull outside sound from life on a town square. Most of all they are beautiful. Life in France is full of many small unique details, enhancing life in quiet ways. For us & our friends & clients, our home’s new & vintage fabrics are one small special detail.

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