Natural fabrics and fibers are usually my first choice when selecting and specifying materials for any interior design project. I believe organic elements in the home are more harmonious and healthy, improving – and preserving – the environment inside and out. However, there are times when a man-made alternative is an appropriate solution. And, there’s a balance between the two.
For families with young children, businesses, commercial use, or anywhere with heavy traffic (think restaurants, hotel lobbies and lounges), we employ “Performance” Leather (PL), a high-tech vinyl (that’s what it is) leather substitute. Improved upon in recent years to look, act, and feel like the real deal, PL and other man-made materials provide cost-effective, durable and easy to maintain furnishings in a variety of applications.
Recently, we completed designing a modern condo in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district for a young couple with a toddler. The husband and wife wanted their home to reflect their sophisticated and decidedly grown-up tastes. Part of the project required designing a custom ottoman for the couple, and their toddler, who wanted the home’s décor to reflect their love of travel – as well as their sophisticated interior design preferences. But with a small child, they needed their home to be livable and functional too.
A blend of natural fabrics and performance textiles and finishes makes this grown-up living room stylish and kid proof.
We specified PL upholstery for the large, round ottoman with a unique shelf built below the cushion. This space was created to stow remotes, magazines, books and what not, while resting your feet above. The PL’s rich, realistic patina gives the piece gravitas, but it can withstand the sticky hands of a wayward toddler or an accidental spill – cleaning up with the wipe of a wet cloth.
With those same sticky mitts in mind, we used a truly remarkable vinyl wall covering. Again, playing doppelganger to the real McCoy, this easy-care wall covering looks – and feels – like flannel. Richly textured, the tactile wall sets the tone for the room, adding a soft, yet tailored element to a masculine environment – and very easy to clean.
On a commercial interior design project for Madison Park Financial Corporation, we cozied up the lounge areas and landings of a recently converted-to-condos electric light manufacturing warehouse called Lampwork Lofts. Almost every resident in the building owns a dog, so ensuring easy clean up for all communal and public area furnishings, was also a key factor in selecting performance fabrics over their natural counterparts.
We used real leather on benches located at the elevator landings of each floor, setting the design tone and unifying the public décor within, however, in the “Edison Room,” a community lounge located on the 3rd floor of the building, we created a convivial horseshoe configuration using three oversized sofas upholstered in an antique finished PL. Paying homage to the building’s origin story, the upholstery’s rustic component is echoed by two oversized, dented metal hanging lamps, complementing the modern industrial vibe of a hip, pet-friendly apartment building.
Performance leather couches for a pet friendly downtown loft and their communal “Edison Room” lounge. Lampwork Lofts, Oakland, CA – a Madison Park Financial Corporation Project
If your interior design ideal involves kids, dogs, or lots of traffic, consider the benefits and affordability of performance fabrics and finishes. With countless colors, textures and applications, these modern-day materials allow you to maintain your grown up décor sensibilities with beautiful and practical solutions for a world full of sticky mitts and muddy paws.
(Originally published in the Piedmont Post.)