swatch watch

by Grace Bonney

Yesterday Amy and I hoofed it around the island of Manhattan looking for the perfect fabric for our new office couch. We’ve been wanting to do some partial re-upholstery, so we took the swatch from our couch’s current upholstery and visited Joe’s, Just Scandinavian, Mood and the rather overwhelming D&D building. We narrowed it down to two choices (I’ll share those and the final results when the project is finished) but I wanted to share some of our favorites from the day’s hunting.

*Image above: Griffith by Thom Felicia ($44.99/yd). We got awfully close to putting a seagull on it. I actually still love this fabric and want it on something.

I haven’t hunted for fabrics in a long time (I forgot what a zoo Mood is, it’s like Project Runway 24/7) and ended up feeling pretty worn out by the D&D building at the end. The last thing I want to do is run a credit check in order to get swatches, so I think I’ll stick to online hunting to narrow my options for now. And, speaking of online hunting, we found a great online resource for fabrics that I previously thought were D&D building only. Inside Fabric carries almost all of the lines we saw at the D&D building and helps you cut out the step of feeling like you’re not fancy enough to walk inside their showrooms. The more I thought about our experience in that building the angrier I got. Not a single person asked us if we needed help in at least 30 minutes of browsing and frankly, if I’m going to spend a large amount of money on fabric and not get any help, I’d rather do it online from the comfort of my sofa. So, if you like any of the fabric shown above, you can pick them up here at Inside Fabric. Some days I really, really love the internet. xo, grace

Image above: Dandelion by Groundworks ($133/yrd). The red/cream colorway is really beautiful.

Swash Stripe by Mulberry ($95.20/yrd). This one is far more loose and watercolor-style in person (Better image here).

Sea Urchin by Kelly Wearstler ($105/yd). Oh man, this one is so pretty in person.

“Patter” by Seacloth ($67.20/yd) looks far more gentle and watercolor-y in person.

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  • I just had that same experience in a fabric store two weeks ago! Except I was in Houston. I was pretty put off too, and I was finding the idea of buying fabric online daunting, so this post is just what I need to get back on the upholstery horse! Thanks Grace for posting to online sources.

  • I was a fabric buyer for a costume shop in NYC for several years and I would always have to go up to the D&D building. I always felt like I had to dress up in order to step foot in there and it was very hard to get any kind of help. I finally made friends with a few of the stores in there but only after going in 3 or more times and proving that I had company $ to spend. I totally relate to what you wrote!
    Have you tried harry Zarin in the LES?

  • That seagull fabric is really amazing! I am thrilled you posted online resources so even us West Coasters can shop! Isn’t it funny how bad customer service can really affect you? I totally boycotted a beautiful store that sold the most wonderful fixtures and products for bathrooms because they refused to acknowledge my presence -several times! They’re dead to me now, and actually, I think they have gone out of business…

  • These are so gorgeous, but I think you address my challenge with internet fabric shopping in the post, Grace, when you write that “this looks far more ‘X’ in person”. Fabric is so visual and tactile. I know companies will send swatches, but the process just becomes so daunting when it takes on so many steps. All this to say that it stinks that these stores don’t value their customers more because I LOVE a good fabric shopping experience!

  • Grace…you’re an angel for posting this. I just went to Inside Fabrics and found EXACTLY what I needed for a project in less than two minutes. Hooray!!! So happy now. Thank you!!!

    (p.s. the red dandelions ARE super cute)

  • Snooty salespeople (and coffee shop baristas) are the worst! Glad you were able to get your fabric fix online instead :)

  • I saw D&D on Dear Genevieve the other day and she commented on the stuffy feel too- not the best press for them lately! Maybe it will help them come off their horse.

  • I always find it funny that sales people of upscale stores look down on customers. That customer most likely earns more than they do.

  • Do you know what’s a bummer? I usually find the ladies that work at the $10/yd fabric stores to be a little condescending too.

  • Nothing irks me more than terrible sales people (I often talk about it an embarrassingly long time after the fact) but in defense of the D&D, I know some wonderful reps there. When I first started visiting a few years ago, I definitely got that I-am-not-wearing-Chanel-so-why-help-me vibe, but you’d be surprised once you start talking to people how helpful and friendly they can be. This might be naive, but if you open your mind a bit to people I find they tend to open themselves to you. Normally I would think, ‘oh, forget this!’ but because I had to stick with my visits for sourcing I was pleasantly surprised and have made good friends over time.
    Also, one reason the trade programs are set up is because if everybody took samples the place would be empty in a week. If you’d ever like a trade source so you can check out samples, I’d be more than happy to go with you and show you some of my favorite showrooms and people!

  • How is it that a blogger/author who has featured an endless array of fabrics and wallcoverings from talented designers and manufacturers has resorted to shopping at the D&D bldg. anyway?
    I thought the premise of your blog was all about the small, the affordable and the independents.
    If that is not the case I will send some photos of our multi-thousand dollar carpets and accessories.

    • jeffrey

      if you read the full post, then you’ll know we visited a lot of different shops, not just the d&d. i also did etsy searches but in terms of upholstery fabric worth investing in, we wanted to see ALL our options. upholstery of any scale is going to cost $500+ so i wanted to make sure we made a wise investment that we really loved- and to me, that is what d*s is about, not necessarily shopping super low cost, indie/etsy 100% of the time. if you read d*s on a regular basis you’ll see cost is never the driving factor here- creativity and beauty are.

      also, i think it’s worth noting that “independents” doesn’t mean affordable. there are plenty of indie designers charging $100+ per yard costs.


  • I had an amazing customer service experience at Zarin’s and I would highly recommend shopping there. After being ignored at Mood, it was so refreshing to go into a store where people asked if they could help me. It made a huge difference.

  • Any recommendations for good online or Toronto-area textile shops? Everything available in my area is so dated (Ahhh Fabricland!), I’m looking for fun, graphic prints for my living room and I’m hesitant to commit online incase the colours aren’t what they appear to be. Thanks!

  • Fabric shopping online? Sure, you can do some research but fabric has to be seen, touched and handled to be understood. And there is no place else in the world that has a higher concentration of the most beautiful fabrics along with the most seasoned and knowledgable sales people as the D&D. Yes, the building does cater to professional interior designers, so if you are not comfortable shopping in a milleu of design expertise then you probably should stick to your comfort zone of the internet or retail venues.
    Also, you do not need to have a credit check run to take out samples in the D&D, you just need to fill out a simple account application. Samples are valauble tools that need to be returned and re used and professional designers respect and understand this. The D&D building provides a valuable service to the interior design community. In my experience the vibe you give off is the one that comes back to you.

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