Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts on 2009 and Madras Lace Curtains

It's been a heck of a year for all of us; but as we close out the books on 2009 and prepare for 2010, I took some time to think back on the challenges we faced as a business, and in truth, I'm really gratified.

What am I most grateful for? All of you; our customers, artisans, showroom owners and supporters!

One of the drawbacks of being an Internet business is that you seldom get to meet your clientele, and so I traveled around the country and I got to speak with so many of you in person at shows, museums and even while installing our curtains when I could! I was humbled by your enthusiasm for our products and just how broadly and deeply the awareness of our line has become! Who would have thought that just over two years ago, when we emerged as a tiny newbie in the crowded lace curtain field, our star would shine so brightly, and so quickly? Our products have evidently caused a ripple across the industry, and I'm truly flattered by this, as it is only further affirmation of our concept of Artful Lace.

We introduced a line of lace curtains designed by Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers and your response has been fantastic! As of tomorrow, we'll be taking orders for our newest lace pattern: Oak & Acorn by C. F. A. Voysey and David E. Berman. The introduction of this latest pattern is especially rewarding; we have be displaying its prototype at trade shows since May of 2009, and we finally came up with the perfect border, thanks to David at Trustworth Studios.

So again, thanks to all of you for making the most of a challenging year. Drive safely, have a great time, and know that you all deserve my warmest affection.


Dan Cooper, President
Cooper's Cottage Lace, LLC

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Voysey Oak & Acorn Lace

About Our Newest Lace Pattern
by C. F.A. Voysey and David E. Berman

First off, a little history about C. F. A. Voysey: he was an English architect and designer of the second generation of the British Arts & Crafts Movement. Voysey followed on the heels of William Morris and Charles Locke Eastlake, and was a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Think of these gents and their peers as Great Britain's answer to France's Art Nouveau and Germany's Jugendstil.

Secondly, let me introduce David E. Berman of Trustworth Studios. David is a Voysey fanatic: he has taught himself woodworking, metalsmithing, finishing and any other skill that might allow him to reproduce Voysey's designs. He started with furniture and lighting, but now he focuses on creating Voysey's wallpaper and fabrics.
David has been a dear friend of mine since the early 1990s when I worked in the eastern part of the state and had a long commute. I would stay over at his place twice a week, and we shared many a dinner and occasionally went on historic interior design calls together. Our exploits are the fodder for my second book, which hopefully will be published in the coming year or so.
Back to the lace: Cooper's Cottage Lace has always sought to approach the finest contemporary Arts and Crafts Movement artisans and ask them to design our Artful Lace curtains. David obliged with one of his favorites, The Oak and Acorn. It's a wallpaper design, and you can see Voysey's watercolor for it here:
(David would be delighted to print this for you in any color and scale, as that is Trustworth's speciality.) We decided that using a symmetrical mirror image would look nicer for a lace panel, so David flipped it, and this is the resulting image:
He then added a pin-stripe border, and I had it woven in Scotland in 100% cotton Madras Weave. We're both delighted with the way it turned out, and I'm so happy to be able to add it to our line of Arts and Crafts Lace Curtains.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Madras vs. Nottingham

A Tale of Two Laces

Almost all of the lace curtains that are currently available are fabricated in one of two different weaves: Madras or Nottingham. Most of the patterns that you see are Nottingham: it's less expensive to produce and there are several companies with Nottingham looms. A pattern is created by a number of different stitches that allow a variety of shadings. The lace is "flat", meaning that there is no outside or inside, and the panels are reversible.
Madras lace, on the other hand, is made by only one mill in Scotland, and it is a far more painstaking process. First, a layer of scrim is produced; imagine a very soft, fine piece of cheesecloth that is woven and then put back on the loom. Then, the pattern of choice is applied on top of the scrim and then the excess is sheared off. While there are only 2 or 3 "shadings", the detail is much crisper and delicate. There's also a fair amount of waste, and the looms are much slower. Madras lace also has a "fuzzy" side, which typically looks best facing into the room.

Here's the difference between the two:

I borrowed a friend's Nottingham curtain with an Arts and Crafts "Square Rose" motif and photographed it:
And below is a section of our Hunter Rose in Madras. Note that both roses are roughly the same size:

If you can blow up the shots, you can see their textural differences quite dramatically. This blog is not a judgement between the two weaves; both are great, but it's always nice to understand the difference.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deco The Halls Next Weekend!

(Arts & Crafts, too!)

"Over one hundred fifty dealers from across the country selling furniture, accessories, art, pottery, glass, books, jewelry, vintage clothing and collectibles from 1900 to 1980, including Arts & Crafts Mission, Monterey, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Streamline Modern, Vintage Western, Mid-Century Modern and exceptional design to 1980."

If you will be in the Bay Area next weekend, please visit the Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers booth. Aside from displaying their amazing collection of wall and ceiling papers, they will be showing some of our lace panels, including the Art Deco, Hunter Rose and Prairie Sumac Panels.

They will be featuring a special sale promotion on our lace curtains, good for one week only!
Admission and Hours:
Saturday, Dec. 5th 10 am - 6 pm and Sunday Dec. 6th 11 am - 5 pm

General Admission: $10 and Deco Society members and Seniors: $8
(Admission receipt credit towards single purchase of $100 or more.)

Directions to The Concourse Exhibition Center:

From the north: 101 South across The Golden Gate Bridge. Take Lombard Street, turn right onto Van Ness Avenue. Make a left onto Grove Street to Hyde Street, which becomes 8th when it crosses Market Street. Continue down 8th Street to Brannan.

From the east Bay: Take the Bay Bridge. Exit at 9th Street/Civic Center, go left onto 8th Street. Continue two blocks to Brannan. From the South Peninsula: Take 101 North to 7th Street Exit. Go straight onto Bryant Street, turn right onto 6th Street. Turn right on Brannan and continue to 8th Street.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Artful Lace

There's a handful or two of companies out there selling lace curtains to people with old houses or historically inspired interiors. You can find them on Google, just as you probably found my site: Cottage Lace. For the most part, they are decent folks with lovely merchandise, and truly, if you prefer one of their patterns over ours, that's fine. As an old house restorer for 20 years, I know the joy of finding just the right thing to complete a project, and I wish that for everyone.

When I started Cooper's Cottage Lace, LLC in September of 2007, I had already been selling lace curtains for the previous 16 years. As I looked around, I noticed that all of the patterns were roughly from the same era (1870-1910) and that there were a lot of similarities. I wanted to do something different, something Artful. Instead of copying the past exactly, I wanted to reinterpret lace curtain design into something historically inspired, but altogether original, in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement designers.

So, I contacted my artisan friends and asked them to design lace for me. They all rose to the challenge admirably, and the line has expanded from 6 patterns to 11, with some very special patterns to be introduced in the New Year. My friends really deserve the credit for our success, for they have created these wonderful patterns that in practice, make your house more beautiful, but in theory, continue the tradition of the Artisan-Designer. You can now decorate your home with the same passion that inspired William Morris and continued through the Roycrofters and onwards: craftsmanship, and respect for the past, while embracing the future.

So, with credit being due to those who truly deserve it, here's a huge "Thank You!" from me to the artisans that have made Cottage Lace such a success:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Book: New Classic American Houses

File this under shameless self-promotion:

My book is finally out; those of you who know me well are probably aware that I've been working on this for over a year. It's about the architecture of three Boston architects who are currently practicing. They are Albert, Righter and Tittmann, and when I was first shown their portfolio by the folks at the Vendome Press in New York, I said "It looks like McKim, Mead & White had stayed in business for another century!" The first review came out, from Resident Architect, and it is very favorable. You'd think my mother had written it.
You can buy my book pretty much everywhere...Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc. If you'd like to meet me, I'll be at the Boston Borders Books on School Street at 1pm on Tuesday, Dec. 8th for a brief signing.

I also owe a shout out to Mo at the William Morris Fan Club Blog, for years ago, she gave me a copy of "The Houses of McKim, Mead and White" which was a huge inspiration for me, not only in how I approach design within my own home and when working for others, but without it, I couldn't have been able to write this book.

Aside from blowing my own horn, I'd like to mention what fascinated me about these gents is their ability to embrace the past, and yet reinterpret it without resorting to rote copying. They are part of the evolution of Classical and Shingle Style architecture, and this willful participation in the progression of past to future is also the concept behind the lace curtain patterns of my company, Cooper's Cottage Lace, LLC. I call it "Artful Lace" and I'll go into this in my next blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tea Dyeing Lace

All of the cotton lace curtains that you see were a light brownish color when they were first woven; they're called gray goods or loomstate, and then these raw panels or yardage are taken to the finishers, where they are dyed to a specific color.

When Cooper's Cottage Lace started back in 2007, we decided to select one color for our lace that would be the most compatible with everyone's interior, and selected Natural White (also known in the trade as Ivory), as it was a pleasing white shade that was not too stark and was also potentially more stable than lace that had been bleached. Whan clients ask "What color is Natural White?" I tell them that it looks like white, until you put it next to pure white. It's not as brown as ecru, nor is it very "yellowy", either.

Natural white looks great with white woodwork but has enough of a tint to please folks who usually want a little bit of "character" to their curtains.

But, some of you out there want a lot of character, and so, herewith, are the instructions on how to tea-dye your lace. Tea-dyeing is a time honored method of darkening lace curtains to make them look antique, and is often used on film sets.

The following is from "The Crazy Quilt Handbook" by Judith Montano and C&T Publishing

"To make the tea solution, boil a gallon of water with four tea bags in it for 15 minutes. Strain the solution and return it to simmer. Wet the lace in plain water, then put it into simmering tea. When the lace has simmered for 15 minutes, take it out and put it in a setting solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar in one gallon of water. Let it set for 15 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly and press."

If you're considering trying this process, please call or email us, and we'll send you some cuttings to experiment with at no charge. You can also use fabric dyes, such as RIT or other types available from crafts stores. This can give you virtually any color imaginable, and is quite striking. I've seen our Old Colony in black, and it's beautiful.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lace Curtains for the Classical Interior

I've been selling historic lace curtains for roughly 19 years now, and one of the most common requests I've received is for lace panels and sheers that are appropriate for homes built before 1860. Here's the dilemma; machine-made lace curtains weren't yet available in the 18th and early 19th centuries. My clients who owned Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival Houses (along with some Second Empire and Italianates) had to make do with later Victorian lace curtains, but they felt that they were compromising their interior design.

Realizing this, and wishing to expand Cooper's Cottage Lace's line of lace curtain panels beyond the 1880-1920 range, I approached Steve Bauer of Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers to design several lace panels for me, including one based on the hugely popular Neo-Grec Roomset. Steve presented me with a design that we've called the Grecian Panel and Grecian Sidelight, and they've been a huge success.

The Grecian Sidelights, which are 20" wide, have fulfilled a need for all of those early houses that have narrow sidelight windows where the homeowners wanted privacy but also desired that daylight illuminate their hallways. The Grecian Panels themselves are grand, yet intricate lace curtains that accentuate that huge Empire Sofa you've just purchased like no other lace curtain panel available.

We've woven these 100% cotton panels, in lengths up to 90" long, although we can custom-weave any length, upon request. Our seamstress will also shorten them to whatever length you'd like. As mentioned, the sidelights are 20" wide, while the Grecian Panels are 47" wide. You can find out more about the Grecian Panels and our many other patterns at: