Talking Out Loud With Janet Kain …..

There has been an explosion of entrepreneurs that are not in dot-com or finance.  These new waves of intrepid business owners are embracing more traditional job paths that forgo IPOs and embracing alternative careers.  They are artisans, crafts persons, shop owners and skilled collectors who are keeping time-honored traditions alive.  ”Talking Out Loud” is a chronicle of the conversations with these people about their work, life and inspirations……

I was introduced to pillows and soft goods of Janet Kain by a mutual friend and business colleague.  I am always excited when I meet individuals who find their passion a little later in life as I truly believe that it is that time we spend “marinating” that allows us so many distinct advantages in filling a market need.  Janet and her business partner, Sarin, sat down with me to talk pillows and what it takes to make the ultimate place to rest a weary head……

Janet Kain Collage

With all the various home décor products you could design, why pillows?

(Janet) While I was decorating my own home, I found that it was very hard to find high quality pillows that made a statement – bold colors and graphics, without having them custom made.   I realized there was a gap in the marketplace for people who wanted fabulous high quality pillows without waiting months and meeting fabric minimums to have them custom made.  Pillows are the one home décor product that has the ability to transform a room and can easily be changed whenever you or your room needs a pick me up!

JK Pillows

What makes a “good pillow”?  What are the three key things consumers should look for when purchasing a pillow? 

(Sarin) What we think consumers should look for is not just a good pillow, but a great pillow!  The first thing to notice is the quality of the sewing (things such as pattern match up, high quality threads and invisible zippers).  Next, great pillows should have the same high quality fabric on both sides of the pillow, not a less expensive fabric on the back.  Last but not least, look for generously stuffed inserts made of feathers and down.

(J) I jokingly say that if a fabric doesn’t scream “touch me” as I walk by, it is left on the bolt.  When selecting a fabric, what things are you looking for?

(J) Excitement of colors is the first thing that catches my eye, bold colorful graphics that make a statement.   Linens, woven cottons, silks.  Coolness to the touch for summer fabrics, plushness and luxury in heavier fabrics for winter and year round.  When looking at neutrals we are drawn to dimension such as cotton velour on top of linen ground – those definitely call out to be touched!

Decorative pillows are what I call the “crown jewels” of a finished room.  What are 2-3 other things you think complete a room.

(J) We fully agree with that!  I always say pillows to home décor are the equivalent of dazzling accessories to a little black dress.  A coordinating throw and a fabulous tray are two other finishing touches that tie a room together and complete the look.


All of your pillows are made in upstate New York.  Why was it important to you to have your products manufactured stateside?

(S) Quality.  To ensure the craftsmanship lives up to our high standards, we feel it is important to have the sewing done in the States to maintain the quality control.  It costs more, but it is worth it for quality.  We are also proud to be able to do our part in keeping jobs here in the USA.

You opened the business in 2008, right before the recession, but weathered the storm.  What did that time frame teach you being a small business owner?  Any words of wisdom you would share?

(S) What we found is that even when you’re not able to spend the money to redecorate an entire room, changing pillows is a great way to transform the room and freshen up your existing furniture.  For this reason, our pillows sold very well during the recession.  Starting a small business is tough in any economy, but as long as you don’t cut corners on quality, you can hopefully ride out the hard times.  A great tip we can pass along that we have learned is when budgets are tight, social media is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your brand, so don’t underestimate the power of that medium!

Janet Kain 4

Many designers dream about launching a signature line of home décor and accessories but you did.  What do you think was the one thing you would share with someone contemplating a similar move?

(J) Stay true to your vision and don’t deviate from your look.  Select items that complement your main product and fit within that aesthetic.

You have several collections on the web site.  What goes into creating a collection?  What can we expect from future collections?  What’s on the horizon?

(J) Pattern themes, colors that work well in certain settings and where we envision them being used.  We always stay ahead of the curve on home design trends.  Right now, plum and charcoal are hot, which we had in our fall collection and we see that continuing through the winter.  We watch fashion trends closely because of the strong tie between fashion and home décor.  Not ready to give up our secrets yet on what’s next, but you can sign up for our email updates to see what we have in store for next spring!

Mary Ann LR_00016

Life, like pillows, often gets tossed around, so as the final question, what would you say is your “recipe” for being on course and not letting the things that life tosses at you get in the way?

(J & S) The partnership between Sarin and me really helps keep us on track and focused.  We have very different skill sets and backgrounds and are able to bring both to the table to complement each other perfectly.  Having passion for what you do, setting priorities and a great partnership is the recipe that has led to success for us!

Thank you Janet and Sarin!  Check out all the beautiful pillows and soft goods on the Janet Kain website!  I have my eye on a pair of the Criss Cross Pillows and the cognac leather tray for a client…..and perhaps the  Sea Breeze Hourglass throw for me if I am a good boy come the holidays!

[photo credit: Janet Kain]

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Talking Out Loud: Drygoods Design….

Talking Out Loud is where I talk to young entrepreneurs and artisans about their careers, the path of how they got there and what lies on the horizon for them.  It’s their thoughts, their words and their journey…….

This time around, I was lucky enough to talk with Keli Faw, owner of the Seattle-based fabric and craft store, Drygoods Designs.  I was introduced to Keli and her store through mutual friend and fellow interior design, Beth Dotolo.  Nestled in the historic Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Drygoods Design is unlike any fabric store I have entered.  Sparkling wine is chilling in ice buckets for harried patrons to sip and while their children play in a designated kid’s area.  Fabrics are displayed along side jars of old-fashioned candy; a riotous explosion of print and pattern that is actual eye candy for the textile soul.  And in the center of it all is Keli……

Keli Faw_DrygoodsDesigns

Why opening up a fabric store? There are so many different types of retail stores to open, so what was it about the Seattle landscape that promoted you to open a retail fabric shop?

The retail storefront turned out to be a byproduct of my online shop. I started an online fabric site in the spring of 2011 because I wanted to grow my small line of handmade goods which were carried at some local shops. By the beginning of 2012 I was growing out of my small office space and had several local customers that wanted to come and see the fabric, pick up and have a more personal experience but my tiny office wasn’t working. I no longer had time to make my line of goods but was now helping others find fabrics they couldn’t find easily in other parts of the globe, the US and even Seattle. While some of the local fabric retailers carry some assortment of modern motifs, there’s never been one that felt edited. My customers seemed to like the online experience and so my goal was to make that happen in the brick and mortar version as well. Now that we opened the sewing studio, the focus shifts to not just what people want to make but how to make it too.

Did you have a previous career before opening up Drygoods Design? If so, what was it and has it helped you with the current business?

I come from a background in business, PR and communications. You’d think that I would be really proficient at promoting my business, however, almost all of our retail business has been by walk-in and word of mouth. I didn’t want to promote it until I felt we were really ready as it’s not a traditional type of place. I think what’s helped me most is trying each day to think about our customers. I try to approach my business by thinking about what I most enjoy in a shopping experience and service versus what’s the most profitable or cost-effective. It’s important it makes business sense, but I’d rather have gradual growth born out of customer care versus rapid and impersonal.

What is it about fabric that interesting to you? What intrinsic or aesthetic qualities about the material/medium drew you to it?

About six years ago I inherited an old sewing machine and taught myself how to sew and in doing so discovered that there were some affordable and modern fabrics out there. I became addicted to not only making things but the search for beautiful fabrics. I am a stickler when it comes to the hand of fabric – how it washes, drapes and feels. We are touched by cotton everyday and that is what I love most about it. You don’t have to like to sew or craft to appreciate textiles or be drawn to them.


Where do you get your fabrics from for the store? What criteria do you use to select fabrics to present to your customers?

While the majority of the fabrics we carry are deemed mid-weight or quilter’s (for its ability to shrink equally on the warp and the weft) cotton, we also stock home decor, apparel and outdoor fabrics. For almost all I work with the manufacturers or their reps, but some I have to find brokers or “jobbers.” I typically buy by color versus collection as I want to have different prints work across all the companies I carry versus people be locked into buying from one collection. Almost all the fabrics we carry have to be either a customer request or something that I truly love before it comes into the store. You hardly ever like all the songs on an album and to me fabric is very similar, so I try to edit down each of my buys into the best of the best. It’s really hard since there’s so many amazing options and I can’t carry everything. For example, I would love to carry Marimekko but at $40+ a yard and Crate & Barrel carrying it, it doesn’t make much sense. I try to tame my wish to carry more by also stocking complimentary products like packaging, gifts and cards that work well with the fabric.

In your opinion, what makes a “good” fabric? Has there been any fabrics that has made you stop in your tracks recently and say “wow?

While it depends on its use, I think ‘good’ fabric is a textile that invokes an emotional, almost visceral (in a good way) response. Sometimes it’s merely the weave or the texture that can have you smitten but most often it’s the motif or print that draws us to one print over another. Color is a huge factor as well. Novelty fabrics certainly have their place but just like anything, I love fabrics that don’t hit you over the head with their intended use or theme and let you draw that out or shift it by your eye deciding how you want to live with it. The second part is the quality of the base cloth. It has to feel right and drape in a manner that lets you see the possibility of what it is on the bolt. My current loves are illustrated geometrics and a return to the combinations of yesteryear with tight florals and geometrics playing off each other. We stock Liberty of London Tana Lawns and seriously, it’s like they were woven by angels. I have some Japanese fabrics headed in that I ordered at least five months ago and they will definitely have the wow factor.


How would you say living in Seattle has informed your selections for the store?

While I have lived in Seattle almost 10 years, I still don’t consider myself a local. A great deal of my influence is probably from living outside of the Northwest. I believe though that being in Ballard, the old Scandinavian fishing village/neighborhood of Seattle, definitely impacts my responses when I see vintage Scandinavian, viking motifs and subtle nautical prints. And we probably don’t focus too much on resort style prints given that it’s nice about three months out of the year here.

So you own a fabric store, so it begs to be asked…do you sew? If so, what is your favorite thing to sew?

Thanks to the opening of our sewing studio, I am sewing more now than I have since I opened up the shop, which is a great deal of fun. While I am starting to really enjoy sewing apparel – my favorite sewing is for those I know and care about. Being able to envision the person(s) using what I make, it’s truly what it’s all about for me. Those projects range from baby goods to accessories that they can use and enjoy.


If money was no object, is there fabric that you would go out and buy for yourself?

More Liberty of London Tana Lawns to keep, original supina ikat, more vintage fabrics.

You opened up what many would say is a non-traditional retail store and have succeeded quite well with it. What piece of advice would you give to a budding retailer who is looking to open up his or her own store?

Thanks for the kind words! It’s all about knowing that no matter how hard people might tell you it is and how much work it will be, you have to know your own limits because until you’re in your own experience you won’t realize it’s even harder than one could imagine. I don’t regret my choice but it is not for everyone. You have to love, I mean really love, interacting with all kinds of people and working around the clock. I am still in the thick of it as it appears I like to add a new layer every six to eight months:). My husband and two kids definitely sacrifice for this to build up and I can’t wait to repay all of their support.

Fabric is often used as a metaphor to describe the interwoven qualities of life. As a fabric retailer, your products find themselves in the most intimate aspects of your customer’s lives – from their children to their homes. What would be the highest compliment you think you could receive from a client who used on of your products?

That’s a great question (and so hard to answer). I feel really lucky to have the online and in-store customers that we have. Until we opened the studio, it was the feedback around customers feeling taken care of and cared about when they shopped, both online and in-store that really made each day. Now with the studio, it’s really amazing to see people learn and grow confident in their own ability to make things. That injection of creativity and community is truly incredible and I pinch myself that I get to be a part of it. It is a derivative of a ton of work but worth it all.

Thank you Keli for sharing your insights with us!  I now need to learn to sew so I can put all the beautiful fabrics from Drygoods Design to use……

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Pillows, Flowers & the Weekend….

If you are anything like me, you tend to gravitate towards fancy things.  Shoes, fabrics, cars – honestly if you can slap the prefix “expensive” on it, there is a strongly likelihood I have had an improper crush on it at one time or another.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some inexpensive stuff but often a certain level of detail, craftsmanship and quality are put into items with a higher price tag.

For example, you can find some great inexpensive and mid-range fabrics on the market.  However, they don’t have the weight, stitching or luxe feel in the hand as a higher priced fabric like a JAB velvet or a Romo linen.  So imagine my surprise when I ran across these two pillows at Crate and Barrel and its hipper sister CB2….

The large striped pillow is from CB2 and is made from a really beautiful light weight open weave linen.  The pillow cover and the feather insert total $29+ tax.  In turn, the cut velvet pillow is from Crate and Barrel and is beautiful in person.  The pattern reminds me of something from Beacon Hill or Romo and the colors are rich and muted.  At $39 for the insert and cover, it is a steal.  A quick calculation reminded me that I rarely am able to find a 24×24 feather insert for that price, let alone a pillow cover, so I bought 3.

Yes, I know paying $200 for 6 pillows may seem excessive to some, but a yard of the fabric alone would be around that of and then factor in labor plus the cost of the insert and you are now looking at spending that much on one pillow potentially.

So using “new shopping math”, I took my well-earned savings and picked up some fresh flowers at the grocery store….

People bag on carnations but I think they are the workhorse of the cut flower world.  Keep them monochromatic and add in some floral berries and you can create a pretty but modern center piece for less than $10.

I am off to repack since it looks like I am making a quick trip home to Michigan next week.  So tell me, what is your “secret place” for stellar cheap finds?

Have a great weekend!

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Pattern Play….

Last night, I found myself at 10:30pm playing around with different fabric samples I pulled a few days ago for a client.  They are a couple in the Castro area of San Francisco who live on the second floor a converted Victorian.  I have been hired to do the living room and it is a tight space, as the case normally is with most Victorian conversions – it is a long, lean room with soaring ceilings.  However, the architectural interest that comes to mind when you think “Victorian” has been ripped out – the moldings are whimsy, the wall paneling has been long removed and the fireplace mantle is “meh” to say the least.  I would love to come in and do a full remodel to bring this starlet back to its leading lady status.


As is in most cases with my clients, they are first time home owners who have extended themselves to the max to purchase in this hot San Francisco real estate market.  Funds are slim – like I am calling in favors slim – so much of the high impact (and high budget) architectural details have to be shelved for another day.   I did find money in the budget to build new shelving, re-tile the fireplace, put in new hardwoods and install a window seat.  Fingers crossed, I can swing new stair railings in glass and walnut using an out of the box trick – it may or may not work …we will see.

All that said, since I won’t have a ton of architectural elements to play with in this room, I am going to be leaning heavily on textiles to tell a store and add visual interest.  While I am pretty positive, the clients will not go in this direction, I am currently in love with this fabric story……

Clockwise: Pindler & Pindler Whimsy in Shimmer//JAB Velvet in Tizian //Beacon Hill Camaraderie in Smoke//Pindelr & Pindler Goldleaf in Dove

I would use the Whimsy fabric as drapery with a dark or black leading edge to tone down some the “cuteness” in this fabric.  It may reappear as a pillow on the sofa which I would do in an inexpensive linen in a taupe color.  Pillows would be made in Camaraderie while I would recover their round ottoman in the Goldleaf fabric with contrast piping.  A sleek Milo Baughman inspired chair would be treated to the yellow velvet potentially with grey calf leather accents.

This is a work in progress – so we will see what happens when all is said and done, but this fabric story has all the criteria I strive for: color, pattern, texture, sheen and my personal favorite, a sense of humor.

Alrighty, I am off to continue my search for steel casement French doors – either vintage or someone who can make them at a price point that I don’t have to hoc my first-born.

Have a GREAT weekend!!!

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Head Over Heels About Headboards……

Last week, I felt like I was a superstar between client visits, a trip to LA and my super support team of family and friends, I was riding moon beams and giving high fives to angels.  Somewhere around Sunday that all came to a screeching halt.  Evidently giving high fives to angels is the perfect way to contract a cold.  I am coughy, tired, sore and cranky….. I seriously could punch a baby rabbit in the face.  That is how drained and icky I feel.  All I want to do is lie in bed and wait for the Grime Reaper.  Sadly, there is no rest for the weary or sick in this house, so I dragged my butt outta bed and got to work.

While my body may have been physically running about pulling fabric swatches and measuring chairs, my head was firmly on my “mental pillow” trying to catch a few extra moments of rest.  However, even in the depths of sickness, I dream about design, in particular, headboards.  If you are like me, when you are sick, all you want is your bed so it seems a bit obvious that while I was guzzling Theraflu like it was Two Buck Chuck, that I should hallucinate/daydream about headboards.

For myself, I find that sourcing custom headboards can be a bit stressful.  You have to buy the fabric, find a workroom to build the frame and if you are truly unlucky (as it typically my case) you will need to find a third vendor to actually upholster the darn thing.  (Sidenote, it was a rookie mistake on my part to have 3 vendors work on once piece – that will never happen again!) .  Fortunately, one of my favorite go to stores, Z Gallerie, has recently launched its headboard program saving me from being a head case!

Z Gallerie’s headboards start at $449.00, come in sizes up to California King.  To make life easier on y’all, Z Gallerie has made their custom headboards in seven different styles but here are my favorite four:

The (1) Juliet  is a simple, curved silhouette brushed with  silver nail heads while the (2) Grace is a dramatically arched headboard.  The (3) Kate  is a sassy, classic headboard with double hand applied nail-head trim and finally the (4) Francesca is  a regal, elegant with a timeless arch cut.

While I lean towards a class silhouette, I love myself so bold fabric so I was stoked to hear that Z Gallerie is offering the headboards in over 17  different upholstered fabrics.  That’s all fine and dandy but how often have you found yourself bored with their textiles that stores give you to cover your furniture with.  I understand that microsuede is a great thing but I would rather have a dinner date with Rush Limbaugh and discuss contraception, then put it on my couch.  Thank goodness Z Gallerie is offering a variety of patterned fabrics include the Kenya Zebra Stripe (as seen on the Francesca headboard above).  On the flip side, they are not offering COM (customer’s own fabric) as an option right now which pains me but it’s a start. 

So as I drag myself to bed tonight, I can dream of happy thoughts about being head over heels about a new headboard for a client.  Okay, I think I may have overdosed on the Theraflu as I just tried to turn on my TV with my iPhone.   With that said, what type of headboard do you love?  High and tight?  Low and tufted?  Modern and wood?  Shoot me  a comment and let me know.  And also be sure to check back tomorrow as I am hosting a give away…Yay for Hump Day Give Aways!

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Master Bedroom Update: Yup, It’s Another Chair……

I have not talked much about the master bedroom update since the article I wrote for Centsational Girl.  It is still pretty much the same room as seen in the picture on the House Tour page

I am stuck on whether I should wallpaper the angular accent wall or paint.  The wallpaper I want is extremely expensive and comes with a 25 yard minimum order which isn’t a bad thing since I would love to do our whole bedroom in it.  At over $85/yard, it is a pricey investment that does not improve the overall value of the home especially knowing that this is not my “forever home”. 

So while I am dragging my feet on beginning the wall transformation, I did pull the trigger on having the occasional chair recovered that sits in the corner.  I had multiple ideas for the chair (here and here) but opted to do a simple upholstery job that would not lock me into a particular design should I change my mind. 

The chair was originally covered in a moss green ultrasuede which was fine when it served the purpose of a really expensive laundry hamper since I am too lazy to fold clean laundry (yeah it’s one of my growth areas for 2012).

However, I wanted something a bit more glam in the fabric department.  As I mentioned, fabric for the chair went through a couple of missteps from a overscale zebra print, to grey and gold polka dots to large-scale window pane print.  Each fabric was great on its own but didn’t quite work with the overall room I envisioned in my head (FYI if anyone wants some great zebra, polka dot or windowpane print fabrics, shoot me an email).  After looking at all my false starts, I realized that (1) my eye was consistently going to golds and pewters and (2) the fabric patterns were the sticking point on all of the other fabrics.  Armed with this information, I redirected my fabric search, found a great fabric & finally got the versatile chair I was hoping for……

The fabric I opted for was Club Room III in Dune by Duralee.  It is a tawny color with strips of gold lurex-like fabric woven throughout it.  It catches the light beautifully but is subtle.  To play along with the sheen of the chair and the gold vibe, I got the Bijoux-Dot throw pillow from West Elm.

While the chair isn’t in-your-face-fab-awesome like my other chair make overs (here and here), I think it will serve its future purpose — to blend seamlessly.  The end goal is to create a room that is a calm retreat and I think the chair puts me on the right path.

So how was your weekend? 

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Spoonflower Give Away Winner….

So the winner of the Spoonflower fabric give away is……….

So that means Bri from the awesome blog Me, You & a Wiener  is the winner!   Knowing Bri’s track record of creating awesomeness, I am excited to see how she works her mojo on the fabric!

However, for those of you who didn’t win, remember that I have ANOTHER give away going on right now!  Be sure to enter my drawing for an awesome modern/vintage tea set.  I am a giving machine this month — all you gotta do is enter…..