Legendary fabric house Scalamandre is branching out

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Scalamandre is covering it all. No longer content with windows, walls and chairs, the luxury home-fabric, trims and wall-covering manufacturer has opened up its 84-year-old archive of patterns to a new world of possibilities.

"They really are the foundation of this company," said president Steven Stolman, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.

Scalamandre launched a new bedding and accessories line with Eastern Accents and teamed up with Lenox to bring its patterns to the table. It also put its iconic zebra on Stubbs & Wootton's smoking slippers and hand-finished silk neckties made by Pierrepont Hicks. The company has also collaborated with British-born textile and fabric designer Kathryn M. Ireland (not to be confused with former model Kathy Ireland).

During the launch of Scalamandre's bedding line at the High Point International Furniture Market earlier this year, Mr. Stolman discussed his vision for the brand that has enhanced stately homes ranging from William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon to the White House. The company has always been known for its restoration work with historic homes and museums.

"So much of what we have done is scholarly and curatorial," he said.

When he joined Scalamandre two years ago, the first thing he did was become familiar with the archives. "It was an exercise in sensory overload," he recalled, laughing.

There he found every motif and trend that had been a part of the interior design world since 1929. "From art deco to art modern in the 1930s to the exuberance of the '50s and the youth quake and pop art expressions of the 1960s and back to the more restrained and traditional looks of the late '70s and '80s, everything is there.

"I wanted to find designs that didn't require an advanced degree in historic decor."

Facing a treasure trove of material that could go from feral to delicate in one swatch, Mr. Stolman looked for patterns that would be immediately understandable and would translate well into other media. His background in the fashion world gave him an advantage in seeking out motifs that would resonate with consumers.

"We know that our red zebra wallpaper that was designed in 1945 is a popular favorite."

Louis Renzo, who bought the company in 2009 from the third generation of the Scalamandre family, fell in love with it the moment he saw it, according to Mr. Stolman.

"He is a financier, not from the world of interior decor, and yet he loved it. So we knew it would have a broad appeal.

"Those of us in the company who are sensitive to the vagaries of fashion are aware it has been an animal print cycle for the last 15 years and the cycle has moved from leopard to zebra," he observed.

The zebra print wallpaper was featured in the Hampton Designer Showhouse in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and the zebra plates for Lenox are among its most popular.

"We happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right motif," Mr. Stolman said.

While the possibilities for expansion are endless, "you must be sure they are appropriate for the brand and have some connection to print and pattern. Because at our core, we are a fabric, wall-covering and trim company."

The collaboration with Kathryn M. Ireland supports that philosophy. The California-based designer scoured the archives for patterns that spoke to her and then re-fabricated or recolored them for today's tastes.

"She gave us a West Coast sensibility, which is appropriate for second homes -- Aspen, the Hamptons, coastal California," said Mr. Stolman.

He understands that consumers want more casual, transitional styles today. So while the archives provide a strong backbone, Scalamandre continues to design new patterns while exploring new avenues for expanding the brand. Lenox was a logical partner, he said.

"Scalamandre is about gracious living, pattern and color, so we knew we could have a voice in the tabletop world. We are having a lot of fun with this, especially the bar ware."

Crystal tumblers with etched prancing zebras are a swanky take on the cocktail culture trend of today and a hit with bridal registries. As far as the bedding line for Eastern Accents, he says, "It's an all-out love affair. They manufacture in America and make beautiful sheeting that is cut and sewn off the roll in Chicago."

Scalamandre and Eastern Accents are also doing small upholstered pieces such as stools and benches, decorative pillows and semicustom-made drapery panels. "They hand-paint our pillow fronts with an artist on site. They even have a duck farm to make their own down," he said, smiling.

In October at High Point, Scalamandre will introduce a lighting line with Port 68. Hinting at a clothing component somewhere down the road, he referenced Etro, the Italian brand that started as a fabric company and is now a high-end fashion house as well.

"In many ways for me, this is the job of a lifetime," said Mr. Stolman.

homes - fashion

Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ pasheridan.


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