Bracketology: A Behind the Scenes Look at How I Find Fabrics Clients Love

Fabric, interior designer, interior design fabric, Portland interior designer


One of the reasons people hire interior designers is they don’t want to make a decision that will a) waste their money b) be bad choice for their home or c) waste their money by making a bad choice for their home. I get that. I don’t like wasting money, mine or my clients. And the thought of living with something that I don’t love, or even worse my clients don’t love isn’t an option. So how do I help clients keep from making those bad choices? I give them options. 

You’re thinking, wait a minute. Options? I thought the whole purpose of hiring a designer was to take away all the options so I’d get what I wanted and wouldn’t be overwhelmed by all the choices. Or take away the possibility that I’d choose something that wouldn’t look good. You’re right, sort of. But I think having some options are a good thing when selecting fabrics. Let me explain. 

When I meet with a client I ask a lot of questions. I ask about colors, style, do they like patterns, what patterns they like, etc. These questions help me learn what the client is looking for and what they need. Once I have these answers, I only look at the fabrics that work with a client’s preferences. Ideally, when I’m putting together a fabric design for a project, I’ll have a mix of solids, small prints, a large print, and textured fabrics. Having at least four different types of fabrics helps create a room that is layered and more interesting to look at. 

I pull lots of fabrics that I think might work for the room and then I separate them into brackets. (My apologies in advance but we’re in March Madness season and since I love a good analogy as much as I love college basketball, this post will be combining the two.) I keep doing this until I have a bracket for each type of fabric I’m looking for, similar to the West, Midwest, South, and East brackets for March Madness. And just like in college basketball where teams in each bracket have different strengths and style of play, each bracket has fabrics in it that bring a different strength or style to the look I’m putting together. 

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After I’ve got my brackets picked, I start the process of analyzing the stats to determine who will make it to the next round. Ok, I’m not really looking at any stats, but I am looking at how well each fabric works within the guidelines of information my clients gave me. Is this pattern too busy? Do the fabrics have a good mix of all the colors the client wants in the room? Is there too much of an accent color? I keep doing this until I’ve progressed to the regional finals, or in non-March Madness terms have just a couple of options left in each bracket.

This is the point where my client gets to have a nice cozy seat at center court. I show them the Elite Eight and I find out which fabrics get to move onto the Final Four. Yes, I get to find out what makes the cut. My client is the one who determines what fabrics advance to the next round, not me. Am I concerned that a client could pick a wrong fabric and it won’t work with the design plan? Not at all. Every fabric has what it takes to be a champion because it’s been qualified to be in the mix. Why do I have the client make this decision? Emotion. Every year in March a Cinderella team shows up. They play with heart and they bring a level of excitement to the tournament that makes this time of year so special. Emotion is a strong force: It can change the momentum of a basketball game. It can also grab a client’s heart and make them excited for what their room can become. When I show fabrics, I’m looking for that emotional connection. This connection is what elevates a beautiful design to something special.

Now you’ve had a look at what goes on behind the scenes when I’m finding fabrics for my clients. When you take away options that won’t work, and focus on the choices that meet your criteria, selecting which fabric to use becomes simple. There isn’t a right or a wrong choice. There’s only fabrics you love and what works for your desired look. If you’re looking for some new fabrics for your home and the thought of choosing fabrics is overwhelming to you, I can help you with this process. I love fabric bracketology!