vegan leather

Like everybody else out there, I regularly look for inspiration from my fellow designers.  I frequent design blogs, Pinterest pages, and Instagram photos-- looking at the beauty created every day by a large group of very talented people.   I also learn a lot from my peers-- about everything from furniture arranging to current trends to new and innovative products.

Now and then, however, I see something that really rubs me the wrong way.  As a designer, I take seriously my responsibility to give my clients the most truthful, honest answers to their questions about everything from the kitchen sink, to bathroom tile, flooring-- and the best sofa and throw pillows.   Not every product out there will meet the needs of an individual client, and clients can make the best decisions if they have the most information.  It is my job-- therefore--  to know about the ingredients in the products and the companies that sell them-- and to pass on that information as clearly as possible to my client.

In an age in which we are inundated with fake news and false advertising-- it is even more important than ever that designers are fully transparent when selling products to clients.

So... I want to raise concerns over the product that is sometimes called "Vegan Leather".

The word vegan suggests something that is ecologically sustainable and probably healthier for humans as well. Vegan leather, however, is a higher-tech version of vinyl.

Here's the story:  

Leather is a bit of a conundrum-- beautiful and incredibly durable-- but not for every application.  Sometimes a situation is too intense for even leather to handle-- upholstered benches in a nightclub, for example-- and sometimes people object to the political choice of using animal skin on their furniture.   In came vinyl-- or leatherette, naugahyde-- plastic alternatives that tried to mimic leather in their look and feel.

In the design world, however-- vinyl has a pretty bad name.  Bad looks, bad feel-- generally very fake.  No designer wants to use it unless s/he is doing a retro-look kitchen banquette. 

In the last fifteen years the textile industry has responded by using new technology to create a wide selection of faux leathers-- sometimes called 'technology leathers'-- beautiful, soft, totally look-and-feel-like-leather products in every texture and color-- all of them made of 100% plastic.  

"Sometimes referred to as poromerics, poromeric imitation leathers are a group of synthetic "breathable" leather substitutes made from a plastic coating (usually a polyurethane) on a fibrous base layer (typically a polyester)."   Their ingredients are polyurethane, poly-vinyl with a top coat of urethane, polyester, phthalate free polyurethane (polycarbonate)--  all of them poly-based vinyls, i.e. plastics.

Don't get me wrong-- I use these faux leathers regularly for applications that require the water-proofing and sturdiness of plastic -- again, the upholstered benches at a nightclub.  But I am clear with my clients that the product that I am showing them is PLASTIC.  They need to understand that this is not an ecologically sustainable choice in any way other than its longevity (which can at times make something the best ecological choice).  Neither are these faux leathers healthy for humans to live with-- while fine in a cavernous space with lots of ventilation that is only occupied for 12-14  hours of a day-- the off gassing of the poly's is not good for humans to breath in smaller, enclosed spaces like the average home. 

The majority of furniture companies do not care about the environment or about our health-- but they will use a phrase like "vegan leather" that is technically true if it helps them to sell their products.  

Interior designers, however, need to dig a little bit deeper and ask a few more questions.

Don't be fooled by false advertising, people.

-Mary-Moore.

mud cloth

I will admit to being absolutely obsessed with Bogolanfini (literally translated from Bamana as 'mud cloth')-- fabric produced in Mali.  This particular piece is in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, and is from the 19th Century.   It was created to be a wrapper-- a piece of clothing worn by a woman around her chest and covering her torso and upper legs.   Men weave the fabric, women dye it.  The symbols are graphic, and have meaning-- and take a long apprenticeship to learn.   

Traditional mud cloth was dyed in a long and complicated process of soaking the cloth in a bath of dye from the leaves of the n'gallama tree and then painted with special fermented mud.  Since 1970 there have been many producers in Mali using a simpler production technique and simpler designs to allow mass-production allowing the fabric to become accessible and popular in Mali and worldwide.

The longer I spend studying traditional textiles from all over the world the more I am in love.

I could stare at mud cloth all day.

-Mary-Moore.  

material importance

This holiday season I am holding in my heart all the people who are out there desperately trying to find the right presents for their friends and loved ones.   It is a hard task we set for ourselves-- this gift buying thing.  Deep breaths.  

In the meantime I am working on holding onto a feeling of hope.

I hope for a world that is peaceful.  I hope for a world where everyone has enough.  I hope for a world where we all feel safe.  I hope for a world that places more importance on our material goods-- that allows us to buy less-- but to buy better.  I hope for a world that does not include slave and sweatshop labor.  I hope for a world that does not value money over humanity.  

That is my mantra.

-Mary-Moore.

mothers-in-law

This photo is from the bathroom of my mother-in-law.  Both the vase and the paper-cut were purchased at my shop, years before she was my mother-in-law.  Both were made by artists I have not heard from in years.  This bathroom is a good reminder to me of the passing of time, the way life changes, and the constancy of beauty.

Mothers-in-law have a bad rap.  They are often considered to be busy-bodies, more interested in telling their daughters-in-law what to do than in really connecting.  They are seen as controlling, interfering, and annoying.  

This version of mother-in-law has not been my experience.

I have been blessed with more than one mother-in-law-- an unexpected perk of getting divorced that no one ever talks about is this reality of having multiple out-law families.   My own mothers-in-law have been wonderful women-- smart, capable, strong, and interesting-- each with her own personality and way of being but each incredibly warm and inclusive of me in their lives and families-- for which I have been grateful.  I have been blessed to have gained-- through my romantic relationship with their sons--women I can look up to, learn from, and emulate.

My current mother-in-law is no different-- she is fun and smart and highly entertaining to spend time with.  When her son and I were first together,  she welcomed me warmly into her family.  She sends me encouraging text messages when she knows I am having a challenging work week.  She calls me-- and maybe we just talk about the weather-- but those calls often feel timed to happen at just the moment I need to hear from her.   We share a love of cleaning and of thrift and we can quite quickly clear the room of everyone else when we get talking on those subjects-- without even noticing they have gone.   She was also divorced at a young age-- and we share both the experience of single parenting, and the experience of finding our true loves when we were a little bit older.   Perhaps most importantly we share a common love and understanding of her son-- a bond that will carry us through whatever comes.

She is in the hospital right now-- this woman who I am proud to claim as mother (in-law)-- and doing it with such grace.  No kidding-- you should see her gorgeous red toenails!  And again I am reminded of the way life changes, and of the constancy of beauty-- and of all that I have to learn from this woman.  

Thank you, Betty.

-Mary-Moore. 

 

yellow

I love yellow.  In the past I have used it liberally-- on walls, sofas, cabinets, and pillows.  These days I like it in small doses.  There is nothing small about these gorgeous lights-- 1960's exterior runway lights from the Berlin airport--  and the yellow is incredible.

Perfect in the midst of a mostly grey palette.

-Mary-Moore. 

on the job

I have to admit that I am a pretty casual person.  I worry about particular details- the details of my clients' projects, the details of special orders I have placed for customers, the details of the parts of my children's lives that I am responsible for-- but beyond that I don't worry too much about everything looking or being "just so" or living up to someone else's image of what my life is supposed to be.  It is my life, after all.

I just do the best I can every day to be me.

-Mary-Moore.

home staging

I spent most of the last week staging this house-- which is for sale.  

Staging a house is a little bit of a strange experience for me.  I become totally immersed in the project-- I think about this house all the time for the several days or so that it takes me to complete the project-- and I go through an obsessive process of creating the feeling of home in a previously empty house.  

My own house falls into disorder and chaos while I focus all my attention on this other house-- and by the end of the week my feet and arms are sore, and I can be a little bit confused about where I actually live.  This was a fun one because the owners had beautiful things to use in the house, a great sense of color (I did not change any paint colors other than the floor in the upstairs), and because it was so close by I could easily take many small trips over with more things as I layered my composition of furnishings.   

I am also very, very lucky to live and work with an amazing photographer.   Check out all the photos here

-Mary-Moore.

before and after

No kidding.  

This kitchen was taken back to the studs- in fact the studs actually had to be replaced because the termite damage was so severe- and then a new kitchen built that still feels like an old, farmhouse kitchen.  It ended up being homey and bright-- and did not look like it had been built over the space of a few weeks.  

I love my job.

-Mary-Moore.

inspiration

In my studio I have big bulletin boards pinned with lots and lots of bits and pieces of things that inspire me.  Each project gets its own space- its own fabric samples, photos of art, photos of textiles and furniture- some of which are concrete products to be ordered, many of which are directions- aesthetic feeling-tones that I am wanting to re-create in my client's home.

I need these pieces of inspiration to guide me, to keep me on track, and to excite my imagination.

Dean made this photo collage for me- a photo of one of my bulletin boards and then played with and added to.

It is a nice place to work.

-Mary-Moore.

apologies

Sometimes a quiet Sunday in the shop brings a long-lost friend to the door- apologizing for her absence.  What a gift!  What a blessing!  

I often think about how disconnected we are- isolated and involved in our own small worlds- we lose track of each other too easily.  All this technology that makes our globe a village also works to keep us each in our own cubicle.  Our sense of community is somehow replaced by a constant seeking of attention and approval through our online networks.  We are left ungrounded, unattached, and often feeling empty and alone.

How much of this alone-feeling is causing the anger that is spewing out of our political campaigns these days?  I have to wonder.

Thank you, Friend, for stopping in!

-Mary-Moore.

design vignettes

 We all have different relationships to our homes. Some people get things the way they want them and never change them again.  Others prefer constant movement- they may even have a permanent collection of items that rotate through the special spots in their rooms.

I have long been a fan of the vignette- a little moment, a partial story- that combination of things in a corner of a room that just feels right.  The rest of the room may be a mess, but this little picture is a place for my eye to rest in the midst of the chaos.   In my house the vignettes are made up of items collected or made over time.  Together they tell a little story of our lives. I will admit that my vignettes change over time- this one was in our bedroom for a few months, and the pieces are now in different parts of our house, in new versions of this vignette.

Fortunately Dean moves things around as much as I do!

-Mary-Moore.

 

mid-project

There are moments during a construction project that are incongruous- but wonderful.  

This bathtub has been in this bedroom for months. Bathtubs have to be on site for the plumbers to do their "rough-in"- so that they can make sure they are putting the pipes in the right place- and then the tub/s sit, neglected and dusty, until it is actually time to install them.  This project has had many delays, so this bathtub has been here long enough that I have thought that we should have planned it this way- to have a tub in the bedroom under those beautiful windows.  

A few years ago I worked on a project in which there was planned a bathtub in the master bedroom- in front of a huge and wonderful square window at one end of the room. 

Why not?

-Mary-Moore.

taking up space

IMG_3702.jpg

My daughters and I are hooked on the show "Grace and Frankie".  There is a 2nd season out and of course we have spent a lot of time this week glued to that screen- binge watching the half hour episodes whenever we have the chance.  

One of the major questions of the 2nd season is: how do women (older women at that) take up space?  In what ways are we/they marginalized and ignored?  In what ways do we need to take a stand and take up the space we need/deserve? 

This resonated for me on so many levels- I am shy and introverted, and not given to taking up space in the world.  I am a woman, and I work in a field that is often considered to be less important than those building-related fields dominated by men (architecture, engineering, building).  On top of all of this I came into design through the 'back door'- I did not go to design school, did not set out to have a design business- so I am late coming to think of my design work as having value.

As is so often the case for my clients- my inner world is reflected in my outer world--  and despite the fact that I have been working with clients for nearly 20 years I have only recently had real physical space in our shop for the design business.  Always in the past the design 'stuff' went in some file drawers in the back;  my design work (the computer research and painting of color samples and drafting of furniture plans) happened at the shop counter in between customer visits; and I just simply made do.

These days I am taking up all kinds of space.  I have a big, beautiful, sunny studio with storage for all my samples, and enough surface to spread out the architectural plans and inhabit those spaces as I work on them.  There are now multiple work spaces in the studio so that everybody who works here has a spot on the days that we are all here together.  With this space my job has become infinitely easier and I am infinitely grateful. 

Taking up space is not easy for any of us.  Thinking about the myriad ways I have folded myself into some back corner- it has taken me a long time to think I deserve the space I need. 

Thanks Grace and Frankie!

-Mary-Moore.