Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zimman's

When I'm not obsessing about kittens these days, I'm obsessing about fabric. I was the only bidder on a handsome set of antique bentwood chairs on eBay last May. They were made around 1910 and one still has an ancient Josef Hoffmann label — so while they are not genuine Thonet, they have an excellent European provenance.

For months they sat stacked in our living room while I tried to decide what to do next. A couple of weeks ago, I made a pilgrimage to a fabric store outside of town and got the contact info for an upholsterer they highly recommended. He came to see the chairs one rainy Saturday. I liked him and his price, and the chairs went away in his van to be taken apart and reassembled to be sturdy. I also decided to have him make cushy seat cushions, since cane isn't comfortable and one of these chairs will probably become my desk chair, upon which I spend far too many of my waking hours.

When it comes to fabric, I'm always attracted to paisley. Paisley is a key motif in this apartment, along with dust, books, cat fur, and tiny fake mice. We have a paisley-slipcovered sofa, a paisley quilt and shams; a raucous orange and eggplant paisley armchair in the study, and a red paisley shower curtain. There's paisley in every room except the kitchen (except for some paisley dessert china I seldom use).

For the cushions, I looked at scores of sample books and the only patterns I liked at all were.... guess. I knew it had to be a muted design that wouldn't compete with the nearby sofa. And I found this:

I only saw a tiny sample, but the pattern is soft and subtle, the colors are just right, and I think it will look great. A local fabric store offered it for $72 a yard, which seemed too high. I found it priced from $40 to $47 a yard online. I decided to try Zimman's, in Lynn, first, to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe they'd have a roll so I could see what it looked like. Maybe they'd have something equally beautiful and less expensive.

This morning, I took the commuter rail to Lynn, a 20-minute, unscenic ride. I asked a kind-looking stranger where the store was, and he walked me over to it. People nodded at us from their cars at us as we crossed streets. Lynn might be a deserted shell of its former glory, but the residents are very friendly.

Zimman's is overwhelming; those stories are not exaggerations. They have a gazillion rolls of quality fabric on the main floor; downstairs, there are a million elaborate trims, tassels, and fabric remnants. There are also two floors of expensive, quirky accent furniture, lights, and accessories. The fabric and trim prices are discounted.

As I was wandering, dazed, a saleswoman spotted me and offered her help. I showed her "my" fabric in one of their sample books, and described the chairs and my living room, saying, "I'm a sucker for paisley." She said, "Yeah, me too. I named my daughter Paisley." I noticed she was wearing a paisley lucite bracelet. How nice to find a kindred spirit, here in the City of Sin. Her house probably has paisley everything. Together we combed through aisles and piles of paisley rolls. There were many. Many, many, many.

It just goes on, and on....

We eventually decided that there was nothing in the store quite as perfect as the sample in the book. The manufacturer had only 4 yards in stock, which was exactly what I needed (it was destiny!). The price was $46/yard. I'll be happy if it really materializes, so to speak, and I can't wait to see it on those chairs.

And, by the way, I am not naming our new kitten Paisley.

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