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"Home & Design"
Used with permission of the publisher

Gold silk fabric on walls with a pair of antique wing chairs 


Cosmos Club: back in time
Reprinted with permission of Washington Business Journal
Craftsmanship Awards Supplement

The venerable Cosmos Club, overlooking Massachusetts Avenue from its prominent corner of real estate, is known for its elegant period decor and design.  So when the owners decided to convert the old carriage house into an opulent meeting and entertainment space, they wanted an elaborate look that would match the rest of the mansion.  For the building's Powell Room, some of this effect was achieved using upholstered walls.  But the owners eschewed the modern method that involved plastic frames and cloth sections:  They wanted the authentic style of installation that very few craftsmen practice anymore.  Fortunately, Al Sousson, owner of Custom Furniture & Wall Upholstery, still does.

This method of applying fabric to walls is reminiscent of late 1800s and early 1900s' design and demands exacting standards.  Executive vice president Jeff Martello of Kfoury Construction Company says that the installation demonstrated incredible coordination - everything had to be stretched and installed just right.

"To create a frame on which to hang the fabric, they installed a strip of laun material around the room."  Martello explains.  Laun is a thin, flexible wood, which can be easily bent around archways and curves in the space.  "Working around the large bronze wall sconces, archways, and inset wall niches made the job especially difficult."  

To create a pillowing effect, a batten of fiber-0filled foam was fastened over the wall surfaces.  Then a linen liner was stretched over that to "smooth" the foam.  Finally , the fabric was stretched over the liner and secured with special gritted-teeth staples.  Exposed staples were hidden with braid glued to the fabric.

The fabric is a deep gold silk pattern with decorative accents featuring a variety of images, form flowers to crowns to cups, all in an 18th century style. Because the fabric comes in 54 inch widths, walls had to be measured and the silk positioned carefully in advance, so craftsmen would know how to sew it together so the pattern would stay consistent around the room.

Martello 3explains, "The pattern was repeated with precision and matched the pattern at all the other points in the room. 

For example, each sconce 'touches' the cup design in the fabric in exactly the same lace."  

From an outbuilding to house carriages and horses to a study in grandeur. These upholstered  wall complete the room's dramatic transformation. 

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