Aug 14

The art of the seam: Charles James at the Met

When is a stitch more than just a stitch? What distinguishes craftsmanship from manufacturing? Merida took a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to catch the Charles James retrospective, Beyond Fashion—and found design inspiration in the couturier’s masterful needlework and passion for beautiful and inventive fashion design.

Metropolitan Museum of Art / Michael A. Vaccaro / LOOK Magazine

World-renowned couturier Charles James created artwork in the form of stunning ball gowns, dresses, and other garments in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Combined with drawing, sculpture, writing, and engineering work, the gowns and dresses reveal the breadth and depth of James’ talents. Each piece was carefully crafted and considered for each customer. No two ball gowns are identical, each a reflection of a client’s unique personality and physical makeup.

James took couture tailoring and design to another level. We were struck by James’ ability to boil complex engineering problems down to just a few shapes and seams. A close look at any of the gowns reveals layers, folds, bunches, tucks, structure, and stitches that work together in a masterful way. He not only dreamed up the stunning aesthetic but engineered the complex architecture to bring it to life. One of his most famous gowns balances a nearly 10-lb, voluminous, clover-shaped skirt on the waist to allow for maximum mobility and grace. One James quote reads, “In fashion, even what is most fragile must be built on cement.”

"Clove Leaf," 1953 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tracing a single seam that wrapped around and up the length of one particular gown brings the master’s hand into sharp focus. Our lead craftsman, Chan Pao, was awestruck at James’ ability to get the fabric to lie flat on either side of the seam, despite the seam’s length and complexity. James said, “I have sometimes spent twelve hours working on one seam; utterly entranced and not hungry or tired till finally it had as if of its own will found the precise place where it should be placed.” A single stitch, repeated by the hands of a skilled perfectionist, is far more than a stitch. It is part of a masterful seam and an elegant work of art.

Charles James: Beyond Fashion is exhibiting at the Met until August 10th.

Jul 14

Specialty shops. Boutique hotels. Residential lobbies.

Introducing Urbana, a sisal designed for both the high-end fashion boutique and the charming residence. An innovative sisal treated for fire-, stain-, and liquid-resistance at the fiber level, Urbana sets a new standard for natural durability and beauty.

In addition to the fiber mixing for color, consistency, and shine that our sisal yarn goes through, the sisal fibers in Urbana are treated with stain resistant solution before they are spun and woven. Other stain resistant rugs use a topical surface treatment after weaving that wears off much more quickly and is not locked in to the fibers. Urbana allows us to continue using the finest natural sisal fibers and provide additional, reliable, and innovative stain and liquid protection.

The offices of an influential NYC design firm, and foley&cox’s welcoming lounge for the Architectural Digest Home Show are just two of the many top interiors that Urbana has already found its way in to.

One corner of the sample library at a top New York design firm, Urbana freshly installed.

Urbana functions equally well as area rugs or in a wall-to-wall application. foley&cox used large Urbana rugs to create an intimate space in the vast AD Home Show, layering Tailormade wool rugs on top.

Contact us for a sample:

800-345-2200 or

Explore Urbana in our online portfolio.

Jun 14

Ken Gemes in the Lenox Hill Showhouse

The Lenox Hill Hospital Designer Showhouse presented its participants with an especially difficult challenge: complementing the incredible views of downtown New York without being overshadowed by them. Designer Ken Gemes’ rhythmic, structural, yet calming room design took command of the views and used them as a supportive element. From the boldly contrasting yet muted color scheme, to the refined, subtle whimsy of the decor, the room shines with the light and architecture of the surrounding city.

ken gemes lenox hill overview

What was the starting point for your design of this room? Or, what were some of the inspirations?

Ken Gemes: I had found a fabric from Jim Thompson, “Illumination”, which caught my attention.  It was all different shades of taupes and mocha’s and ivories, on an espresso ground.  A tight and specific color story, but with a strong personality.  The fabric tells the story of when Siamese diplomats, headed by a Thai named Kosa Pan, visited the court of Louis the XIV at Versailles. The fabric shows a procession of Thai nobles elegantly dressed in rich brocades and woven silks, parading in lines, giving a horizontal stripe effect to the fabric.  It has an architectural feel and relates to the myriad of buildings you see from the 55th floor of the apartment.

ken gemes merida window overlooking bay

ken gemes lenox hill rug corner

What do you usually look for in a rug, and how did Antwerp fit the bill for this space?

KG: Just as the fabric features the blending of all the subtle tones of color, the Antwerp rug accomplishes the same incredible blending of multiple colored yarns to create a subtle, rich rug.  I always like rugs that layer in texture without “stealing the show” from the rest of the room.  Antwerp is a perfect backdrop for a very focused black, white and mocha color story.

ken gemes merida lenox hill console

What kind of person could you see living here?

KG: I would see a young professional in this space, who would benefit from all the amenities of hotel living, but in a space that can be personalized to reflect one’s personality and lifestyle.

Was there a particular vignette in the room you felt was especially effective, or enjoyable to create?

KG: I had a bar/console made to sit at the exact height of the back of the sofa.  I had my wallpaper man cover the table in a grass cloth in the same shade of mocha that the sofa was upholstered in.  This allowed the sofa and bar to meld into one another and not overpower the space.  It also provided the perfect space for meals, with bar stools tucked underneath, or additional counter space while meals were being prepared.

Creating spaces that cater to social interaction is important to you; how does this room function in that way?

KG: With the views offered by this apartment, I felt the owner would want to enjoy it with friends and associates, so I worked hard to create a seating area capable of seating 10 guests, and still having the room feel open and inviting.  Several “pull up” pieces were included in the room, so the space can expand with the crowd.

ken gemes merida antwerp lenox hill showhouse detail

Rug featured: Antwerp Belgian Linen. Click to order samples or email

Visit Ken Gemes Interiors


May 14

foley&cox create a Home Show haven

Mary Foley and Michael Cox of New York City interior design firm foley&cox had the challenging task of designing the lounge for the Architectural Digest Home Show in March. Masterfully transforming a vast, stark industrial space into a cozy oasis, the team created a retreat where busy trade show attendees could relax and discuss. We caught up with the team to learn more about their philosophy and inspiration.

foley and cox in the arch digest lounge

How would you describe your design philosophy, and how did the AD lounge reflect it?

foley&cox: Our approach to design is based on our concept of “appropriateness” as it is specifically defined for each project by the individual elements of geographic location, architectural style, and client personality and preferences.  For an amazing opportunity like the salon at the AD show, we simply imagined what we, as visitors to a large industry event, would most appreciate in a lounge space. By attending furniture shows from Paris to Brussels to Milan, we’ve come to appreciate that nothing is more important than a cozy spot to recharge and reflect on all the wonderful inspirations being presented.

foley and cox in the arch digest lounge

What were some unique challenges with the space?

f&c: The vastness of the Piers and the industrial tone of the ceiling height forced us to incorporate several visual tricks to draw the eye downward in order to create the welcoming mood of a residential space.  Subdividing the 75 foot expanse of space into 3 zones, each with multiple seating arrangements, also contributed a unique intimacy within the context of the Pier.

foley and cox in the arch digest lounge

How did the rugs fit in to the space, or, why these particular rugs?

f&c: The Merida rugs were literally the foundation to achieving three distinct “living room” spaces. Then, the layering of the wool blend qualities on top of the commercial grade, stain resistant sisals created the soft, inviting mood of home.  The rugs were the most important horizontal building block to help us achieve the “human scale” we wanted since the space had only one backdrop wall to define the area.

We customized the colors from the poms supplied by Merida.  We wanted to add the natural colors with a bit of blue and cream to blend in with the colors we had chosen for the furniture.  We all had a very long dreary winter and we wanted the space to feel like spring and a happy place to be in.

foley and cox in the arch digest lounge

Do you find that your sources of inspiration change based on the seasons?

f&c: Again appropriateness as defined by geographic location often guides our selections of color palettes and fabric qualities (loden, suede, and shearling in a ski chalet but linens, cottons, and seagrass in a beach house) But for the AD lounge, the long, hard winter we’d just endured definitely inspired us to embrace the optimistic shades of an about-to-blossom spring and we loved the shades of soft, pale blues and greens of the Holland & Sherry fabrics!

foley and cox in the arch digest lounge

Do you have a favorite summer project you’ve done in the past?

f&c: We’ve had a lot of fun doing projects on two different islands in the Bahamas – though staying focused and in “work mode” is a real challenge when surrounded by such breathtaking beaches and turquoise ocean!

Is there something upcoming you are excited about?

f&c: In July we’ll install our first project in Hawaii and we’re so looking forward to being back in the charming, relaxed environment of the town of Paia!

Rugs used: Troy, Heywood, and Urbana












For more info, call 800-345-2200 or email

Visit foley&cox.