We are standing in Merida’s design studio, a brightly lit room surrounded by yarn samples, fabric swatches and samples of a new collection under development. Barbara Schnegg, Merida’s Senior Textile Designer, has spent much of the morning in the workshop, consulting with one of the craftsmen (both masked and at a safe distance) on the details of a custom rug being woven on the Jacquard loom. The workshop is just a few steps from her desk in the studio, so the communication is fluid, not just with the craftsmen and but also with the sales team and Merida’s design clients around the country. We pulled Barbara away for a few minutes to discuss customization, which she says is increasingly popular as designers look to personalize their projects.
Q: Where does the customization process usually begin?
A: It usually starts with color, to match a design scheme, or changing the yarn for a different texture. For stair runners, we might alter a pattern to match the width and connect the treads to the landing. If we’re scaling a rug for a large room, where the rug will be woven in two parts and then seamed together, we will rework the pattern so it connects perfectly.
Q: It sounds like customization is a collaborative process.
A: Yes, not just with the design team but also with our expert weavers. Because we make all our rugs here in Fall River, we work closely with the client to come up with creative solutions. Also our sales team is very knowledgeable and will guide clients on options to fit their design vision and the owners’ tastes. We will even measure on site, especially for stairs and complex spaces.
Q: What’s an example of a more complex custom project?
A: We recently created a custom rug for a residential project in California, which started with a painting the client loved. The painting had a repeat pattern that was evocative of our Heywood and Stitch rugs, so we produced three strikeoffs with different combinations of yarn colors that each highlighted the pattern differently. The client loved all of them and chose the version that came closest to the painting.
Q: What is your background and what brought you to Merida?
A: I studied Textile Design and Technology in Switzerland, and my first job was with a company that made decorative linens for luxury hotels in New York and Dubai. My first experience designing for the dobby was with a menswear company, making finely tailored suits for luxury brands. I have worked in home furnishing and with hospitality fabric manufacturers, including a firm that specialized in fine upholstery for aircraft. When I came to Merida I was impressed with the workmanship, especially the focus on construction, and how it shows the yarns. And working with 100% natural yarns is such a beautiful thing!
Q: What is unique about Merida’s approach to customization?
A: We approach every design challenge with a fresh eye, and the fact that we make our rugs here in Fall River gives us the versatility to do just about anything. And our lead times for customization are surprisingly short, so we can help our clients create something truly unique and meet their project timelines.
What’s your design vision?