With backgrounds ranging from the farms of the American heartland to the urban cityscape of Shanghai, boutique fabric brands Virginia Kraft and LuRu Home probably couldn’t seem more different. But despite these divergent origins, the women behind both firms have plenty in common: a love of traditional craftsmanship, an obsession with artistic experimentation, and a flair for the creative use of joyous colors and richly woven patterns.
And now, both of these stylesetters are launching new products with Casa Cosima Upholstery, covering the brand’s frames with their chic, inspired fabrics. To celebrate the debut, exclusive with Chairish, we spoke with Andrea Whalen, founder and designer of Virginia Kraft, and Liza Serratore, co-founder and designer of LuRu Home, about their inspirations, their favorite pieces from the line, and their tips for mixing patterns like a pro.
What is your creative process and design philosophy when you create patterns?
Andrea Whalen: I always create with a feeling and story in mind and ask myself where my pattern might be found. A vintage scarf at a flea market? Wallpaper in an old farmhouse? I’m inspired by motifs, colors, and scales from different eras and regions and I love mixing those things to make something new. I have sketchbooks everywhere that I never throw away. The tiniest old idea or sketch can be the missing piece for a future pattern. I’m also a big believer in creative naps! If I get stuck it helps me to lay down for 20 minutes. My brain relaxes and lets my creative intuition take over.
Liza Serratore: My husband endearingly calls me a colorful mess – so you can imagine what my creative process looks like. Really, there is a three-part method to the madness. My work is fueled by the six years I lived in Shanghai. It’s a true cocktail of East, West, old and new. I often start by referencing historic documents. I look through my personal collection of antique Chinese textiles and page through books. Sparks fly. The second step is creation itself, building off the spark, iterating, iterating, and iterating. The final step is critique. Who might use this print? How can it be used in a space?
Are there any particular colors, patterns or motifs you are gravitating towards recently?
AW: I can get tired of things very quickly so I like motifs that can be refreshed and reworked over and over to make something interesting — paisley, dots, and stripes are my go-to patterns. I also intentionally search for balance. I utilize both graphic and delicate motifs, masculine and feminine. I don’t like my work to reflect just one viewpoint, which I suppose comes from being a Gemini. I gravitate towards earthy, saturated colors but I like to mix in the occasional “off” color to keep it interesting.
LS: I’m currently coveting loose, earthy botanicals paired with small-scale soft geometrics. Think LuRu’s Prussian Carp Fabric paired with Virginia Kraft’s Polkat Fabric. As we transition into fall, earth tones are on my mind – gold, rust, chocolate, olive, even oxblood. I’m also having a love affair with tomato red.
How has your aesthetic evolved and how is this reflected in your work?
AW: I prefer to define my aesthetic in emotional rather than visual impressions. I want my work to convey comfort, memory, inclusion, wanderlust, curiosity. I have an eclectic aesthetic and I used to be annoyed with myself that I couldn’t stay on one “style track” the way other brands do, and that resulted in some past patterns that didn’t feel like me. Embracing my eclecticism and curious nature was the only way to clear my blocks and allow growth to happen. I’m not interested in creating traditional “matchy-matchy” collections; I just want to put out work that feels cohesive from an emotional and story-telling standpoint.
LS: The first collection LuRu launched was dyed by hand with natural indigo using a traditional Chinese dye process. This limited what we could print and constrained our palette to blue and white. When we decided to use additional printing processes, the flood gates opened to every color in the rainbow and we became known for our use of bold and unexpected color. Today, I am working to bridge the two by looking to nature for colors beyond indigo.
How did you discover Chairish?
AW: That was a while ago! It started with seeing what interior designers were finding. My family has instilled in me a reverence for vintage and antique everything (old movies too), so it was love at first browse.
LS: I discovered Chairish when I moved from Shanghai to the Bay Area. My husband and I had to furnish our entire apartment from scratch. Wanting a few one-of-a-kind pieces, I turned to Chairish and promptly bought a 19th-century bow front English pine dresser that has now zig-zagged across the country with us.
Do you have a favorite piece or pattern from your Chairish line?
AW: Bagha is my new favorite. We can hardly keep it in stock! It’s our first woven and I love the story it tells: of wandering dusty Nepalese roads and finding a perfectly worn meditation rug at a small market. The pattern feels familiar in the natural colorway but will become something more graphic and modern in the new colors coming soon. It’s so soft but wonderful for heavy-use upholstery. I’m excited to create more woven fabrics.
LS: I’m really drawn to the Istanbul Cocktail Ottoman paired with our Flower Fabric in Cumin right now. Maybe it’s because my daughter just said her first color word, “yel-yo,” or maybe it’s because we could all use a little sunshine and a place to kick up our feet with a cocktail right now? Likely, it’s all of the above and the fact that this piece is multi-functional and can jazz up any space just adds to its charm.
Do you have tips for mixing/pairing your pieces with vintage and antique items?
AW: Tell a story. Most of my patterns have a global influence and I love them mixed with bamboo, rattan, wicker – all that lovely texture. I’d throw in a mid-century piece or two with clean lines to keep it from being overwhelming. I also appreciate the look of traditional furniture with subversive or cheeky art. Spaces that take themselves too seriously are not for me.
LS: My biggest piece of advice is to go for it! Create a space that brings you joy. It will radiate. Another tip is to consider scale — the scale of your space, the scale of pieces you want to put in your space, and the scale of patterns you want to mix.
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have?
AW: Absolutely! I can never get enough vintage wicker or rattan, especially chairs with a mid-century shape. Plaster goes with every era and style and I dream of owning a John Dickinson three-legged African stool. Folding screens are always a worthy purchase. They can be backdrops, dividers, and headboards. I’d love one in every room!
LS: I am on the hunt for a mirror right now and this Piero Fornasetti piece jumped out at me. I have always admired Fornasetti’s whimsy and “practical madness.” I hope to have a piece of his in my home someday.
Lead image of Virginia Kraft’s Bagha fabric, courtesy of Virginia Kraft