“Always begin with a fabric you love.”
This was the advice my interior-designer friend Megan offered when she saw me puzzling over the endless array of colors in the Sherwin Williams paint fan. “
“And THEN figure out the paint.”
I was a young stay-at-home mom at the time, and the February blues had hit hard. It had been a long and unusually grey winter. Endless cold and overcast skies—with no snowstorms to enchant the landscape or to beckon the kids and me outdoors.
I decided to do battle with all that greyness around me by adding some color to my dining room. And I really didn’t know where to begin. I just knew I hated looking at my boring walls.
The interior of my home was painted in a yawn-a-rama of neutrals. Because that was, it seemed, the practical thing to do with four young kids at home. The ivory-beige tones were just dark enough to hide the dirt—but light enough to keep things from looking like my Great Aunt Martha’s taupe-burdened split-level.
It may have been practical…but it was oh-so-dull.
And that whole composite of safe neutrals made me feel drab and beige inside.
Start with the fabric….
My friend’s advice made good sense, so I loaded the kids into the car—and off we all went to the fabric store. I knew I wouldn’t have much time before the three-year-old would be pulling Disney character bolts off tables and the one-year-old would be trying to heave his body out of the stroller.
I hurried by a table full of Chinese silks, and splashes of red caught my eye. Wow—what was that? I slowed down…stopped. I needed to get a closer look.
I picked up the bolt. The poppy red that had caught my eye was contrasted and balanced by broad stripes of muted greenish-gold. And scattered throughout the pattern were small gold flowers—intricate French knots popping out of the fabric and adding bits of cheerful randomness to all those stripes.
And the silk itself. It had just a bit of a crinkle to it. Ohhhh, what gorgeous texture. I unfolded a few yards, placed the bolt back on the table, and stepped back. The effect—exotic, elegant, and rich in color—took my breath away.
The price was $45 a yard.
At a time when our family menu plan alternated between peanut butter and jelly and sloppy joes, this was an impossible extravagance. And I always prided myself on my frugality. My low-maintenance practicality.
But I needed that fabric.
Had to feed my soul and my eyes by hanging this stunning silk in my wall-length dining room window.
With graph paper and a jigsaw I designed a curved cornice board. I padded it with quilt batting and staple-gunned that silk fabric across the length of it. I mounted it above my window and hung goldish gossamer sheers from rods hidden behind the cornice. Then I painted my dining room walls the same Chinese red that ran through the fabric.
And when it was all done I invited Megan to come have tea with me in my re-created dining room.
I thought she would comment on the details of the fabric—of the shade of red paint. On the contrast of the trim I’d chosen. But she didn’t.
Instead, she looked at me intently and said something I’ll never forget.
“You know, Gina, until just now, I had sensed—but I hadn’t met—the exotic, extravagant woman you have living inside of you. I hope you’ll encourage her to come out and create things more often.”
Dating Profiles: Forget the Details and Find the Fabric
In writing their profiles for Match or OkCupid or eHarmony (or wherever), most people get all distracted and worried by the details. Is the photo lighting quite flattering enough to soften the crows’ feet? Is the catalog of interests and hobbies full enough?
Do you go to the gym twice a week or five times a week? What if you don’t care to describe your body as either curvy OR athletic? And would you ever tolerate a smoker?
I take a completely different approach to dating profiles Begin with the fabric, I tell my readers, clients, and single friends who hit me up for free profile help. Not an actual swatch of silk or calico or faux fur (though I suppose that could be the starting point for some). More like…the fabric of your life (as schmaltzy as that may sound).
Begin with a story from your life that you love telling. That you find yourself revisiting in your imagination. A success, a surprise, a secret, a splurge.
Or…if you’re the visual type…begin with a snapshot of yourself in a place where you feel really alive.
No stories or pictures come to mind? How about a snippet of a book you read that sets your mind on fire each time you read it.
Then paint the rest around it.
The mood, the accents, the illustrations, the lists, the aspirations, the likes, and the dislikes.
In other words, begin the whole process by fixing your mind of a slice of life that shows you in action. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the day-to-day, mundane version of you that your friends and family know best. It could just as easily be the sun-drenched slut who emerged when you took that impulsive vacation to Bonaire and had a tumble with the scuba instructor after three rum punches.
In fact, maybe it’s better to begin with that libidinous wench the scuba instructor lusted after.
But you’ll ruin it all if you begin by thinking what might be appealing to other people. You—and only you—get to decide what swatch of fabric you feel like beginning with. And there is no wrong answer here.
Only possibilities for later decisions and revisions. For attractions and discoveries and experiments.
And then on another dating site, choose another bit of fabric. And admire it and glory in it and paint the rest around that.
See what kinds of people respond to each choice of inner fabric. You might just be surprised by who responds to the coral-and-cerulean-blue Bonaire vixen. And to the warm ochres and browns of the plain-Jane bookworm. What’s more, you might be surprised by your own reactions to those who get in touch.
When I coach women through this process, I call it the creation and testing of personas. But, strictly speaking, you’re not creating anything new. More like…just coaxing into the spotlight these different facets of yourself that have always been there.
It’s all up to you.
But if you want your profile to fascinate those who come across it, you must begin with what fascinates you about your own life. Begin with what makes your heart beat a little faster. Begin with that unusual bit of fabric that made you gasp and stop dead in your tracks.