My good friend Lenny Santamaria asked for my help editing his website, Lenny Santamaria Interiors. He is a fabulous designer with more than 35 years of experience who recently went independent. And as his absolutely objective friend, I can also confirm he is devilishly handsome. I mean if you are going to spend hours and hours with someone designing your home, it helps if they are easy on the eyes, right?
I headed to his house, and sipping on tea, we worked on his website. He specializes in soft goods, and as we played around with words describing how fabrics for window treatments and pillows can add comfort and coziness to a home, I thought about my mom and how she helped me make curtains for pretty much every single apartment and condo I’ve ever had. And he’s right. They always did soften the lines of my post-college/milk crate/department store furniture. I could never really afford decent furniture, never mind custom drapes. And while I can be OK with department store furniture (sorry Lenny!), which I am not handy enough to make myself, the absolute crappy choices of fabric in store-bought curtains always irked me. Lucky for me I had a mom who could sew, and so curtains made with sumptuous fabrics were attainable, especially since she often paid for the fabric in those early years.
I still have the last pair of curtains she helped me make, which I’m sentimentally attached to since she passed away last year. But working on Lenny’s website made me appreciate them and her even more than just a way to block out neighbors, light, and cold. They make my home…home.
This last pair we made after taking a trip to a local fabric store mecca for designers and amateurs alike, Zimman’s in Lynn, MA (since 1909). I can easily get overwhelmed in a JoAnn’s Fabric store, never mind being in that historic cavernous warehouse of every kind of fabric texture, color, and weight. But mom, who had sewn our clothes when we were little and later hand quilted, walked through that place easily, expertly running her hand along the bolts, feeling the texture while assessing the patterns. The curtains were for glass doors in my condo leading to a small deck, and we had agreed on some basic principles beforehand–I wanted them to match the sunflower gold of one of the walls. Other than that I had no clue, and I followed her like a lost, overwhelmed puppy, completely trusting and in awe of her fabric judgement.
Within short amount of time, she picked 3 choices for me. They were all wonderful, and I would have completely missed them had I been forced to look by myself. We settled on a rich, colorful pattern that, indeed, has brought much warmth and comfort to my homes. She was getting older at this point, and so we shared the task of making the curtains. She usually measured, ironed, and pinned the hem, and supervised me using the portable sewing machine she gave me. This time she measured, but supervised me as I did the rest, and I did learn a lot, especially that sharp pins hurt a lot when they stick you and that most people will not notice a less-than-straight line hem on a curtain.
This is a photo of those curtains in my current apartment, which also happens to have glass doors to a deck. They compliment the red accent wall in the kitchen. After the condo and before this apartment, they hung in an apartment that had yet another set of glass doors, this time to a patio. These soft goods sure have gotten around, outlasting even my marriage.
Looking at them reminds me of all the previous curtains we made together, always to match something I had: The blue ones with tiny white diamonds to match the blue foam fold out college couch. There were the dusty pink ones with scrolls on them and muslin liners to help keep out the cold from the drafty old windows in the apartment I moved into after I was married. They matched the first real couch I owned–light blue with accents of dusty pink and white threads. That couch went with me to the condo, so before the wall was painted sunflower gold, the curtains for the double glass doors were blue and light pink. They later got shortened for bedroom curtains in the next apartment. That’s the beauty of these curtains. Even if I no longer have glass doors, they can be shortened for some other window.
When I next move, I finally have enough money to hire Lenny to help pick out furniture and even the fabric for soft goods. I’m sure he’ll be fine working with my curtains, but I do wonder how he is with supervising the sewing.