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FabricOf all the wall coverings available, nothing says luxury like a fabric wall or ceiling treatment. Soft to the touch, insulating (both temperature and sound), colorful and capable of covering a multitude of wall flaws, fabric can convey an emotional aspect in a room unlike nothing else.

For a luxurious feel, drape the fabric in soft folds, stapling and gathering in deep, rich layers. For a more tailored, masculine look, be sure to ask for starched fabric, folded and creased neatly. For an easy installation, consider installing a drapery rod from wall to wall at ceiling level and hanging the fabric from it, much like a simple drapery.

It is probably true that an animal skin over the entrance to a cave was this world’s first look at fabric walls and tapestries. A little fast forwarding in our world”s history, however, will get us to a more familiar style of fabric wall and ceiling.

Today, a fabric surface is still considered the epitome of high-end. Consider the decoration of the homes of today’s “royalty” for example. The White House displays Mrs. Kennedy’s lovely green watered silk walls in the Green Room. Buckingham Palace’s State Dining Room touts red silk damask. There are lemon yellow damask walls in the Lady Bird Johnson suite at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

As consumers, we see fabric everywhere but sadly, it is underused in the home as a wall and ceiling decoration. It is the fabric padding our commercial work cubicles that most of us are privy to.

So what types of fabric applications can you consider?

For just a small touch of fabric, consider hanging a wall tapestry. Rich with history, the tapestries of medieval times were a beautiful form of artistic expression come to life through weaving. Like a fine painting, a fine piece of tapestry will draw the eye and delight the senses, as well as pull together other colors and textures within a room.

Polished cottons, silk, damask, chintz and other cotton fabrics are the easiest to apply, due to their pliability. Note, too, that fabric is easier to handle than wallpaper because it is not stiff nor will it tear easily. And while starch is messy, fabric goes onto the wall dry, so there is no booking time or long, wet strips of paper to create havoc.

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Consider hanging a drapery rod from wall to wall and either hanging fabric from the rod or draping it over. Remember, however, that the rod will need to be braced about every two feet for maximum strength, which may interfere with your end result.

In general, a fabric draped ceiling is more of a cosmetic fix or an enhancer than a true, installed ceiling. Typically, fabric is draped to cover an unsightly or damaged ceiling rather than to function as an actual ceiling. But beauty is the end result!

When purchasing fabric, remember that the more draping and shirring you desire, the more fabric you will need. For example, should you decide to shirr your wall with small pleats, you will need to purchase about two times the wall width. Also consider any accent pieces you may want to create or cover, such as accent pillows, bedskirts or window treatments. It’s always best to purchase the fabric all at once (such as with wallpaper) so you are working within the same dye lot.

Understand, too, that the fabric weight (a heavy, hard to conform fabric, versus a lighter cotton), will impart a mood as well. Of course, some fabrics work better for use on a wall than others. The more difficult the fabric is to fold and manipulate, the more difficult your installation will be. And, don”t be intimidated with the “cleaning” aspect. Vacuuming works well.

For those of you who rent, or have a hard time making a decision that involves installing something permanent on a wall, consider hanging fabric instead. Say goodbye to white walls in a rented apartment, for example, by hanging a large tapestry or by draping a large piece of fabric behind a sofa.

Instead of padding the walls with batting, you can also choose to adhere fabric directly to the wall with starch. Use a regular paint roller to roll liquid starch onto your surface. Take your cut piece of fabric (about six inches longer than you need – you will overlap at the floor and ceiling), and smooth the fabric onto the wall.

After you are certain it is straight and adhering well, use your paint roller again over the fabric, saturating it with starch. With your next piece of fabric, be sure to turn your abutting seam over and layer it over the raw seam of the first strip of fabric. This will create a neat seam and keep fabric from unraveling.

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