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INTERIORS : Scraps From Past Yield Wealth of Potential


Scraps of vintage material--old bedspreads, tablecloths and draperypanels ready for a garage sale--are inspiring a new generation of furnishings and accessories.

Among those creating new items out of old are Patra Attig and Liz Garrett, owners of Classy Scraps in Costa Mesa, who make everything from sofa slipcovers to lampshades using old fabrics. They let nothing go to waste.

"I'm a fabric-aholic," says Garrett, who has amassed piles of vintage fabrics during more than 20 years working as a seamstress for interior designers.

Shop shelves are stacked high with scraps: floral tapestries, old chenille bedspreads, quilt tops, linen pillowcases, colorful tablecloths and uncut vintage yardage. The drawers are stuffed with bits of lace, fringe, braid, tassels, buttons and other odds and ends.

Where others see trash, they see potential.

A vanity chair that they found at a garage sale went from an eyesore to an elegant piece of furniture after the pair finished painting the swirly wrought-iron base a rose hue and covered the seat in a vintage floral tapestry.

"We like to take something ordinary and make it pretty," Attig says.

A pair of lamps that Attig rescued from the trash at her apartment building now look like something out of House Beautiful. The pair made slipcovers for the lampshades out of old floral tablecloths and hired an artist friend to paint the bases in a matching design.

"We're always thinking of what else we can do with old material," Attig says. "We recently started making slipcovers for all kinds of headboards. You can cover up some pretty ugly stuff."

Garrett and Attig recently filled a house in Laguna Beach with furniture covered in a mix of new and vintage fabrics, most dating from the 1930s. They used a textured rayon fabric with a tropical bamboo print in black, berry, cream and green to cover the cushions of a rattan sofa and chair in the guest quarters. They cut old drapery panels with a fig leaf print in cream, green and cranberry tones and covered six large pillows on the living room sofa. They covered the cushions on kitchen chairs in a vintage black floral fabric.

They economize on the vintage yardage, often blending something old with something new to make the most of their scraps.

A rattan love seat in their shop looks nothing like its former self: It now wears a new ivory-colored damask slipcover that camouflages the entire sofa and seat cushions in a vintage tropical print.

"There wasn't enough of the old material to do the whole sofa," Attig says. "When you're working with vintage, you have to be creative."

Often just using a scrap of an old tablecloth to decorate the sides of the sofa cushions--a technique known as cushion boxing--is enough to turn a plain sofa into something special.

They covered one Laguna Beach client's sofa in new red and white striped ticking mixed with blue and white striped welting, then added an old cotton tablecloth adorned with fruit to the front-facing sides of the cushion and the pillows.

They used two white bedspreads with romantic woven patterns to cover the front and cushions of an overstuffed camel-back sofa. The scalloped edges of the bedspreads were used for the lower flounce. New white canvas was used on the sides, where it's scarcely noticeable.

"We sometimes tea-stain the new fabrics to make them look older," Garrett says.

With the help of their friends, they search for old fabrics at garage sales, estate sales and flea markets. They even buy up old clothes to cut into pillows.

"We look for fabric anyplace and anywhere," Attig says. "It's becoming harder and harder as vintage materials become more popular."

A vacation to the Midwest can often yield good scraps, but those sellers are also getting wise to the value of old material, Attig says. "They're even catching on in Iowa."

Attig hunts fabric stores for new yardage that's on sale.

"They put the discontinued stuff on sale because it's kind of funky and has odd colors," she says. "That's what we love. It's different."

While shopping garage sales for fabric, they also keep their eyes open for old furniture they can make over with material. In a previous life, the chic red-fabric piece that sits in their front room was an unsightly rattan chair, the kind with a high rounded back.

"We can make a slipcover for just about anything," Attig says.

Attig, an interior designer, and Garrett, a seamstress since 1973 who made bedding and curtains, joined forces to open Classy Scraps last year.

"Liz had 30 or 40 boxes of scraps leftover from her years as a seamstress. I said 'Let's get them out and make some stuff,' " Attig recalls.

They began making pillows that featured unusual fabrics and trims and sold them to small boutiques. Then they graduated to making slipcovers.

Classy Scraps' slipcovers range from $800 to $1,000 for a couch ($500 to $600 for the labor if you supply the fabric); $500 for a finished lounge chair ($300 for labor), $50 to $100 for a feather-filled pillow and $300 for the hand-painted lamps with covered shades.

They also sell their scraps of vintage yardage to those who want to make their own pillows and slipcovers.

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