Q+A | STEVEN STOLMAN, NEW YORK CITY

Q+A | Steven Stolman, president of Scalamandre

Updated: 2012-12-02T02:29:08Z

By STACY DOWNS

The Kansas City Star

JOB DESCRIPTION: President of Scalamandre, luxury fabric, wallpaper and home accessories, Scalamandre.com. Stolman recently visited Kansas City for the first time to present a lecture on the history of Scalamandre at Designers Only, a to-the-trade showroom in Prairie Village.

Q. What did you think of Kansas City?

A. I was so impressed with Kansas City — it has so much breathing room and seems sunny and optimistic. I wanted to see where “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” was filmed. The houses in the area were extraordinary.

Q. What did you say in your lecture about the history of Scalamandre?

A. It was founded in 1929 by Franco and Flora Scalamandre. I talked about recent projects including designer Bryant Keller’s design of the foyer with Scalamandre wallpaper at the Kips Bay Showhouse, and historic restoration projects including the White House and great mansions of Newport. The shocking pink brush fringe on Big Bird’s legs is Scalamandre. William Randolph Hearst used Scalamandre at his house in San Simeon (Hearst Castle). Patty Hearst reordered Scalamandre.

Q. Designer Kathryn M. Ireland created a collection for Scalamandre that will debut in the spring. Why did the company seek her out?

A. Scalamandre has always been an East Coast company stylistically with historically accurate patterns in the grand style, many coming from European documents. They can be a bit formal. With Kathryn, a West Coast designer, we’re addressing how many people are decorating today. Kathryn used Scalamandre’s archives and created fabrics with an organic, bohemian feel. Nothing is too formal or serious. Fabrics that were silk taffeta are now cotton for example. It’s for those who live in jeans and a T-shirt in their Malibu mansions.

Q. What are Scalamandre’s most popular designs besides its signature zebra and arrows on a red background?

A. Lovebird Silk Damask; a tiger-patterned silk velvet that sells for $750 a yard; grand chinoiseries; and Edwin’s Covey, a botanical with quails.

Q. How many sets of Scalamandre pillows are on Katie Couric’s talk show set?

A. 20. They switch out depending on the guests. “Aquarius,” a linen velvet faux bois, was the fabric for Barbara Streisand.

Q. Tell us about your home.

A. I’m lucky I divide my time between New York, Palm Beach and Milwaukee. The Palm Beach apartment has been featured in Elle Decor. However, each home is modest. The New York apartment is a studio, Palm Beach is one bedroom and the house in Milwaukee is small.

Q. What’s your design style?

A. What I love is that you’re seeing high design at places like Target. My Scalamandre pillows share space with faux fur pillows from Target. I don’t decorate, I furnish. For me, it’s all about functionality and comfort. I love nice things but mostly everything I have comes from resale and thrift stores. My favorite stores are Housing Works thrift shops, which benefit those living with HIV and AIDS.

Q. Do you collect anything?

A. Friends. Even though our homes are small (Stolman married Richard Wilkie in November), we constantly entertain with cocktail parties for 50 and dinner for 20. The bar is always stocked and there is always crackers and cheese in the refrigerator.

Q. How did you become involved with Scalamandre?

A. I worked as a fashion designer for most of my career. I used home fabrics because the minimums were low — 5 yards of fabric versus hundreds or even thousands of yards for garments. I made men’s trousers out of Scalamandre. I grew up with exquisite home design in a house full of midcentury modern furniture in 1950s Boston. We had Jens Risom chairs, a Sputnik chandelier and a Knoll molded fiberglass rocker. My parents effortlessly mixed antiques with modern.

Q. What’s your vision for Scalamandre?

A. For it to be the American version of Etro (the Italian fashion house that produces textiles, home decor and fragrance). Scalamandre now includes stockings and decorative pillows at Barneys. China, crystal, flatware, picture frames and barware are coming out next year with Lenox. In the spring, a bedding collection through Eastern Accents is debuting.

Stacy Downs, sdowns@kcstar.com

To reach Stacy Downs, House + Home editor and writer, call 816-234-4780 or send email to sdowns@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/stacykc.

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