When I was a kid, I saw a news segment — I think it was on “60 Minutes” — that was so mind-blowing, I still remember it today. It was about the astronomical cost of real estate in Japan. Someone placed a single $100 bill on the floor of a home in Tokyo and explained it wouldn’t pay for the space it was lying on.
I later lived in New York City for a while and realized two things: The town where I grew up (Belleville, Ill.) had cheap real estate, and sometimes it’s worth spending more money. (New York had a profound effect on me.)
This all came back to me recently while looking at fabrics and wallpapers at the KDR Showroom in Lenexa.
I was invited to the launch of its Phillip Jeffries wallcovering boutique. My friends Eddie Sandridge and Alejandro Lopez, of Alejandro Home Design, gave me a tour of the showroom, which they sometimes use for procuring textiles for their interior design clients.
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Eddie led me to the rear of the showroom, where large swatches of more than 250,000 luxury fabrics hung from tall hinged racks that flip like pages in a book. More than 500 large books holding 10,000 wallcovering samples sat on nearby shelves.
The Phillip Jeffries Boutique alone offered access to another 1,100 high-end natural wallcoverings, including Japanese paper weaves, gold leaf, grasscloth, hemps, silks, linens and raffia.
Thirty years ago, you would have needed a Dewey Decimal System to keep track of it all.
According to Amanda Bauer, director of KDR Marketing, the showroom is 16,000 square feet, the largest of its kind in the area. Textile lines range from iconic brands to small, artisan-run companies. Colors, patterns and textures vary wildly from smooth and traditional to coarse and modern and have to be seen to be believed.
With rare exceptions, they are exquisite and usually reek of money. I stood there marveling and thinking to myself that their otherworldly fineness would make them worth the price, for those who can afford them, anyway. One of my favorite fabrics was sheer gold and looked as though it was woven of spun sugar.
Alejandro and Eddie remarked on the vastness of options and agreed that, yes indeed, they had to have a very clear vision of a client’s design already in place before stepping foot inside KDR to pick textiles.
The showroom also carries furniture, lighting and rugs and works with clients to create custom coverings and hardware for hard-to-fit windows.
“The majority of our business is direct to the trade, but furnishings on the floor are priced to the public,” Bauer said. “Designers and architects get wholesale pricing.”
She also said that textiles at KDR range from $23.70 per yard for drapery and light upholstery fabrics (JoAnn Fabric prices!) to $1,890 per yard for Silk Tiger Velvet by Lee Jofa. Though not quite as expensive as Japanese real estate, it comes to about $1 per square inch. Thankfully, it’s a busy tiger-striped pattern that will hide stains.