Monday, February 18, 2013

meet the makers: swank designs


There's a new project on the DC creative scene from the duo behind Red Chair & Co, a full-service residential interior design firm in Great Falls.   

Tabitha Mahaffey and Patricia Ulliman have between them years of design experience. 

They created Red Chair in 2006, after meeting while working at a local design center. Most of their clients are in the DC Metro area; however, they have worked on projects in Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, and New York.  Local projects include spaces at the Watergate and Washington Harbour.

But over the last few years, they found a gap in the market: options for custom-quality drapery panels, pillows and bedding were far too limited.

So they created Swank Designs.

Together, Mahaffey and Ulliman share a passion for using and incorporating fabrics in unexpected ways. 

And Swank's latest line is a mix of elegance - including breathtaking damasks - and playfulness.  Their new line of children's bedding is adorable.  ICDC just must get her hot little hands on one of their Ziggy pillows!



..and just down-right fun!

 the "Ziggy" pillow!

Recently, ICDC had the opportunity to ask these creative mavens a few questions about Swank - especially about their local (!) workroom.

Mahaffey and Ulliman are drawn to traditional but unique fabrics: "In our careers as interior designers, we have seen an abundance of fabrics and we strive to offer [options] that most designers will not have in their libraries. We want our customers to have fabrics and designs that are uncommon, unexpected and if possible, one-of-a-kind." 

They source their fabrics from Australia, Milan, Paris, and India. Favorite vendors are small companies that are family owned and operated - Swank's "rare little treasures."  As self-described "avid travelers," the Swank Designers' favorite places to visit are Spain and Latin America, and they are "still working on a great fabric source from Latin America. We would love to partner with a vendor from Pat's home country of El Salvador. Hopefully that's in our future."

Swank fabrics are made of the highest quality silk and cotton, but they also offer "hand-painted, embroidered and floral detailing that makes each one unique. It’s the combination of our Virginia design team and workroom providing the finishing touches that make the panels and pillows exquisite. It's our goal to push the boundaries of window panel design, always creating designs and then editing them. Good design requires precise editing."

Once they create a new design, it goes to Swank's Virginia workroom, where the team works to create and test pieces from a functional standpoint. Says the duo, "Sometimes a design does not hang well or requires a different fabric type. We all work together to create the most beautiful and functional products for our customers."

Ulliman has “always loved fabrics. I quilted for a few years and ended up buying more fabrics than needed. I never seemed to finish my projects, but was always trying to start a new one; that way I had to put more fabrics together."

Mahaffey says of partner Pat: "I sometimes think Pat and I were separated at birth. We could be searching through a hundred fabrics and we will always pick the same one. I trust her design instinct entirely."

Check out Swank's website here!

images from

No comments:

Post a Comment