Fortuny fabrics are distinct, romantic, and have been celebrated by A-list interior designers since Elsie McNeill Lee, a New York based decorator, stumbled across them in 1927. Today, they still impart a sense of luxury and good taste to any space they occupy. Having long admired these unique textiles, I was moved to take a stab at creating my own Fortuny-inspired fabric and recover an old footstool scored on eBay. Here’s how I did it…
A mottled, watery background is a hallmark of Fortuny’s. In their factory, this effect is achieved by multiple printings with specialized dyes. For a similar, but not-quite-as-exquisite substitute, I purchased a length of cotton, watercolor batik fabric (found in the quilting section of most fabric stores) in a rich, rust-meets-burnt-orange colorway that recalls the dusty jewel tones for which Fortuny is known.
Step 2 was to find a damask-like stencil. For this, scale was important. The footstool I was refinishing had a cushioned area of 12″x16″, so the stencil needed to be a bit smaller and allow for some repetition. I found this nice 9″x9″ stencil on Etsy.
Finally, there was paint. After some disappointing experiments with inexpensive fabric paints (which proved to be too thick and transparent), I went to an art supply store, explained my project, and gobbled up their advice.
The nice people at Blick advised me to choose any acrylic paint and combine it with a fabric painting medium. However, they warned me that I might have to play around with the proportions so that the mixture did not become too runny and bleed beneath the stencil. They also cleverly suggested that I apply the paint using a lint free rag rather than a stiff bristled brush. This turned out to be solid advice. Supplies in hand, I got to work.
The ideal mixture turned out looking something like this:
I can best describe the consistency as that of maple syrup. Test the paint mixture on a corner of your fabric. It should apply flat and evenly without bleeding into the fabric fibers.
Beyond getting these proportions right, the 2 other important things were to tape and measure. I taped the fabric to the table to avoid movement and then taped the stencil to the fabric.
Then, I just started carefully dabbing away. Once I had finished, I’d let the paint dry, remove the tape and the stencil and used a small paint brush to fill in the blanks spots where the stencil was held together by thin bars.
Re-positioning the stencil for the next round, I always measured the distance from the previously painted area and the edge of the fabric. I decided to keep the stencil facing the same way for vertical repetitions, but then staggered and turned it the opposite way horizontally. I also stenciled an area just a few inches larger than the surface of the cushion. This gave me so wiggle room when it came to upholstering.
After all of the stenciled areas were dry, I was ready to upholster. Planning ahead, I had already broken down my stool, repainted the base, cut new foam, and stapled it to the base using batting.
Next, I positioned the design in the center of the cushion and stapled it into place. At this point, something occurred to me that hadn’t previously. I decided that my new footstool could benefit from some kind of decorative cord trim. So, I ventured out again and bought a couple of yards of gold braided trim with a lip. I used a hot glue gun to glue the lip to the underside of the cushion.
After the glue cured, the only thing left to do was to screw the cushion onto the base. My end result looked something like this…
If you need some additional Fortuny inspiration, check out these 7 eclectic rooms that showcase Fortuny textiles.