Moving into a new building is also about meeting neighbors. They're a bit like family - you don't choose them, they're not going anywhere, and no matter how different you think you are, a shared address (like a last name) is a common denominator that binds. There's an inexplicable comfort in proximity, so when one of my favorite neighbors texts me on weekend mornings with a single word - JAMBA - I know I am expected in the lobby in five minutes. I had forgotten how much I liked Jamba Juice - Lime Sherbert with Lemonade, trust me - it's not on the menu, but this is expert advice. Harold's friendship with my neighbor's dog Athena is a work in progress, and the fact that she insists on walking twenty blocks to Jamba Juice is also questionable, but I oddly dig our strange ritual.
I have a tendency to behave like cabs are free and will take them pretty much anywhere and then wonder where all the cash I withdraw goes, so the walking part is something I always resist. But then you start to look around and realize how pretty this city can be. . .
And you start to walk by stores and check places out that you wouldn't ordinarily bother doing, and that's when you start to feel like the Christopher Columbus of Third Avenue (our path). That is exactly how I stumbled upon Baranzelli Silk Surplus fabric store on 56th and Third, the treasure chest every Back to A sailor seeks. The Atlantis, if you will, of fabric. No "to the trade" dismissive sign - walk right in and behold. . .the most gorgeous collection of fabric you have ever seen, all at discounted prices.
Whether you are looking to reupholster your chairs or make cushions (they have a service and will do it for you!), this little wonderland stems from a legacy dating back to 1929 when Italian immigrant Franco Scalamandre married Flora Baranzelli and founded a company that would provide fabrics used in the White House, the United States Capitol, the Hearst Castle, the historic Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, and countless other notable spaces. Ward Bitter is the current owner and I just discovered Baranzelli did the curtains in my girlfriend Marisa Saur's living room - "The owner is wonderful, and I am obsessed with our curtains." Marisa is nothing short of immaculate, and she's equally kicked with our UES treasure chest. I feel a fabric party coming on. . .
Now, here they are - the discontinued rolls you thought you couldn't find, and every possible option in between, at prices you will not believe.
Harold was initially dizzy at the sight of all the options. . .
. . .but Back to A is knowing that if you linger amongst the fabrics for long enough, eventually one will just speak to you. It's like dating - at first a little overwhelming, and then little by little you realize there are only a few really good ones out there for you, and then ultimately with a huge sigh of relief, you fall in love. Reupholstery is always possible, but it's a pain in the ass so you want to make sure you take your time with the initial search and get it right. There are no dead-ends, but falling in love again is a process. So after much deliberation, we agreed we had found the one - Harold was certain, too, and said, "I seriously think this is the one, Mummy."
We both could not stop staring at it.
This gorgeous periwinkle silk damask jacquard was $40 for two yards. I could drown in it, it's so delicious.
But it's not for me, nor my Jamba neighbor - this particular fabric is for another neighbor who is buying my chairs (remember, I switched to a yellow color scheme and that has created some necessary scrambling on my part). I'm going to lacquer the chairs in a light blue, and then reupholster the cushions with this fabric for Heather, who lives down the hall. I'll be spending the day doing this, and I can't help but think that Back to A may have stumbled upon a little Back to Business.
Sometimes neighbors, like family, can inspire you to take on the seemingly impossible. I still love these chairs and painting them was some of the most fun I have had in years, so I'm glad they're just going down the hall instead of out the lobby. My pink Madeline Weinrib rug found a home, too, with one of my favorite readers, and it looks better in her room than it ever did in my living room. Long walks, Jamba Juice, discoveries, exchanging, sharing, writing, painting. . . I don't rush anymore. John Fowles said it best in this stunning book:
"The supposed great misery of our century is the lack of time; our sense of that, not a disinterested love of science, and certainly not wisdom, is why we devote such a huge proportion of the ingenuity and income of our societies to finding faster ways of doing things - as if the final aim of mankind was to grow closer not to a perfect humanity, but to a perfect lightning flash." - John Fowles
I found that gem at Alex and Lorenzo Home - if the plaque was a fabric I would reupholster my life in it.