Taking advantage of fringe benefits


December 27, 1992|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Q: In the design magazines I look at, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on decorative trimmings such as gimp, fringe and tassels. Can you provide some guidelines on how to use these additions on upholstered furniture?

A: Decorative trims are best used carefully and sparingly. It's a narrow borderline indeed that separates the tasteful display of such doodads from just plain kitsch. This caution pertains, by the way, to all types of decorative additions, including moldings on a wall, finials on a lamp, and cording on a lampshade.

In deciding where and when to apply tassels, gimp and fringe to fabric, you should first be clear on their purpose. Ask yourself at the outset: Is such an addition really going to enhance this particular piece of furniture? Because gilding the lily almost always results in bad design, it's best to refrain from tinkering with a piece that's already good-looking.

Next, you should understand how trimmings will affect a given object. These seemingly inconspicuous bits and pieces can act as a frame that will call attention to whatever they're decorating. It's no exaggeration to say that fringe or cording may transform the way a chair, for example, is perceived, just as an ornate picture frame will change a viewer's response to what's inside it.

In general, I have found that tassels and fringe tend to make a piece of furniture seem more relaxed, while gimp and cording serve to define an object more sharply.

As the photo shows, a decorative fringe is able to turn a stiff-looking cushion into an invitingly soft pillow back. Similarly, the addition of a "bullion" or rope-like fringe to the bottom of a seat cushion will bring a bit of pizazz to an ordinary high-back dining room chair. The fringe also produces a welcome softening effect in a room with plenty of hard surfaces and little fabric.

Skirted tables will usually benefit from having the fringe or tassels sewn on at the bottom. Tassels that pinch each corner of a square table cloth will likewise help to softenwooden tables of any shape.

Fringe at the edges of a window covering, along with rope and tassel tiebacks, can make a modest treatment look a great deal more sophisticated. You should be aware, however, that good fringing, especially the multicolored variety, is far from inexpensive. Unless these additions are applied most judiciously, you may wind up spending more on trimsthan on the actual fabric.

Partly because of the cost factor, I must try to dissuade you from using trimming unless you have a good reason to do so. Emulating the styles shown in design magazines isn't worth the expense involved. But at the same time, as I have indicated, there are lots of situations in which trims will have a positive impact.

/ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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