Stephanie Housley gets to do what each of us wishes we could have done as little kids: Bring our drawings to life. Her crazy creative mix of whimsical artwork and embroidery skills led her to found Coral & Tusk with her husband Chris Lacinak in 2007, and since then she’s been gracing everything from throw pillows to pocket-sized stuffed animals with her delightful designs. Now she’s designed a new fabric collection that make furniture, curtains, and more just a little more special. We caught up with Stephanie to discuss fabrics, inspiration, and how to be a little more bold with your home decor.
What made you want to start creating fabrics?
It was a realllllly long journey to realize that was my calling! My great grandmother made tatting, which is kind of a clunky lace, even after she went blind. My grandmother was extremely resourceful and we spent plenty of time making dolls out of scraps and socks and whatever else was around. I taught myself how to embroider as a little kid. Not formally–just freehand and traced drawings. I kept on doing hand embroidery–I was never without a project.
I went to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) to study glass. I was always in between wanting to create art and wanting security–form and function- something beautiful while not sacrificing being totally useful. I had no idea the textiles meant fabric when I got to RISD–I thought it was ceramics. Ultimately, I took the long road to the thing that was already directly in my path, which is designing, developing, creating fabric. And I’ve never looked back once I had a word for it!
Do you have a favorite from the new line?
I had so much fun designing this new collection–it is so hard to pick one favorite! The entire collection is inspired by wind and how wind affects landscape. Drawing a parallel between wind and embroidery, the impetus was to return to the act of embroidery–how the actual making of a stitch on fabric affects the overall flow and movement if the shapes, tones and colors–of a cloth as a whole.
My process is usually to focus on the illustration–a particular subject that comes alive with embroidery. For the Winds Collection, it was more about the relationship between the stitches and the ground and less about the design of the embroidery subject itself. The approach was a brand new one for us, and it was a wonderful exploration I look forward to continuing!
Do you have any favorite pieces that feature the fabrics?
We have big plans for using the new fabrics on frames–from couches to chairs to tents! We have yet to find the right pairing, but it is in the works. Of the pieces we have upholstered, I really love an engineered piece. Our feathers settee uses our Feathers Border fabric along the back and I love the way it fills the shape.
What inspires your work?
My inspiration comes from everywhere, but mostly, animals, travel, nature, and feelings. It may sound silly, but I love love. I am lucky enough to be in a constant stream of feeling inspired and so excited to make the next thing. Every day brings such magic and I feel so blessed and lucky to be in this rare and amazing place in life—and that is hugely inspiring!
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to travel quite a lot in my life, and I make travel a priority throughout the year. Whether I go to Paris, Cappadoccia, India, Hawaii, Wyoming, Nepal, Big Sur, or Tennessee, every trip feels new, and as a result, I am able to design something that feels new. When you are out of your element you see things differently; you don’t take things for granted that you do at home–the shape of the doorways, the color of the trucks, the sounds in the streets, color and design elements added to a variety of surfaces. With all of your senses heightened, you become much more receptive to inspiration. I try to channel and express this during my design process.
Do you have any advice for integrating color and pattern into your home?
I always think that if you think about doing it–DO IT! It is your home, so you are automatically oriented to making and considering long-term decisions and repercussions.
I do not have a formula or theory or approach. When designing our new fabric collection, I certainly considered the scale of each design within a color story and how they work in a room together. Within each color palette we recommend Ridgeline for the body cloth, Riverbed for a tailored simple accent chair, Sidewinder for a curtain, and Sweetgrass for your decorative pillows and accents in the room.
Settee with Embroidered Feathers Border Yardage
Photo by Kate Lacey