STUDIO 103 @Sand Sea and Air Interiors

Upholstery for Yachts, Aircrafts, Home, Hotels and Office


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Selecting the best fabric

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Photos 1 and 2: Designer and private label textiles, such as this Ralph Lauren anchor pattern, can cost $100 or more per yard. Using a matching tone in a solid Sunbrella® fabric on the zipper bands and bottom lining can help keep a project within budget.

Terri Madden’s March/April 2018 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work for marine environments at SandSeaAir.com.

Thank goodness for Dr. Google! When sourcing textile options for projects, fabricators can simply type in “marine fabric” and up pops a plethora of vendors and nautical-themed images. You’ll find individual maritime insignias that correspond to each of the 26 letters of the alphabet as well as graphic illustrations for almost every kind of nautical hardware—from anchors to navigation wheels. Also in abundance are fish patterns, playful sea horses and giant photorealistic renderings of marlin, swordfish and many other images that can be used on accent pillows, custom cabin quilts and pillow shams on larger vessels.

Budget for success

The initial discovery meeting with your client lays the groundwork for a successful project. Obviously, you will discuss the scope of the project, color palette, etc. But most importantly, you need to understand the client’s budget. Clients often avoid giving you a firm number, but moving forward without a sense of the budget can be a tremendous waste of time for both you and the client.

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Photos 3, 4 and 5: Images such as flags and the nautical alphabet add dramatic flair to interior decor.

As you narrow your offerings down to a few key textiles that fall within your client’s budget, keep in mind that you can introduce a dramatic fabric as a focal point with as little as one yard of material. Using dramatic textiles makes a strong impression and helps ensure your position as a preferred fabricator. Check with your supplier about minimum quantity requirements, yardage availability and lead times.

It’s important to have a realistic sense of how much yardage is required for the items to be fabricated and to charge accordingly. For instance, an L-shaped sofa can easily require up to 14 yards of material. If your cost for material is $25 per yard plus a 50 percent markup, this translates to $525 for the fabric alone. Cost has to be taken into consideration if the project requires foam upgrades. Additionally, calculate the time and cost of removing the original material, fabrication of the new covers and the installation. And keep in mind that projects incorporating fabrics with patterns will require additional yardage.

At Sand Sea and Air, we use spreadsheets to calculate the material costs for each project, the fabrication steps necessary and the time each step requires. After we complete a project, we go back to analyze and record any changes that affect the final “true” costs and profit for each project. This system ensures we’re not losing money on a project and helps us tweak our budgets moving forward.

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Photos 6 and 7: This pattern required us to balance horizontal and vertical repeats as well as a hinge fold in the bow cushions to accommodate the incline of the vessel. The final seams on the pilot and copilot seats reflect a harmonious transition, yet it was extremely challenging to fabricate the high/low back cushion in harmony with the seat cushions.

Tricky cabin tricks

Creating bedding for fitted mattress covers and cabin quilts presents specific challenges. Mattresses often have oval curves rather than a traditional rectangular shape, and you many need to work around framing that holds mattresses in place. Also, a master cabin bed is generally 60 inches wide, yet material is often available in 54-inch widths. To ensure you have sufficient material, it’s important to calculate and construct the additional sections on both sides of the center yardage with consideration to the pattern repeat on the top panels. I prefer to use the full 54-inch-width as the center and then use narrow bands of 4 to 6 inches of fabric on either side.
Additionally, side mattress bands can be as high as 10 inches, which means a good portion of the side bands will be visible. You will need to maneuver the fabric pattern repeat to get the most attractive part of the 54-inch width in the band front, with seams joining as needed toward the sides.

We recently fabricated fitted mattress covers for a queen-size bed in a Ralph Lauren anchor pattern. The material had anchors twisting left and right, some in opposite directions, while others were in the same direction along adjoining rows. Since this fabric was expensive, we used a matching tone in a solid Sunbrella® fabric on the zipper bands and bottom lining, as they would not be visible once the mattress was onboard. This helped keep us within budget and ensured a successful project.

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Photos 8 and 9: It’s important to calculate the waste factor on side-by-side cushions when the visual pattern must remain harmonious. It can be as much as 14 inches, as was the case in the Kravet® Turquoise Flamestitch pattern with a 17-inch height repeat. Fortunately, that was exactly the height needed for the upper back cushions. We darted the excess fabric in the center of the curved corner cushion so the sides maintained the continuous visual repeat of the pattern. We also manipulated the fabric along the sides and back of the bow headrests to continue the dramatic pattern seen on the front of the cushion.

As you fabricate the details of your projects, imagine each one as a winning entry in the Marine Fabrication Excellence Awards. Careful planning and execution will create a complex masterpiece that embodies more than form, fit and function for your customer; it will provide the personal satisfaction of a job well done.

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Restyled sleeping cabins

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Terri Madden’s May/June 2016 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.

Interior sleeping cabins on a vessel have always been my favorite projects. I enjoy researching options and ultimately providing customers with tidy solutions that offer easy accessibility.

Cabin spaces and mattresses come in all shapes and sizes. One of my clients claims to sleep 14 people on his 54-foot Bertram with only three interior cabins, but that’s a story for another time. On my first sleeping cabin project, the vessel had no foam or mattresses, and the sloping hull areas required patterning that I could barely fit into. A recent project on a Ferretti master cabin had a walk-around queen bed and headboard with massive oval windows at sea level.

Plan the job

  • Determine the time needed to do the job. This is essential in putting together your quote to know what your profit on the project will be.
  • Determine qualified personnel to pattern, assemble and remove items from the vessel.
  • Identify adequate machinery and equipment to complete the project.
  • Purchase the materials, keeping in mind availability and delivery issues.
  • Determine what fabrication skills are required to do the work. Decide what work can be done in-house and what duties will be outsourced. For example, who will do quilting?
  • Determine the process and dates for re-installation of items removed from the vessel.
  • Under promise, over deliver.

Start with good communication

When meeting a potential customer, good communication sets the stage for a successful project. Keep in mind that your customer may be unsure of your skills and how the design process works.

Develop your plan based on the facts you received over the phone or in person. Do as much discovery ahead of time and prepare a list of the key points that you and the customer must address in your first meeting. Research the vessel: know the model, year and size. Find out the customer’s primary goals, time frame and budget.

Listen to what your customer is asking for, confirm and recap the key items that were mentioned and requested during your meeting. Be honest if this is work you can provide. Then let your customer know when you will get back to him or her to offer your best recommendations.

For new cabin interiors, having a second meeting is generally necessary. You will want to discuss material selection and confirm layouts, styles and measurements, especially if design changes are being made rather than duplicating existing covers and window treatments. Take plenty of photos of all cabin areas; these will be invaluable references during your project.

Many materials are suitable for interior marine applications. I recommend offering your customer two groupings that will accommodate the agreed-upon budget and time frame of the project.

Once an agreement is reached, it is time to get started. For a recent master cabin project, the decision maker lived “off island.” She requested new textiles for the master cabin of a 60-foot 2003 Viking. The four coordinating textile patterns were selected online during a phone conference for the following:

  • A three-part headboard
  • A queen-size bed frame in one large section and two smaller sections
  • A fitted quilted bedspread for the existing mattress that sits within the bed frame
  • Two pillow shams with accent trim
  • An oversized neck roll pillow
  • Navy-colored fitted sheets in 100 percent cotton and 600 thread count.

Selection of materials

Fabric selection can be a daunting process unless your customer knows what he or she is looking for. Some customers know what design theme and colors they prefer, such as casual nautical styling or more sophisticated residential bedding. Because fabrics vary widely in cost, it is important that you and the customer agree on the budget, particularly because bedspread quilting and specialty fabrication quickly add to the budget.

Our showroom offers a large selection of indoor-outdoor fabrics from which our customers can choose. However, sometimes customers select online fabrics, as did our customer. Because she
selected four online fabrics, this required extra time. Her choices appeared to be a good match on the computer monitor, but they were very different “in hand.” Be certain to give yourself sufficient time to request and receive samples before purchasing.

What appeared to be plenty of time turned into a final rush to meet our deadline due to unforeseen decisions and delays. The delays occurred for reasons outside our control, including:

  • An additional two to three weeks was needed, as we waited for the requested samples of the original four fabrics. Two fabrics were woven patterns that were fine, yet the main fabric for the bedspread was a bright print that did not match the other materials. Time slipped by as we sourced the best replacement fabrics and waited for new memo samples.
  • A matching solid blue fabric was needed for the bed frame, because the original choice was back ordered past our delivery date.
  • Extra time was needed to verify that all fabrics were in stock and ready to ship.
  • Photos of replacement fabrics were sent to the customer, then we waited for her final approval.

Even though a local company had agreed to do the quilting, the wait time was more than a month after it received the fabric.

We needed additional time for the in-house quilting and procuring a large matching flat sheet for the lining and the Dacron® fill.

Some of you specialize in interiors and provide fitted quilted bedspreads. However, if you want to begin offering this item, be aware that a standard 54-inch fabric has to be pieced evenly on each side of the center of the 54-inch fabric to look and fit correctly on a master stateroom mattress.

This type of mattress can measure more than 65-inches wide.

Once you have an extra large size for the length and width, plan the quilt design that can be anything from an outline pattern to an hourglass pattern. For our project we decided on a diamond motif.

Over the past few years, several of our clients have purchased flat quilted bedding from online sources like Pottery Barn. We then adapt the quilt to the mattress shape. This is an affordable option you may like to recommend, especially for bunk beds.

For those who would like to offer quilted bedspreads, Tabors of San Angelo Inc. is a custom workroom in San Angelo, Texas, that provides high quality quilting for bedspreads, pillow shams and pillows. We have used this company in the past. You can send them a pattern with specifications, request a catalog or contact them at http://www.taborsofsanangelo.com.

Fitted sheets

The original mattress shape was designed to permit movement around it on three sides. The headboard was angled, and the rest of the mattress was one long curve. Including fitted sheets with an order is a nice addition for an irregular mattress. I always recommend starting with a king-size sheet set, which may seem large, yet it allows for adequate yardage for the fitting cuts, darts and a new elastic casing under the mattress.

Follow these steps to make a fitted bottom sheet:

  • Cut off the elastic band close to the edge of the sheet.
  • Place the sheet over the mattress so that it hangs down evenly at the sides from the top.
  • Use any of the original darts at the corners that may work.
  • Continue to dart the corners and transitions around the mattress as needed, usually four to six darts.
  • Mark the sheet at 17-inches down from the top edge; this will be your cut line and edge to turn, fold under and stitch closed with a half-inch elastic within the new casing band.
  • Stitch in the original care label at the head of the sheet for customer identification when making the bed.

Our order for the king fitted sheet set was placed online at Bed Bath & Beyond, because it was one of the only sources that had navy 100 percent cotton sheets in 600 thread count.

After two weeks and no delivery date or tracking info, I placed a replacement order. Unfortunately, there were no sheets in this style and color available. A nearby Macy’s had navy sheets but they were in a 500 thread count. Once again, more time was needed to contact the customer, get her approval, then order the sheets. Almost three weeks later the sheets had not arrived. Tick Tock. The original lengthy deadline was closing in.

Delivery time

The delivery date was less than one week away when everything finally came together. The anxious customer was thrilled to receive photos of the completed project. From there, the mattress and bed frame were installed on time. The customer loved the fitted sheets and coordinated look that fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.

Even with vision and careful planning on a project, sometimes we have to step back, evaluate and add more time to our estimates. Obstacles can cause delays and stress. That stress can eclipse a team’s feeling of pride over a successful project. At the end of projects, take time to think about what you’ve learned. Try to recognize early red flags that you perhaps overlooked. Finally, acknowledge all the things you did right to deliver a quality project.