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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Keeping up on trends in marine upholstery

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Photo 1: The exterior upholstery on this custom-built vessel by Nor-Tech offers tones of sand and ivory in different, yet complementary textures of vinyl.
Photo 2: The decorative topstitching in contrasting colors on the seat of this custom-built vessel by Deep Impact is striking. Formerly flat cushion surfaces are transformed with visually appealing diamond-quilted patterns on ergonomic high-low surfaces. The boat show featured an extensive use of a double diamond quilted pattern (using the beefy stitch known as a cable stitch).

Terri Madden’s September/October 2017 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work at SandSeaAir.com.

Boat shows are a rich resource.

When was the last time you attended a local or international boat show? If it’s been awhile, I recommend you put it on your agenda. To stay a notch ahead of the competition, professional marine fabricators must be aware of new concepts, designs and materials. Viewing new boats at boat shows is an excellent way to keep abreast of the vast assortment of new options so that when a customer is considering a refit, you can maintain the integrity of the vessel yet offer tasty, new selections that deliver a fresh impact that enhances the style of the vessel.

Recently, I attended a local boat show where standard vessels like Boston Whalers and Grady-Whites were on exhibit as well as some striking custom vessels with state-of-the-art upholstery techniques that commanded top dollar. Not only were these vessels showpieces, one salesperson of a custom boat manufacturer said the company had a 32-vessel waiting list with an 18-month delivery time frame.

Here are some of the new materials, trends and ideas that struck me as I wandered around the show.

Vendors are a research treasure trove The marine vendors at boat shows, as well as those who support the Marine Fabricators Association (MFA) regional and national conferences, are a valuable resource—so take advantage of them. They provide sample cards and books of their current offerings, as well as larger swatches for your special projects; customers love to view and touch the materials onboard their vessels.

Make sure to review the manufacturers’ data on the backside of the sample cards. It’s filled with information that can help you compare specifications regarding lightfastness and the all-important Wyzenbeek test results for abrasion.

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Photo 3: Serge Ferrari’s Stamskin One and Batyline Eden upholstery materials offer extreme durability and resistance in outdoor environments.
Photo 4: Here is a classic rope pattern by Ralph Lauren® for an indoor/outdoor acrylic fabric being used as an accent pillow with a ¾-inch rope trim our customer decided to showcase on her salon sofa.

The Wyzenbeek test determines the number of times a material can be sat upon before it shows sign of deterioration. The number of “double rubs” are a measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance. To conduct the test, a piece of cotton duck is stretched over a mechanical arm and passed back and forth over the test fabric in each direction. Each back-and-forth motion is one double rub. These results are listed with most fabrics and are helpful in determining which fabric is right for a particular application.

Just last week I was looking for a commercial-grade vinyl and upon contacting a local salesperson, I learned about a vinyl that could withstand 1.5 million double rubs. We are currently working with a designer who will not even consider a material less than 50,000 double rubs. Gathering this type of information is essential to operating within a customer’s budget and to understanding the value of one product over another.

Impressive upholstery materials

A few top-of-the-line materials stood out at the show. Serge Ferrari manufactures an extensive range of technically advanced materials whose value surpasses the cost per yard and is an excellent offering for marine upholstery projects. Stamskin One, the “skin” touch material, offers extreme resistance in outdoor environments. It includes an outstanding seven-year warranty and is available in more than 24 colors, in either a matte or soft grain texture.

This material is impervious to oils and creams, such as sunscreen. It offers easy care and maintenance and is safe to use with alcohol-based cleaners. There are no “pinking” issues with this marine vinyl, as there have been with other vinyl-based materials, since no plasticizers are used in the manufacturing process of Stamskin One. Consider this thermal material that offers comfort, fire resistance and breathability for your next project.

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Photo 5: Throughout the 25-year life of this 83-foot Cheoy Lee vessel, the original owner selected exterior fabrics by Kravet® and JF Fabrics for the bow and bridge seating. The vessel hull was white with turquoise accents. It seemed only natural to provide sample selections that showcased this color palette.
Photo 6: Even though the material specifications noted that the horizontal pattern was a 17 ½-inch repeat with a 14 ¼-inch vertical repeat, it was extremely challenging to estimate the quantity of material. Even more challenging was maintaining the repeat layout during construction so that adjoining seams and cushions aligned to showcase the visual repeat of the material, especially on the curved corner cushions.
Photo 7: The classic herringbone pattern with a wave effect on this outdoor acrylic from Kravet was the client’s top choice. Since this pattern was very dramatic, Sand Sea and Air recommended a solid matching turquoise for the seat cushions. The contrast provided a perfect harmony for the spacious seating areas.

Serge Ferrari’s Batyline Eden is an extremely durable mesh material consisting of PVC and acrylic that combines strength and softness to produce a textile with the “hand” appearance and texture of an open-weave material. It is resistant to rot, mildew, UV radiation and fading, with a backside coating that provides a 100 percent waterproof mesh. It is a unique and comfortable material for your customers.

The comfort factor and ease of care make it a prime consideration for your next project. Whether for seating at sea or on exterior furniture, it is an impressive and functional material.

Contact either your local vendor or Serge Ferrari for color cards and pricing. Serge Ferrari is also an active participant at the national MFA and IFAI conferences, with an extensive assortment of other high-quality marine materials.

Sunbrella® fabrics are a far cry from the solid “canvas” that most fabricators were once familiar with. Sunbrella acrylic yarns are available to designers to create the patterns and textures that are now a virtual “Garden of Eden” in the marketplace. Designers at companies such as Ralph Lauren® and Kravet® have used Sunbrella in luscious patterns and textures at price points that are competitive to familiar brands, while others can exceed $200 per yard. The price may seem steep, yet just one yard can have a dramatic effect on your next project and be a showcase piece for the vessel owner.


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Foam failures and how to prevent them

Moldy Mattress Liner & Foam 2 copy

Exterior mattress that sat next to a Jacuzzi. An exterior mesh cover over Dri-Fast® foam could have prevented the deterioration of the vinyl cover over polyfoam. Stagnant water grew mold and the seams allowed the water and mold to seep into the polyfoam.

Terri Madden’s July/August 2017 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Check out Sand Sea & Air’s amazing work with foam at SandSeaAir.com.

All marine fabricators who provide products for cushions, bedding and headliners face decisions on the best foam for the application. The right decision ensures quality projects and happy customers. The wrong decision contributes to foam failures.

Cheaper can cost more

Less expensive foams may seem like a good deal until you realize they can deteriorate far more quickly than pricier foams because they may include fillers and additives such as sawdust and soybean oil.

I saw this firsthand some years ago during the oil crisis when prices for petroleum-based products (like foam) shot through the roof. One supplier offered a less expensive marine foam that was not yet “captain” recommended—a definite red flag. Two years later we were contacted by a new customer to replace the deteriorated foam from that supplier.

Hi-LoFoamDeterioration

Here is one situation where a liner may have diminished the effects of sunlight. This image shows a commercial acrylic material on an exterior cushion where the polyfoam shrunk in the areas where the fabric was the lightest color. Interestingly, the foam was not affected where the dark stripes absorbed the sunlight. Photo Credit: Devin Genner

To prevent this sort of foam failure, only deal with reputable foam suppliers, ask a lot of questions and educate your customers who may not immediately understand why a more expensive foam product may be more cost effective in the long run.

Case study of cheap foam breakdown

A five-star resort hotel asked us to replace exterior cushions and daybed seating that were only two or three years old. One of the cushions looked like a former balloon that had been popped, another looked as if a wild dog had chosen it for a nesting spot and a third looked as if it had gastric bypass surgery!

Fortunately, we had not provided the original cushions and it was obvious the failure was due to a “budget” foam. A quality marine foam would have lasted twice as long. These cushions did not have liners—only exterior covers in an outdoor fabric.

Fabric liner considerations

Would a liner have prevented this issue? I don’t believe so. This

Lounge Seat Foam Shrinkage

This exterior daybed foam was one of several similar pieces at a resort property. It was a shocking example of foam shrinkage when inferior marine foam was supplied by a low-budget vendor.

was clearly a case of the cellular structure of the foam deteriorating in a commercial setting where the seating was used more frequently than on a private vessel. Fabric liners can prolong the life of exterior cushions in some marine settings, but there are important things to consider when using them:

  • Fabric type: Some liner fabrics are magnets for mold and mildew when used in an exterior application, and this will also affect the underlying foam. If a liner material is used, make sure it is mold and mildew resistant.
  • Application: If frequent cleaning will be required, foam placed inside a liner makes it easy to remove and reinsert into an outer cover.
  • Foam type: I generally always use Dri-Fast® marine foam here in the tropics where exterior cushions are frequently subjected to moisture. However, manufacturers offering water-resistant fabrics often question the necessity of using marine foam with their products. If your customer is on a tight budget and will be storing the cushions indoors when they are not being used, you might be able to use a less expensive foam.
Wet Seating under Cover

Asked to replace these old bow cushions, I was surprised to see how wet the cushions were underneath a protective cover that did not appear to be torn or broken. To prevent this, a water-repellent finish could have been applied to clean cushions at the first sign of water seepage. A breathable, water-resistant cover would allow for water runoff.

Good cushion foam choices

Open-cell reticulated foam has extremely open pores that allow water and air to flow through it easily and is available in soft, medium and firm densities. These foams are comfortable and stay cool when used for seating cushions and mattresses. Dri-Fast (sometimes called marine foam) is a high-quality open-cell reticulated foam formulated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent mold and mildew. When paired with an outdoor cushion fabric for the top and sides with a mesh base, it creates a virtually maintenance-free all-weather cushion that is easy to clean without removing the foam, making it an ideal choice for most boat cockpit cushions.

Closed-cell PVN foam (also known as flotation foam) is three times firmer than polyurethane foam and is a more expensive option. Its buoyancy makes it a great choice for flotation applications like floating cockpit cushions and life vests. It is also a good choice for commercial boat seating or other seating that will be used as a step for getting on and off the vessel. PVN foam resists water absorption, so you can safely cover it with any type of fabric. Thin sheets of closed-cell foam are often glued to the bottom of other foam, adding additional support to a cushion, like a box spring to a mattress. When using it with Dri-Fast foam, cut holes in the closed-cell foam for drainage.

Supposedly Marine Foam Breakdown

These two-year-old exterior cushions were provided by a well-known manufacturer. Perhaps budget constraints determined the use of polyfoam and the fabricator thought a water-repellent liner would keep water out. Verify the specifications of the materials you use to avoid this situation. We omitted the liner and used Sunbrella® fabric with Dri-Fast foam.