Some people consider an adventure as a safari to Africa or a ride on white-water rapids. To others, going to the local mall is an adventure. The latest adventure for the Custom Home Furnishings Trade School lies somewhere between. The hands-on school is not going on safari, but it is going on location!
Over the past several years, more than 1,000 students at the school
have made small examples of window treatments, cornice boards, slipcovers,
bed treatments and accessories while learning step-by-step fabrication
methods. The students take the samples home with them to serve as
a reminder of the fabrication steps. This method has worked well
for the past seven years and will continue to be the method in the
However, the trade school is now able to offer—to a select
few students—a unique, once-a-year, real-life, hands-on adventure
never offered by anyone before. Students will not be making samples;
they will be making real treatments for real customers with real
windows, real fabrics and real challenges in a multimillion-dollar
But how can a school offer real customers? Let’s go back to
FROM DREAM TO REALITY
It all started with a dream in the heart of faux-painting expert
and author Susan Goans. Susan’s work is sought after by top
interior designers and is displayed in historic locations throughout
the nation including Atlanta’s beautiful Peacock House (near
the governor’s mansion), homes in South Carolina’s famous
South Battery area, and the renowned Mills Mansion Estate in New
York’s Hudson River Valley. Susan’s work reaches as far
as Cumbria, England, where some of her labors rest upon the walls
of a privately owned 13th-century structure, Naworth Castle.
Susan has been sharing her expertise by teaching students how to
create a wide variety of professional faux finishes for several
years. Her students would make a small sample wall or piece of furniture
to work on as they learned each technique. They could take the samples
home with them after the class. This worked well, but Susan wanted
to give them even more.
She dreamed of students being able to apply their newly acquired
skills to real walls in a real home as a part of an apprentice-style
learning experience. The hands-on program would be designed to develop
artists, not just craftsmen, as each individual tapped into his
or her artistic ability and talent. Susan decided to find a client
that would be willing to provide the floors, walls and ceilings
of their home as a canvas for her students’ work.
The client would participate in the color and design choices and
would provide a party for all students, supporters and media when
the project was finished. The clients would vacate the home for
three months and come back to find it completely redecorated. The
entire project would be covered in popular magazines and television
shows. And, thus, Artistic Adventures was born.
FAIR HAVENS ADVENTURE
In 2001, Susan found the perfect home to turn her dream into a reality.
The historic home of Fair Havens was built in 1800 and is currently
owned by Ken and Linda Lauderdale. Its history includes a visit
from the distinguished General Lafayette. When the general was traveling
through Georgia in 1825, the surrounding community arranged a ball
in his honor.
Susan’s Artistic Adventures’ weekly classes helped completely
restore Fair Havens to its earlier splendor as the students gained
professional skills and confidence. A tremendous success, the project
was covered by several television shows and magazines.
The 2003 Artistic Adventure will be the new 11,000-square-foot Stonebrook
mansion in the historic and prestigious Buckhead/Brookhaven section
of Atlanta, GA, affectionately known as the “Hollywood of the
East.” Although not a restoration, this $3.5 million-dollar-plus
estate is owned by Dr. Gordon and Donna Brady.
The estate has an inviting fresh look, with a faux vintage theme
successfully accomplished by a touch of Old World craftsmanship.
The exterior of the structure is adorned with hand-molded brick
and authentic-looking slate roof. Each room of the interior will
capture a patina of age. A luscious courtyard, waterfall and pool
lie between the main house and the guest/carriage house.
Artistic Adventures is expanding this year’s real-life training
experience to include additional instructors offering fresco mural
painting, fine-art mural painting, floor cloth painting, woodcarving,
gardening, upholstery, and window coverings, which gets us back
to our trade school.
THE COMPLETE WINDOW COVERINGS EXPERIENCE
We were honored when Susan walked into my office, explained her
project and asked the Custom Home Furnishings Trade School to provide
the window coverings instruction. Setting up another workroom/classroom
will be a monumental task, but we feel that it is a fabulous idea
and are looking forward to the opportunity. School instructor Margie
Nance and I are coordinating the program and Nance will be teaching
Following Susan’s philosophy of creating artisans, the window
coverings classes will be not just about fabrication techniques,
it will be a complete window coverings experience. Students will
analyze and measure the actual windows, discuss design options and
fabric choices, design the patterns and fabricate the treatments.
The workroom/classroom will be set up in the garage of Stonebrooke
until completion of the job. The workroom will be completely functional,
with industrial sewing machines and all of the same equipment and
tools that are used by the trade school at its home location in
Swannanoa, NC. Students will work hard during all of the eight-week-long
classes, but will be pampered by a catered lunch served on the veranda
overlooking the courtyard of the estate. All supplies and materials
are provided as part of the tuition. Special student rates have
been arranged at a hotel within a 10-minute walk from Stonebrooke.
To assure one-on-one training, the classes are limited to between
six to eight students only.
Not only will students experience the process of creating window
treatments from beginning to end, they also will have the opportunity
to be featured in the media. The entire Artistic Adventure will
be documented weekly by a professional film crew. More than 50 decorating
magazines and television shows also have been invited to feature
and film both the progress and the finished product. The media also
have been invited to attend the gala Hollywood-theme party at the
completion of the project.
All students of all curriculums will be able to enjoy Stonebrooke,
completely finished and furnished. They will have the opportunity
to enjoy the company of Stonebrooke’s owners and network with
other artisan students in a design-house setting.
And now for the really good news! This adventure is not just for
the students. We are going to take you along with us on this exciting
journey as we transform Stonebrooke step by step in upcoming issues
of D&WC. We will share the designs and how they were made, the
challenges we faced and their solutions. It will be informative
and fun! Grab your safari hats and come along!
Strickland is owner of Professional Drapery School, Swannanoa, NC,
and is an internationally acclaimed speaker with 20 years experience
in the window coverings industry. She is the publisher and editor
of Sew WHAT?, an international monthly newsletter for professional