Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best upholstery and drapery shop in Houston

My opinionPerfect Windows at 3035 Fondren Road in Houston. 
It apparently has no website, but if you Google the name, you'll find yellow pages-style business listings on the internet. 

Curiously, it also has no real name on the storefront - just this distinctive symbol combination which is apparently meant to signify the letters "PW" for "Perfect Windows", but the "W" looks more to me like an old-style mustache than a stylized drapery swag.  As I was evaluating shops up and down Fondren, I came to think of this one as "that store wearing the mustache". 

Screengrabbed from Google Street View. 
One of these classics.  "Old West Mustache" screengrabbed from this Gentleman's Emporium offering where, sadly, it is currently listed as "sold out". 
Let me explain the reasons for my choice of Perfect Windows.  (And as always, I accept no compensation for recommending any given business or venue.  This post reflects my personal opinions and experiences only, and yours may differ.) 

Every consummate greater-Houstonian knows that, if you want to maximize the quality of your time in this place, you must step out of your comfort zone.  Like a seventeen-year cicada crawling from the bowels of the Earth, you need to emerge from your suburban community and actually head downtown once in a while. 
Come into urban enlightenment.  Trust me - it never fails to be a revealing experience. 

Cicada screengrabbed from this site
This is particularly true if you are looking for unique items that do not fit narrowly-defined suburban stereotypes, which was the case with me as I was searching for new upholstery for a chair.  We do have fabric and upholstery shops in the Houston 'burbs, places such as Hancock Fabrics and JoAnn Fabrics, and for many projects, sources like those will meet your needs.  But here's the limitation, in my opinion:  The chains are very formulaic and very traditional.  They sell the same-old-same-old.   If you're looking for something new and unique, you might not find it at any of those common retail outlets.

Hence Fondren Road.  The best of what Houston offers in the way of home furnishings diversity is arguably found on Fondren Road and in the encompassing Harwin wholesale district.  I find Fondren itself to be the best for unique furniture and furniture-related services.  Despite the no-frills appearance to the neighborhood, a lot of high-end retailers can actually be found there.  But the bargain places are also there.  So whenever I need something that I can't find anywhere else, my "Fondren Footwork" begins:  I cruise along the street previewing shop after shop until I finally hit pay dirt. 

For my current upholstery project, I was searching for fabrics that were transitional to mid-century modern or contemporary in style, rather than the traditional offerings that tend to dominate suburban retail outlets. 

Furthermore, I was searching for a retailer who actually had product in stock so that I could take good-sized swatches home with me (which is not possible when you are forced to order based solely on samples), and also so that I wouldn't have to wait weeks and weeks for material to be shipped in from some far-off location before the craftspeople could even begin my re-upholstery job.
Um, no.  It's too difficult to get any sense of the overall effect if you can't unroll a bolt of it and view it on a furniture-sized scale.  And of course you can't cut swatches from samples like these.

Screengrabbed from an eBay listing
Here are the things that convinced me to choose Perfect Windows:
  • They had product in stock - LOTS of it - it's a huge store.  And a good subset of that product was transitional to modern in style. 
  • The yardage prices were really good compared to other outlets I had visited. 
  • They were not stingy with their swatches.  They handed me a pair of scissors and invited me to go to town taking what I needed.  I'll show my swatches at the end of this post.  You can tell from looking at the selvage edges and threads that I was able to take large enough pieces to get a good idea of what each upholstery would look like in my own home. 
  • I got a good vibe.  Everyone in the store was working hard.  They were obviously racking up a lot of orders which meant that they had a customer base who trusted them. 
  • They were organized.  Every order was explicitly described on paper with a swatch of the customer's chosen upholstery or drapery fabric stapled to the page so that there would be no miscommunication. 
  • The labor quote I received was certainly not cheap, but it was lower than what I had been offered elsewhere. 
  • They quoted me just a 2-week turnaround and then delivered within 10 days, in contrast to the weeks and weeks of waiting that characterize some other retailers.  The work appeared to be done in-house rather than farmed out to subcontractors. 
  • The quality of the work I received was really good.  I'll describe that in a separate post. 
Anyway, here are my swatches, so that you can get a feel for some of the more transitional stock that they had, at least as of the day of my order in December 2013.  For this project, I was re-upholstering a standalone family room chair.  Given that the workpiece was smaller, I was at liberty to consider bolder and less conventional fabrics, which would not have been the case if it had been a huge couch, for instance.  There's an unwritten rule in interior design that says you're allowed to have one outrageous piece per room, for the fun of it.  I was intentionally trying to make this particular chair un-boring, which is why I narrowed down my initial contenders to these:
Rather guttural and reminiscent of an algal mat, but I describe my style as 'organic industrial', so this was a possibility.
Oooooh!!!  Jetsons style!!  Love this!!!  But unfortunately, the hue and saturation were so similar to our family room floor rug that this fabric wouldn't have allowed the chair to stand out. 
Look at the wool rug beneath the doggie blanket.  See what I mean??  The chair would have ended up being camouflaged if I had used that wonderful upholstery above.  It would blend right into the rug. 

Screengrabbed from this post
Similarly with this swatch, I loved the style of it, but the tones and pattern would have been too similar to the existing rug.  As my order was being processed, another buyer picked this material for their custom drapery order.  Nice choice. 
This was really too traditional but I brought a swatch of it just in case. 
This was really too contemporary but I brought a swatch of it just in case. 
My husband and daughter both loved this one, but it was too similar to our existing couch, which you can also see in the doggie photo above. 
If you know anything about Shipibo tribal art, this one ought to resonate with you. 
It's certainly consistent with an organic industrial theme, but again, not much of a stand-out from the area rug and not ideal for a dark corner with a north-facing window (i.e., cold light). 
Circles are one of my design themes, so I had to see how this one looked. 
Of course there's my whole gardening vibe as well, so some metallic leaves were worth considering...
Definitely different, but I was afraid it would look a little too 80's retro and wouldn't coordinate with the couch. 
Industrial similar to the other geometric above, with the same problems. 

And guess what??  This became my winner. 
Yes, I did, in fact, reupholster a chair in a very non-traditional discontinuous oddly-geometric-polka-dot-slash-Lego hybrid design.  For a description of those results, you'll have to wait for a near-future post.  In the meantime, I offer you my fondest wishes for your own emerging Fondren adventures.
"Here" being outside of the suburban security headspace.

One result of the search string 'annoying cicada meme'.  Screengrabbed from

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