Living

Flexibility in fabric

A sample of the changeable furnishing offered at the Arroyo Grande shop. The patterned slip-cover is removable and washable, for ease of maintenance and flexibility in décor.
A sample of the changeable furnishing offered at the Arroyo Grande shop. The patterned slip-cover is removable and washable, for ease of maintenance and flexibility in décor.

According to Camay Arad, there’s a new breed of bargain hunter. As the owner of Chameleon Fabrics, Furniture&Design, she has witnessed cost-conscious consumers eschewing cheap, throwaway furniture to invest in pieces that will provide a better value over time.

This, in part, explains why Arad’s custom furniture line has fared well through a recession that has claimed a host of local furniture retailers.

In 1996, Arad and husband Winton Tullis

introduced a line of

changeable furnishings, which they sell through their Arroyo Grande fabric shop. The pieces are an evolution in the concept of slipcovers. Each washable cover is so precisely tailored it looks like actual upholstery.

“People argue with me in the store saying there’s no way it’s a slipcover, because it fits like a glove,” she said.

Customers choose from a set line of frames and leg styles. Then they select from a nearly infinite number of fabrics. The store started out with two frame styles. In the past few years, Chameleon added four additional frames, and began offering swivel chairs, rockers and sectionals.

One of the newer frame styles, the “Oliver,” is square-armed and more contemporary than its predecessors, but Arad shies away from introducing anything too trendy.

“The core message of our line is flexibility in design, so we stay within classical lines, then express whatever style you want through fabric,” she said.

Frames are built by a small carpentry shop and some of the work is done locally. Slipcovers are sewn on site at Chameleon. Naturally, the up-front cost is higher than mass-produced furnishings. But in the long run it can present a cost savings.

New slipcovers for basic sofas cost $395, plus the cost of fabric, which is considerably less than the cost of purchasing a new piece or reupholstering (which, by the way, Chameleon does as well). Slipcovers can be ordered in the shop or even by mail, avoiding the headache of sending your favorite sofa off to the upholstery shop.

The ability to make over your furniture on a whim, along with the eco-friendly notion of not sending a sofa to the landfill once a decade, has contributed to the appeal of the Chameleon line.

“It has always been a green item,” said Arad. “People who chose not to buy the furniture 10 years ago come in bemoaning the fact now that they have to pay to get their furniture reupholstered.”

The Chameleon philosophy extends beyond upholstery. Camay teaches classes on how to give your entire home flexible style. She recently reduced the length of her classes from three hours to two. The price has also decreased to $35 from $50. Visit www.chameleonstyle.comfor a class schedule. Special arrangements can be made for groups interested in learning Camay’s concept of changeable Chameleon style.

Chameleon Fabrics, Furniture & Design is at 415 E. Branch Street in Arroyo Grande, 481-4104.

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