Given New York City’s penchant for a somber palette, the opening of a branch of French fabric store Les Toiles du Soleil (Fabric of the Sun) in Chelsea seems like mutiny. “People are scared of having color in their homes,” says Jean-Luc Carrucciu, who runs the outpost with his wife, Sandrine Guibert. “But then they start with one piece and gradually add more and more.” The company is nearly 150 years old and still handcrafts its vibrant cotton and linen fabrics on old-fashioned looms in the original St.-Laurent-de-Cerdans factory in southwestern France. In a similarly bygone tradition, the Manhattan boutique (two others operate in Paris and Tokyo) sells fabric by the yard and will custom-make any number of home goods—from curtains and duvets to tablecloths.
Outdoor furniture, such as umbrellas and deck chairs, is fashioned from a durable, water-resistant material called Sunbrella. The New York store also creates upholstery and carries pre-made items, such as beach totes, dish towels, and, as of this spring, espadrilles. It was actually the rope-heeled footwear that first propelled the company to success in the 1860s; in February, Carrucciu placed one bright sample pair in the window, and like plants gravitating toward sunlight, New Yorkers piled on the preorders in an instant. Accessories from $22, fabric from $35/yard at 72-inch width, espadrilles from $50; 261 W. 19th St.; 212-229-4730.
From the April/May 2009 issue of Sherman's Travel magazine