Sometimes the finest things can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Consider Geyserville. You may be hard pressed to buy a new wrench or set of pruners now that the old Bosworth’s is selling Western apparel and gifts. You’ll have to drive north or south to buy an appliance or a new car. But in tiny Geyserville, you can get bespoke linens, custom loomed in Europe, and museum-quality tapestries created by some of the top artists in the medium like Chuck Close and Kiki Smith.
This home finery comes through the good graces and good taste of Dallas Saunders. A trained artist, she was inspired to open her gallery and showroom by the space — a former prune packing plant re-imagined for Geyserville arts patron Steve Oliver by Jensen Architects, the San Francisco firm responsible for the multi-award winning SHED in Healdsburg. Andrea Cochran, one of the Bay Area’s leading landscape architects, designed the exterior spaces.
Such a stunning space, she figured, surely deserved to feature something exquisite inside and to be shared.
“I moved into this space to do my wholesale business. I didn’t move in thinking I would be open to the public,” said Saunders, who also lives in the tiny town in the Alexander Valley. “However, it was twice the space I needed, and the person who I originally was to share the space with decided to sell his business and move back to Wales at the spur of the moment. I was stuck with a lot more room than I needed.”
And so the tapestry gallery and textile showroom was born. Interior designers and people looking for singular fabrics for the home can arrange for custom bed covers, window coverings and browse among large, 1-yard sample swatches of fabric loomed of Belgian, French and Irish linen, as well as woolens, tweeds and cashmere. There also are decorative pillows featuring the designs of architect Julia Morgan from Hearst Castle that are functional art.
Saunders does have stock fabric from larger mills. But she also arranges with small artisan weavers in Europe to custom spin fabrics in small batches for single projects.
“I have people who will weave just 14 yards of fabric for me,” said Saunders, who has weavers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, France, Belgium and Italy.
This is not the linen you will find in mid-line stores. It’s among the finest, spun from flax grown in Belgium and northern France, known for producing the best in the world.
Certain retailers sell products they market as Belgian linen. But when you read the fine print, Saunders said, you find out that the flax was grown, processed and woven into fabric in India, with the only Belgian connection being the seeds the flax was grown from.
“The best fibers are from the north of France, Holland and Belgium because it grows really fast. It’s also the way they process its. They don’t just chop it off and mow it down. A machine pulls it out of the ground and it sits there and it gets rained on and basically the rain washes away most of the plant they don’t want and puts it back in the soil,” she said of the old traditional methods used for generations.