What about Doilies?

by George Schwab

I know that the title of this blog post sounds ridiculous but it addresses a problem that can be serious when you are living with investment grade furniture or even just nice expensive furniture. How do you deal, in an elegant way, with the inevitable wear and tear that accompanies the day-to-day living with a piece that you want to maintain in the best condition possible?

Crocheted doilie. source:  handcraftedorVinage Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/listing/180383805/large-crochet-doily-white-cotton-lace?ref=market Crocheted doilie.
source: handcraftedorVinage Etsy shop

I’m seventy years old. (OMG how did that happen)? Well, my Mother and Grandmother solved that problem with doilies. If you are of a certain age you may remember them too. They were little crocheted protectors that Mom and Grand mom put on table tops and on the arms and backs of upholstered pieces to prevent scratching of the wood surfaces or staining of the upholstery fabric. They were accompanied by the rigorous use of coasters under any beverage that was placed on a wood table top. I guess I need to explain crochet’. It is a kind of knitting (I think it began in the Victorian Era) where small “crochet’ needles” are used to produce varying sizes of lacy, small to tabletop size, coverings as well as accessories to ladies clothing. When Barbara and I moved into my Grandparents house in 1980 when we were first married, we found a whole drawer full of doilies in the dining room. In their spare time (I can’t imagine a whole lot of that) Mom and Grand mom made them. Remember, idle hands are the devil’s tools!

So when B and I started to take our MidCentury Modern and Danish Modern furniture seriously and wanted to keep it in the best condition possible, we realized that Mom and Grand mom had solved the problem years ago. Doilies!
Well, we couldn’t do doilies exactly as they were, but replace them by some sort of analog for doilies that would accompany and enhance our modern furniture.

Woven Textile placemat used to protect the top of this Greta Jalk end table at the bottom of our stair.

We sat down at the kitchen table and tried to come up with something that might be a fiber product that was relatively flat, had a pattern that suited our aesthetic sensibilities and was relatively easy to come by. We had used remnants of upholstery fabric but somehow, that didn’t have enough punch. Both of us love Pre-Columbian artifacts and the Kilim textiles woven in Turkey and by the Southwestern Native Americans. We thought about it for a bit and right there, in front of us, were placemats. Tribal pattern placemats are exactly the thing! We thought a little more and realized that we had a small collection of low pile Kilim rugs. We decided that they would be perfect as doilies for large table tops. We could use tribal patterned placemats and small Kilim sample weavings on smaller tabletops and on the backs of upholstered chairs and sofas. I think the real trick here is to choose a fabric or fiber technique that has a real level of authenticity in that it derives its design motifs from true ethnic sources and appeals to you on a deep, gut level and experiment with that.

Sometimes, when you are trying to think outside the box, you need to examine the history of what’s inside the box before you venture forth.

Left: Instead of a doilie we have used a ethnic woven textile rug  as a table cover to protect the surface of my vintage Danish Modern desk. Right: Ethnic woven textile rug used over our Hans Wegner daybed protects the vintage upholstery.