Alex Conroy’s talent for art and design manifested itself early in life through her bold renderings of her first inspiration, Wonder Woman. Her work was proudly displayed on her parent’s refrigerator in Los Angeles. In later years, Alex pursued her passion with classes in drawing and design at Otis Parsons and an Art History minor at Trinity College. After moving to the Bay Area, her knack for texture and pattern and love of color and form eventually led Alex to expand her endeavors to interior design. Alex launched New Leaf Furnishings in 2010 to help clients revitalize their living spaces through custom reupholstery and refinishing. As her business grew, so did Alex’s love for fabric, and she sought out unusual textiles to enhance her clients’ redesign projects. In time, Alex decided to create her own line of fabrics, and Alex Conroy Textiles was born.
What is your background? Have you always been aesthetically minded?
I was raised in Los Angeles by parents who were collectors and started bringing my sister and me to museums, galleries, and auction houses when we were very young. My mother was an animator at Hanna-Barbera after she graduated from art school so drawing was just something that we did in our house. I took summer and weekend classes at Otis Parsons all through school and minored in Art History in college. It makes me happy to spend my days doing something I love that is also creatively fulfilling. Oh, and I still get a thrill when I go into any art supply store. The Flax store in Oakland is my happy place!
We love that you have a history of repurposing furniture. What have your most inspired reinventions been?
This was a flip-top table that I found at an estate sale for practically nothing…and you can see why. A little refinishing made a huge difference!
A simple round ottoman turned into the main attraction of a living room after we reupholstered it in Schumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon.
This slipper chair had definitely seen better days but it had nice lines. I lost the fringe, refinished the legs, and used a floral cotton Kravet fabric. Much better!
Did your passion for reupholstery lead you to textile design?
I certainly came into contact with a lot of fabric in my projects so the inspiration was ever-present. One of the main services I provided was textile consulting. So often, a client would have an antique chair or sofa that they didn’t want to part with but matched nothing in their house. Finding a great fabric that tied it together with their aesthetic and gave it a new life was gratifying. I loved going to the Design Center and picking out fabrics for projects. People don’t have access to “trade only” fabrics if they aren’t working with a designer. It was always nice to provide that service on a smaller scale.
Once you decided you wanted to move into textile design how did you make it a reality?
I had drawn little motifs in a notebook over the years but it all really started when I asked a dear friend who is a wonderful graphic designer to help me turn them into something more. She put them into Illustrator and we worked out the scales and repeats together. Then, I found a wonderful printer in Pennsylvania and linen source and it all took off from there.
What are the inspirations for your textile line?
I love textiles! Working with them has always been my favorite part of the design process. In my upholstery projects, I saw some gaps in the textile market that were frustrating from a designer’s perspective. I like clean lines, a variety of scales, and the ability to mix and match fabrics easily. My collection has two different linen grounds – oyster and natural, two color families – brights and pastels, and lots of color options within each color way. It was important to me that one could find a great large-scale pattern for drapes but also select a small pattern for a lumbar pillow that worked. You can even custom color any of my patterns for a perfect match in any project!
As far as the patterns themselves go, I love Indian motifs. I was fortunate to travel to India about ten years ago and it was a very special experience. My Large Marigold pattern is inspired by a Mughal floral pattern but with cleaner lines and crisper colors. I also love stripes so I created three for the collection: a traditional small scale stripe; a narrow, floral stripe inspired by a Roman mosaic; and a wide, floral stripe that manages to avoid feeling too heavy.
If someone is working within a strict budget where do you encourage them to spend and save?
As an enthusiastic visitor of local estate sales and auction houses, I can state with authority that there are a lot of great pieces of furniture with “good bones” that can be had for very little and reimagined with some great fabric and a good upholsterer. I bought my dining room table, a gorgeous mahogany Georgian piece with pedestal legs and three leaves, at an auction at Bonham’s for only $250! I splurged on the refinishing but still spent a fraction of what I might have at a San Francisco antiques store. I also believe in spending a bit more on good quality framing. It is quite amazing what a beautiful matte and frame can do for a piece of art.
Is there a project you fantasize about doing?
Well, it is truly a fantasy as it involves my imaginary house in Calistoga but I would love to build and design a house for my family there. Someday!
Is there a current trend that you think will endure?
I don’t know if it qualifies as a trend since it’s been around forever but I am really happy that people are embracing wallpaper again and I hope that trend continues. There are so many great options on the market. I have been using a lot of Phillip Jeffries’ wall coverings lately and there is so much variety in that line. I will be launching my own wallpaper collection this summer, which will feature a handful of my patterns on paper and grass cloth, and I am very excited about it.
What are your favorite pieces on Previously Owned by a Gay Man and how would you use them in a project?
I know it’s not considered very fashionable right now but I happen to love “brown furniture.” A great piece of wooden furniture adds visual interest and oft-needed weight to a room. Here are some of my favorites on the POBAGM site:
Rose Tarlow Pickwick Dining Table – stunning and elegant. Add in some upholstered dining chairs and a beautiful wallpaper and your dining room is all set.
Vintage Oak Bench – I love this bench! Those splats are charming. It would be very nice in an entryway.
Old Spanish-Style writing desk – I think this would be a lovely piece in a guest bedroom under a window. The scale is good – not too big – so it would work well in a petite room.
Crestair Porter Autry Coffee table with metal edge – This is a seriously sexy table. I like a round coffee table placed next to a sectional as it nicely breaks up all the angles.
19th Century Marble Topped Burled Walnut Chest – My favorite thing for an entry and this one is gorgeous!
I also love an interesting little chair and there are some great options:
My love of whimsy draws me to the Meese Canvas Basket. Not sure where I would put it but I could definitely find a place for it somewhere!.
See Alex’s beautiful fabrics at Alex Conroy Textiles.