Creating Their Own Pattern for Success

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 27, 2008

You may not recognize the name. But that is likely to change soon.

Sisters Katharine Hable Sweeney and Susan Hable Smith own nine-year-old Hable Construction, a small New York-based textile company that designs and sells hand-printed fabrics and home accessories.

Hable's cheerful palette and organic patterns have made it a longtime favorite of designers and shop owners who say the fabrics, bedding, pillows, storage bins and other accessories are well made and timeless and work in both contemporary and traditional interiors.

The company is about to hit it huge: Pottery Barn Kids is using seven Hable fabrics for its new custom nursery collection of gliders, rockers, chairs and ottomans. The upholstered pieces were introduced in the chain's catalogue in January.

The sisters sell accessories and some upholstered furniture pieces to the public at a tiny store on Perry Street in New York's West Village, online at http://www.hableconstruction.com, and at more than 100 boutiques and department stores across the country, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York. Fabrics are sold only through designers.

The Texas-born siblings (Katharine is 40; Susan, 37) founded their company in 1999 and took the name from their late great-grandfather's road construction business. ("Our dad is bursting his buttons, he's so proud," Katharine says.) Many shoppers have come to know their look through the Garnet Hill catalogue, which sells Hable holiday items such as wool-felt stockings and tree skirts, and which recently introduced the company's pillows, quilts, shams and sheets.

"Our customers just love Hable," says Wendy Thayer, spokeswoman for Garnet Hill. "They have created a reputation for being amazing textile designers and having really beautiful designs."

But such stylishness will cost you. A Pottery Barn swivel glider covered in a standard brushed twill costs $849; the same glider with a Hable fabric costs $1,849. On the Hable Web site, a lovely canvas storage container for towels or toys is $275. Totes start at $110, pillows at $95. But price does not seem to deter a growing group of loyal customers. At the store's sample sale last spring, there was a 45-minute wait to get in the door.

We talked to Katharine and Susan by telephone from New York about their style and upcoming projects.

How did Hable Construction start?

Katharine: We started out selling silk scarves, then shifted into silk hand-beaded pillows. They were beautiful, but too precious for our lifestyle. We're blue-jeans-and-cowboy-boots girls. We're very utilitarian, and at the end of the day we wanted something that was that durable and practical. Now we print on canvas and cotton linen.

How would you describe Hable Construction's look?


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