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Correction to This Article
-- A Feb. 26 Home article about designer Annie Selke incorrectly said that her trio of companies bring in $50 million annually. With the recently launched Annie Selke Home, they bring in about $50 million annually in retail sales.

Of Color and Comfort - Annie Selke's Cheery, Casual Style of Home Decor Is About to Hit It Big

Designer Annie Selke, who has launched an online collection of rugs, a furniture line and licensing deal with Calico Corners, is making a name for herself in the home decor world.

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By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Textile, carpet and furniture designer Annie Selke started her business in 1994 sewing a seat cushion at her dining room table.

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Early on, she sometimes needed the help of her entire family to fill a big order. Her husband packed boxes. Her parents and in-laws typed labels and invoices. Her 2 1/2 -year-old daughter was taught how and where to place price stickers.

Since then, Selke has been quietly building her companies in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. She has gradually gained publicity in shelter magazine spreads and has been selling her designs in boutiques and department stores and through mail-order catalogues and other retailers' Web sites nationwide.

Now her business is about to hit it huge.

Today, Selke begins selling her affordable Dash & Albert rugs online, at http://www.dashandalbert.com. This follows the launch of a furniture collection and a licensing deal with national chain Calico Corners, which began selling her fabrics, trim and furniture in the fall. Combined, these business moves put her on a path to becoming a household name.

"Everything she's been working for over the last 15 years has reached a peak," says Jan Jessup, a spokeswoman for Calico Corners. "She's really breaking through as a major design influence."

Selke's style is cheerful, pretty and practical. The basis for her designs is classic forms, such as stripes and florals, but she tweaks them with color to make them more modern. It's traditional but much more fun.

"The first word that comes to mind is 'happy,' " Stephen Drucker, editor of House Beautiful magazine, says of Selke's look. "The second word is 'comfortable.' The third, 'casual.' She's like the American decorating equivalent to good jeans and a good T-shirt to me. . . . It's hard to imagine having a bad day in an Annie Selke room."

Selke says she finds inspiration for her designs everywhere. The Uma Resist bedding pattern from her Pine Cone Hill company was inspired by an antique Chinese fabric, the motif on the Madeline quilt from a 1940s silk dressing gown. The idea for the Dash & Albert Scroll rug came from a gate in Charleston, S.C. Inside the company warehouse are approximately 5,000 pieces of vintage and antique linens, dresses, tickings, quilts, blankets, lace, silks and paisleys that Selke has picked up from antiques markets all around the world.

"I like things that are timeless and authentic but still fresh," she says.

Part of Selke's appeal is that her products are designed not only to be enjoyed, but also to stand up to reality-based living. Life is messy, especially with children and pets, and Selke designs from experience. She has a teenage daughter and three dogs. "Everything is washable," she says.

"Some people create rooms that reflect who they want to be," Drucker says. "Annie creates rooms that reflect who she is. It's not surprising that that is successful, because she's really likable, and people connect with that."


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