FRANKIE WELCH's apartment in the Watergate is interesting, not only for the peek at how someone lives in a $1,200 Watergate apartment, but for its professional ideas on moveable decorations -- custom decor to go when you do. The ideas will work equally well in a $200 apartment, or even in an office you may own only until the next election.
Welch has a silkscreen textile studio. She uses her Watergate apartment as a showcase for her designs and to entertain guests who might order custom fabric.
She uses a system of wallboard covered with fabric to make modular panels. The panels can be mounted on the walls or hinged and used free standing as screens. Fabric can also be mounted on the walls with drapery hardware, or tacked on with staples.
The panels have great advantages: They provide a quick way to insulate. The wallboard itself has some insulating qualities, buy you also could beef it up by adding insulation to the back -- fiberglass or rigid foam. The panels cover cracked plaster or obnoxious wallpaper much quicker than trying to replaster or strip the walls. And they can turn a plain pipe rack type apartment with no redeeming architectual value into a lush custom nest. (No jokes please about padded cells). Best of all, when you go, they can go along. And you leave the landlord's walls in the same condition you got them.
The walls in her Watergate apartment are covered with her custom silkscreen fabric, mostly in delicate mauve and peach colors. Currently Welch thinks everybody should cover their walls with fiber-board-backed fabric (preferably Welch's of course). She's made similar wall coverings for Joan Mondale's office in the Executive Office Building and Joseph Maxwell Cleland, the head of the Veteran's Administration.
Even if they want to use somebody else's fabric, Welch thinks her system of portable wall covering is pretty neat (see sketch on Page 2). You make a frame with 2-by-2-inch lumber (or 1-by-2 inch if you're fastening it to the wall). Then you cover the frame with hardboard. Fasten polyester batting to the frame with spot glue and contact cement on the edges. You stretch on the fabric and staple it on the back of the frame.
For her Watergate bedroom Welch has made hinged panels for screens to serve as window coverings. The walls of the bedroom are hung, with the fabric panels. She covered fat rectangulars of plywood to make a head and footboard for the bed. She also quilted slipcovers and pillows for her Watergate bed.
From the moment you walk in the foyer of the apartment, it's easy to see who lives there. She not only covered the walls with fabric but she gathered it on the ceiling like a tent for the foyer. The pattern here is one she made for the Folger Library called Shakespeare's garden maze.
In the living room on either side of the sliding glass doors, leading to the balcony, she made screens covered with the fabric, to stand on either side of the curtains. On the walls she has mounted the silkscreens themselves instead of paintings, backed with lights. Her lucheon napkins are -- you guessed it, more scarves.
The subdued contemporary furniture was bought with the help of interior designer, Suzanne Shaw.Welch also works with Vera Coles on interior design.
Recently, Welch commissioned a fanciful plexiglas table from Jeffrey Bigelow, which turns the small dining area into a glittering stage. The pair of splendid Art Deco arm chairs in the living room belonged to Welch's parents. "Not 'til I had them recovered," she said, "did I realize that one was made to be the papa chair, slightly larger, and one the mama chair."
If you didn't own the factory, you wouldn't be able to afford all that fabric. But even so, the ideas are adaptable in smaller units. For instance, one young couple with no art for their walls, and a distaste for posters, bought a small amount of a really expensive fabric, used it to cover their dining room chairs and then mounted two pieces, framed importantly, on an awkward wall.
Living well, of course, is to have Welch run you off a section of fabric for your very own, with a design based on your childhood perhaps, or your coat of arms. She'll do a custom design only in 50 yard units with a $50 design fee. So the minimum order would be $775. But you could start by framing one of her scarves and save up for the rest. CAPTION: Illustration, After constructing Frame/Hardboard assembly, cover with polyester fluff thin batting (spot glue with contact cement on edges), then stretch-on fabric & staple on back of frame, Copyright (c) Frankie Welch; Picture, In her Watergate apartment Frankie Welch used her moveable fabric wall-panels to cover the bedroom wall. By Harry Naltchayan - The Washington Post