Design Sample Library Organization

My favorite thing to do while designing a space is sourcing and curating fabrics. I just LOVE them so, so much. After the interior architecture is outlined, furniture is custom designed and/or sourced, fabrics and finishes follow. This is the phase where I’m most excited to coordinate colors, patterns and textures because they really do set the tone for the entire FF&E scheme. See our fabric schemes for inspiration. We rely on samples sent to us by various suppliers to help us make a decision. How should we organize the multitude of fabric and wallpaper scraps, I thought. I knew we needed an effective way to store them, while being able to reach for these essential assets with ease.

Our Design Sample Library Organization

Considering our design process and current space, I knew baskets were going to be our main storage solutions. Of course, when I initially launched Synonymous, I completely underestimated the actual amount of fabrics and other samples that a design firm collects. Please believe me it is a lot! As one is exposed to many suppliers, the samples begin to pile up even while we try keeping only the products we really love and see ourselves specifying for projects. This forced me to envision oversized baskets that would help with our growing sample library. I specifically want them more than using drawers to store fabrics as I’ve seen other designers do, because I like the idea of moving them around wherever we need them, if necessary. I usually bring the baskets over to my desk as I am designing on the computer, making it super easy to sort through our collections there. With drawers, this flexibility would not be possible. Our design library uses a very functional cataloguing approach. We organize each sample by category, color and at times by pattern if we happen to have many fabrics featuring the same design, like herringbone or even by composition. For example, silk, which we use a lot and has a beautiful distinct look to it. We also alphabetize the labels used to classify each basket, making it quick to target when needed.

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I wanted specific baskets for storage. Rattan Baskets! Robust, high quality, durable with a light natural/gray color. I was looking for large, deep and high baskets that could fit our growing inventory and larger samples. Surprisingly enough, those are the ones we’ve been receiving from suppliers as supposed to the typical 4x4 fabric memos. I looked absolutely everywhere for the perfect ones. They were to be stored inside my antique china cabinet that has an interior depth of only 10” inches. This meant the baskets could only be 9” deep at most. Where the heck was I going to find an oversized, yet narrow basket? Turns out no where, so we had a sample custom made by talented artisans with our exact dimensions. We received photos of a sample made for us within 2 days. Wow, that was fast! I designed baskets with a forward facing integrated handle that would be visible when inside the china cabinet. And, with our ideal dimensions 15” long, 9” deep and 12” tall. Perfect! The photos below are showing the first sample made for us where the handles were placed on the shorter sides.

Final Basket Design

We wanted the final design to have the integrated handles on the longer 15” side, so here is how the second sample turned out. Perfect!


As for Labeling our baskets, I didn’t want to use the classic paper labels, I felt it would be cool to implement real brass hang tags that I could later have engraved, accordingly. I can’t wait for that! For now, I’ve used clear stickers and pasted those onto the hang tags. To attach them onto the baskets, I’ve used twine, but a thin satin ribbon would’ve been cute, too.

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Storing the baskets

I love the idea of using my very large and precious antique china cabinet. I actually scored this beauty for free on Craigslist back in 2015 from a generous older couple who were downsizing. Despite it being 52” inches in height and 77” wide, the plan is to have a custom cabinet built under it, elevating it further. I envision it making a bigger statement than it already does, HA! The cabinet below will host drawers where we would store the remaining of our samples. These include wood, special finishes, hardware through to carpet/rugs stone and tiles, which I find are better suited in drawers as they’re heavier. I attached a removable textured wallpaper in an ivory color on the back of the china cabinet because I refuse to paint the gorgeous wood. Yet, I felt that in order to make the rattan baskets and brass labels stand out, the wood color had to go, no? What other alternatives or ideas do you have for storing interior design samples? Let us know below.

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