Podcast, Ep. 243: How to Choose Fabrics with Meredith Ellis

Designer Meredith Ellis on the How to Decorate Podcast

Designer Meredith Ellis

Today we welcome Dallas-based interior designer Meredith Ellis to the show. Meredith has over two decades of experience in the industry and specializes in creating soulful, layered homes that are sophisticated yet livable. Her career began while she worked under the legendary Bunny Williams in NYC before moving west to hone her skills with internationally renowned designer Michael Smith. Meredith is also the founder of JAMES showroom featuring fabric, wallpaper, furniture, lighting, and carpets for Texas and the South. Her work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Traditional Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, and The LA Times. We dive into Meredith’s “seamless” use of fabrics with patterns, colors, and textures and tips and tricks for how (and where) to use them!

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Where should we begin with fabrics?
  • What are the best fabrics for tufting?
  • What patterns does Meredith gravitate to for sofas, drapes, and wallpapers, respectively?
  • All about how to use fabric for lampshades.
  • Does Meredith have tips for making bold vs. subtle decisions with patterns?
  • How Meredith was able to use fabric in a modern way for the Kips Bay Room.
  • When does Meredith like to use a mural wallpaper?
  • How to bring fabric with textures and patterns into bedding.
  • What’s the best way to familiarize yourself with fabrics before choosing?
  • Where does Meredith draw inspiration and influence?
  • What antique malls and dealers does Meredith love?

Decorating Dilemma

Hi Ladies,

Thank you for your incredibly informative podcast. I started listening when my third baby was a newborn and just hit Episode 100. I’ve been decorating all the while!

Here’s my dilemma: The dining room in my 1920’s Nashville bungalow is bland, and I know I need a starting point. The table and the white and gold china set stay, but anything else in the room can go. We need some storage in here, as it’s our main dining and homework space.

Also, the budget is minuscule, but I’m good at FB Marketplace and DIY painting.

Here are my questions:

  • What are some power statement ideas?
  • Do the window treatments in the dining room and living room need to be the same?
  • Should I do a window treatment on the back half window in the living room? If so, what?
  • What kind of rug would suit the dining room and be friends with the living room rug?
  • How should I display my china?

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Hi Kristin,

Your house has such classic and beautiful bones. I think the biggest bang for your buck is going to be painting and adding some color. I would draw color from the living room maybe from the Oriental rug; I would probably use sage or gray blues. Drawing shades from nature is a great way to get comfortable adding color. A real show stopper is just painting your walls, trim, and window casings. If you are just going to paint the dining room, I would do maybe a soft gray-blue and then your millwork a little darker to give some depth. On the ceiling, I would lighten up that color by half. If you need storage I would paint that breakfront a pretty high gloss color; either a contrast like black or dark dark green. You could also do wallpaper in the back of the cabinets and display the china there. In terms of the drapery, I don’t think you have to do the same fabric in both of the rooms. You can do one as a pattern (in the dining room) and maybe one a little more tame (in the living room). Just have them relate on some level, but they definitely don’t have to be the same. One of the other things you could do is use some bold art as a great statement piece; maybe something with some color. Since you’re on a budget you could try places like Facebook Marketplace, antique malls, Chairish, or 1st Dibs. On the rug, it depends on how bold you go with art, but it definitely needs to be a low pile so you can move chairs easily in and out. You could do sisal but I would not do another Oriental since that’s in your living room. Maybe a pretty stripe, diamond, or another geometric pattern. When you get to the point that your budget allows it, I would do some pretty upholstered chairs for the dining room–something that’s really durable especially if you have kids. Think performance fabric or pattern. Otherwise, just paint the window frames. I also love painting doors a contrast color, so if you want you can paint the french doors either a fun color or go darker than whatever you choose for the millwork. But I really think we gotta get some green in there.

A little paint can really make such an impact! This house has such great bones…good luck and please send us some pics!

Mentioned in This Episode:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

Subscribe in Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts

Abbey Nolte

Abbey is a homegrown Georgia peach who loves a fresh take on Southern design. When she’s not working behind the scenes of the How to Decorate blog and podcast, you can find her cheering on the Appalachian State Mountaineers and spending time with her wheaten terrier, Charlie.