Kathleen Taylor Celebrates the Legacy and Future of Antique Textiles

Kathleen Taylor in her Lotus Collection showroom where she deals in antique textiles.Feathery green leaves in an 18th-century French tapestry; lush flowers and vines rambling over a hand-painted ceremonial hanging from Sumatra; inky Japanese indigos. Stepping into the Lotus Collection showroom, where Kathleen Taylor deals in museum-quality antique textiles, it’s hard to know where to look first. But that’s where this trained art historian’s graciousness and scholarship comes in; Taylor, who works with museums as well as interior designers and collectors, is delighted to share her knowledge. One of the country’s leading sources for antique decorative textiles, Taylor recently moved from her iconic Jackson Square showroom of over 25 years to a sunny new appointment-only space in Sausalito, enabling her to focus on serious visitors and clients, and to do research—a very important aspect of the work.

Taylor’s philosophy on choosing fabrics for her collection is simple but thoughtful—she looks for pieces that are “beautiful, unique and usually hand-made.” Drawers and shelves in the showroom are filled with treasures from Europe, Asia and Africa. A piece of Spitalfields silk-satin from late 18th-century London features brightly colored flowers exquisitely woven into a glowing, pearly background. A rich, red silk from late  17th-century France borrows colors and floral patterns from the Middle East and is woven through with gleaming gold thread. In an age of dim candlelight, Taylor notes, “designers were genius at maximizing the possibilities of light reflection.”

A selection of antique textiles at Kathleen Taylor's Lotus Collection showroom.These, of course, were very costly fabrics, but she also loves indigo-dyed cottons, which have much humbler origins but a great beauty of their own. Most come from Japan and West Africa, where they were made using simple plant color and resist-dye techniques. In Japan, for instance, tiny rice grains are stitched onto fabric before dying, then removed—revealing beautifully intricate yet minimal patterns that are a mixture of chance and intention. She also has a selection of 20th-century textiles that includes Art Deco fabrics, bold 1960’s op art-patterened cottons and Fortuny silks.

Taylor is always fascinated to see how the interior designers and collectors she works with will use pieces from her collection. Framed, made into decorative screens, used for upholstery or even pillows, they can transform an interior and add layers of richness and texture; in particular, if the interior is a very modern one, she notes, they can provide a sense of contrast and patina. And with their unique, handmade beauty and history, each piece has a story that’s just waiting to unfold.

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Loom State.