Navajo Madness

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 12 2009 11:58 AM

Navajo Madness

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One of my favorite stores in New York is Paula Rubenstein Ltd. , home to all kinds of anti-mass production curiosities including giant balls of string (and barbed wire), a driftwood lamp the size of a sixth-grader, and the most comprehensively fabulous collection of Navajo blankets you'll ever see. They don't necessarily come cheap-this is Soho, not a thrift store in Wyoming-but I consider each one a work of art.

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Native American motifs have swung in and out of vogue for decades: Ralph Lauren has long recognized that Navajo sweaters are just as American as preppy cableknits and Western-themed movies have kept the look alive. But there were some dark years in the 1990s for the colorful stripes, diamonds and checkerboards I love so dearly: Think Barbra Streisand album covers or the Arizona Jeans Company at J.C. Penney. A Navajo-printed denim jacket (paired with a turquoise bolo tie) or an entire duvet set may never look chic, but let's ponder some updated applications for our predecessors' handiwork:

-Upholstery: why not upholster an occasional/slipper chair in one of these incredible rugs ? If yours is a museum-quality I wouldn't cut it up, but if George Smith and ABC Carpet can cover entire sofas in old kilims I see nothing wrong with repurposing a geometric blankie. Try centering a diamond design on the seat and back.

-Wall decoration: Hanging rugs and textiles feels a little grandiose, yet I love the idea of three or four unmatching blankets on square canvas stretchers hung against a long neutral wall. Would also make a graphic headboard panel.

-Furniture adornment: faithful reader Evan sent this pic of his kilim-covered Parsons dining table -pretty genius, no? This is definitely a DIY project fit for a sturdy cotton rug, not a blanket, but a good glue/staple gun and some elbow grease would do the trick. Maybe start with an Ikea side table and pay special attnention to mitering the corners, as Evan did here.

Image of Navajo rug via Len Wood's Indian Territory .

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