3 Designing Women

Meg Little, On the Spot designer

MEG LITTLE l Rug Designer
On the Spot, Middletown

There’s something thrilling about the way Meg Little’s color-packed patterns of dots, spirals, rings and geometric swirls evoke spacely orbits. She fashions these future antiques — rugs, cushions and doormats — in an airy studio housed in an old converted barn. The technique she uses is hand tufting, and her work area consists of several large wooden frames, multiple pulleys, a tufter and a collection of colored yarn that weighs in at an amazing 3,500 pounds. Like oil paintings, her creations have names that capture their essence: Bone Shards, Desert Stratum, Mossy Beads, Dark Here Below, Wafers. Unlike weaving, a former pastime for Little, her rugs are more akin to drawing or painting, and prices are comparable to works of art: from $540 for a small doormat to $36,000 for a room-size carpet. “You start where you want to start, and go where you want to go,” she says. Little has had a passion for rug making for decades. Wisely, she lets her heart lead. “It took me awhile to get brave enough to keep making what interested me. But I discovered in the process, that if I stay true to myself, I could still make a living making art, and that’s immensely satisfying.” www.meglittle.com

Dawn Oliveira of Rhode Island's Oliviera TextilesDAWN OLIVEIRA l Fabric Designer
Oliveira Textiles, Bristol

A gnarly branch, veined leaf or fragile flower often finds its way to Dawn Oliveira’s high-tech studio where she sketches or scans it into a computer, then manipulates its image and enhances the color. Nature is Oliveira’s predominant design theme and she’s adept at what she does. She spent two decades in New York’s garment district designing fabrics for women’s apparel as well as pillows, upholstery and wall coverings for such giants as Polo Home Collection, Dana Buchman and Stark Carpet. Now she and her twin sister, Deb Olson, have launched a green-friendly textile company. Everything related to her new line of home fabrics is toxin-free, from organic hemp to non-toxic dyes used in printing her exquisite patterns. Creating organic upholstery, window treatments, drapes and table linens is no mere marketing ploy. Oliveira lost both her husband and her father to cancer, and a younger sister was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The theme for the new collection, which runs from about $85 a yard, is based on the sea, a tribute to her father, a fisherman. Oliveira spent a year developing the nature-inspired designs; shells, anemones and seaweed motifs are bathed in hues of turquoise, creams and coral. “They can go in one room together or stand alone,” she says, “but they’re designed as a collection.” www.oliveiratextiles.net

Elizabeth Ithurburu of Benchmark Studio in Rhode Island

Benchmark Studio, Pawtucket

Whether you call it an ottoman, drum, coffee bench, hassock, footstool, pod or even a pouf, its function is as wildly flexible as its name. It can be a footrest, a seat, a place to hold books, or an enticing spot for a child to play a game. Then there’s the mind-boggling array of fabrics and finished details that personalize every piece simply by altering embellishments such as tassels, piping, buttons, coordinated pillows, leg style and height. It’s precisely that panoply that draws Elizabeth Ithurburu to create them. After college, Ithurburu bought a one-way ticket to Europe and lived there for nearly two decades before returning to the States. Two years ago, she opened her business in a sunny converted mill building. It’s here where she creates chic ottomans that range from the very small (starting at $200, not including fabric) to a large blanket box ($1,600, not including fabric). Ithurburu’s husband, a violin restorer, constructs the hardwood frames. She then builds the piece, layering cotton batting, hog hair or foams to create the right firmness in the cushion. “I don’t like when furniture is static in rooms. Chairs should be sat on, sofas should be sprawled out on. Ottomans are really a gathering spot for the feet. They’re very functional, and I like that,” she says.  www.ottomansbybenchmark.com