Why would an acclaimed textiles designer, who was raised in Tokyo and San Francisco and has lived in Italy and frequently works out of New York, choose way-north-of-“The City” Healdsburg as her home? Julia Berger of Julia B. Designs, a bespoke handmade home goods designer, summarizes it like this: “The kids are launched; let’s move to paradise.”
Berger names Healdsburg’s proximity to urban life, the town square’s likeness to an Italian piazza, and the fine food and wine as a few reasons she sees the Wine Country city as an “irresistible choice” for home.
“Launched” is a good word to describe the spread out whereabouts of the four adult children Berger and her husband Marc Fleischhacker have between them. The oldest is in the coffee business in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two are studying in Milan, and the youngest is attending college at Tulane in New Orleans. Berger, who moved to Healdsburg last October, says she loves “visiting them all over.” In fact, an international experience has always characterized her upbringing and artistic inspiration.
Berger’s designs reflect this confluence of culture. She melds art styles (like golden age and modern) and essences (classic femininity and geometric boldness) to create intriguing pieces. Her newly released second edition of Quattro Mani linens are named after “powerful women in history,” and reference Egyptian, Italian and Russian art.
The line will be introduced exclusively by Architechtural Digest and, you know, sonomamag.com (score!).
“I remember setting the table as a young girl,” says Berger as she identifies the beginnings of her artistic inspiration: her Japanese mother’s affinity for fine ceramics and linens. A frequent visitor of fabric stores with her mother, Berger’s opinion was often sought to help choose the silk panel to have fashioned into a kimono by a master artisan.
Hand-embroidery is central to Berger’s bed and table linen designs. Her small team in Healdsburg, which she describes as “a close group,” partners with about a hundred artisans all over the world.
“We will be very sorry when these arts and crafts are lost,” Berger says of the “old work” that went into today’s heirlooms. She’d like to offer heirloom quality and service to the next generation.
With an integrity of materials and fabrication comes careful attention to care. Berger recommends gentle soaps, like “baby soap,” Ivory or French milled bar soap to wash linens. She recommends lime juice for stain removal and “good old baking soda” for deodorizing. Long wash cycles, she says, break down the fibers of the fabric.
Berger’s advice for setting your table at home is simple and sage: don’t be afraid to pull what you have out of the cabinets. Use what you have and “put it together in a way you think is right.” It doesn’t have to be linens, but it could be a quilt or even a non-fabric element like a grass or rattan.
Berger sees tableware as fashion and encourages people to celebrate old and new and seasonality by, for example, integrating flowers from that season. “Food is part of the decor—choose your plates and glassware according to what you can harvest.”
Berger looks forward to developing her “designs with influences that are indigenous to Sonoma County.” Her East Coast customers, she says, are into gilding. Sonoma, she says, tends to prefer an aged patina. The designer is at her best when she can create cultural and visual counterpoint.
Berger’s first Quattro Mani collection was inspired by cities in Italy. When asked if wine or wine country might be the influence behind her third edition of Quattro Mani, she says she’s very excited about the collection, and that we may report that “a little birdie” says ‘yes.’
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