Expert Ease: Negotiating Fabric with Jan Girard

A tall order for a recent commission: 22-foot-high curtains measuring 250 linear feet for the roof installed on the Moody Rooftop event space of The Contemporary Austin-Jones Center in Austin, TX.


Double sheer curtains.


Bellagio 8-foot-diameter lanterns.


Sophie Mallebranche’s woven metal.


With so many homes featuring floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass these days, curtains are often not found on designers’ to-do lists. However, after a quick look at the custom window treatments rolling out of Jan Girard’s Contract Workroom, designers often think again, ringing up for an appointment to learn what she can do for them. This is equally true for hotels, museums and a spectrum of other public spaces.

“My earliest memories are of playing with fabric,” recalls Girard. “I started embroidering when I was four, and making my own clothes at 10.” An Army brat who spent her teens in Panama, where there was a plethora of fabric stores, Girard studied interior design and architecture before getting into custom sewing. “What I loved most was to make something real, three-dimensional, tactile. I designed and made all sorts of things – from David Bowie’s first tuxedo to chamois rodeo shirts to soft sculptures. I spent years perfecting my craft in fabric and leather.”

Two decades ago, Girard opened her studio Contract Workroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with her team of talented artisans. She’s been busy ever since, collaborating with interior designers, architects, set and product designers, engineers, cabinet makers and custom metal workers, creating a mind boggling range of drapes and site-specific projects. Be it 22-foot-high curtains measuring 250 linear feet for the roof of The Contemporary Austin-Jones Center in Austin, TX; a full-scale fabric model of a collapsible air lock for a NASA space shuttle; or a cowhide that covers an entire room, including bookshelves, Girard says, “We are fearless. The diversity of our work keeps everything challenging and interesting.”

Working directly with her clients, Girard measures sites, writes proposals and oversees installations, as well as constructs samples to test fabrics, concepts, proportions and functionality. “Nothing is left to chance,” she states.

Her latest job was for the Aviary, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s new restaurant on Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. “Making it especially exciting was not only the opportunity to work with Tihany Design,” she explains, “but also the dazzling, gold-toned woven metal from Sophie Mallebranche that we used for 30 panels to hang from the ceiling.”

Girard’s next big thing? “Drapery hardware and a bedding line,” she tells, “but what I’m really drawn to doing is a partially collapsible home. I have the concept down pretty well, but still have a lot of details to figure out.”

Like what you see? Get it first with a subscription to ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine.

Facebook Comments
No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME is seeker and storyteller of the sublime in living. It is a global guide to in-depth and varied views of beauty and shelter that stirs imagination; that delights and inspires homeowners as well as art and design doyens. Collaborating with emergent and eminent architects, artisans, designers, developers and tastemakers, ASPIRE creates captivating content that savors the subjects and transports with stunning imagery and clever, thought-provoking writing. Through lush and unique visuals and a fresh editorial lens, ASPIRE explores what is new and undiscovered in art, interiors, design, culture, real estate, travel and more. ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME is an international narrative and resource for all seeking the sublime.