Boats and beach houses have common foes. Salt water, sun and high humidity combine to cause metals to corrode, fabrics to fade, rot or mildew, painted surfaces to weather and chip. Suppliers to yachtsmen have pioneered the development and perfection of materials that withstand the elements—and now the lessons learned by mariners are being applied with wondrous effect to make a house by the sea as easy to care for as a cabin cruiser. What's more, along with the sterling quality of utilitarianism, these new decorative fabrics and materials, most of them man-made, come in a vivid array of colors and patterns to go with today's beach-house architecture.
They were not always thus. The first synthetic fabrics made to withstand the sea's erosiveness were deliberately drab—the nylon tarpaulins used by the Navy in World War II. After the war, Sunday sailors picked them up in surplus stores and were delighted with their performance but not with their dreary appearance. Since then, nylon and all the household-word synthetics—Acrilan, Dacron, Orion, vinyl and fiber glass—have been brightened up.
The search for excitement in synthetic textiles was launched by the automotive and boating industries. Looking for sturdy upholstery for car seats and boat cushions, they worked with Du Pont in developing a fabric that not only was long-wearing but also maintained its bright colors after much exposure to sunlight and dirt. Recently leading textile designers have discovered in the man-made fibers special properties beyond their functional merits—they come in bright, fadeproof colors and are as amenable to dye as they are resistant to dirt. There are many examples in the photograph at left. A pillow is covered in a new Antron-nylon upholstery fabric designed by Dorothy Liebes for Stroheim and Romann in "vibrating" colors of red, yellow and magenta. The acid-green roll of fabric is from the same hand. Another designer, Jack Lenor Larsen, has recently introduced a synthetic horsehair made of nylon. It comes in a 52-inch width (about three times the width of real horsehair), is cool, prickle-proof, water-resistant, and is available in such bright colors as the bolt of solid yellow. The blue bolt behind the yellow horsehair is Fiberglas Homespun sheer. It makes an excellent drapery fabric at the beach, for it not only is mildew-resistant, sunproof and fireproof but requires no ironing.
Sheer fabrics of 100% Dacron also make good beach-house draperies. Dacron resists fading and does not absorb water even in the most humid climate. The tropical-print fabric (by Cohama) draped in the center of the photograph, the two striped rolls beneath (the blue is by Knoll; the yellow, Cohama) and the red-and-pink-striped fabric in the foreground ( Seneca) are all made of Dacron.
A new type of canvas, of Acrilan acrylic fiber, offers the highest degree of colorfastness ever available in awning material. Watertight and durable, it is easy to cut and sew and can be made into tents, awnings, hammocks, windbreaks, swimming pool covers and cabanas. It is represented by the bold blue-and-gray-striped fabric (Glen Raven) at the bottom of the photograph.
Of all the new boons to the summer housekeeper, no material is in such wide use as vinyl-coated fabric. It covers walls, furniture, floors—and even, as in Rudi Gernreich's yellow swimsuit in the picture, pretty girls. The yellow-and-white printed vinyl on the platform below the girl and the square of splashy red, yellow and magenta flowers are wall coverings that double as upholstery materials (both by Denst & Miles).
Perhaps the biggest reason for the new popularity of window shades is that nearly all of them now come with an invisible vinyl coating. It makes them washable, colorfast and, in many cases, flameproof and flame-resistant. Highly patterned shades decoratively eliminate the need for any other window treatment. The yellow Mexican animal print at the rear of the photograph adorns a vinyl-coated shade by Howard & Schaffer.
A new process of laminating fabrics in crystal-clear vinyl even makes them suitable as floor coverings or as a means of protecting, yet showing off, such materials as caning, true wood veneers and pebbles. In the photograph, vinyl seals a bandanna handkerchief (from a 5 & 10� store), some specially dyed pebbles in round disks, and a square of caning (all from Herbert Bright). Vinyl-laminated materials also work handsomely on walls and counter tops.
In most new beach houses there is as much window as there is wall. At night, unless the view is that of a harbor or town, these glass walls become big black holes. As an antidote, Architect Horace Gifford recommends one of the many new fishnet materials of nylon or blends of acetate and cotton, such as that alongside the pillow in the photograph (from Bloomcraft).
The elements are not the only things to plague a beach house—there usually are insects as well. Synthetic textiles are useful here, too, since they will not support the growth of keratin, the substance that forms on natural fibers and provides fodder for carpet beetles, silverfish and moths. And nylon screening, which comes in extra-wide rolls, discourages both mosquitos and corrosion with commendable efficiency.