Talking Textiles and Trends With Serena Dugan

Serena Dugan (Photo by Laurie Frankel)

On a pier on the Sausalito waterfront, the ideal spot for morning sunlight, sits an airy studio. Though the artist-in-residence originally intended the studio as a space purely for painting, she eventually found herself exploring the world of textile print design. Now, as she applies her artistic talents to fabrics and wallpapers as well as paintings, Serena Dugan is once again leaving her mark on Marin and beyond.

While Dugan first took over the studio space in 2018, her artistic history goes much further back than the past few years. After graduating college, she attended art school, with an emphasis in painting, from there becoming a decorative painter. Dugan specialized in bespoke hand-painted patterns on walls but, wanting to learn how to replicate the designs she was creating, decided to return to school to study textile design. She then launched her first textile collection, made of block-printed fabrics, which ultimately led to the creation of popular Marin-based home and lifestyle line Serena and Lily.

When I first met Lily Kanter in 2003, she saw my textile collection and said that she could see the fabrics as crib bedding,” Dugan explains. Together, they launched Serena and Lily with this nursery concept in mind, and it grew from there. Dugan designed the majority of the textiles for Serena and Lily over the course of her 14 years at the brand before leaving to return to the studio and reconnect with her artistic roots. In 2020, Serena Dugan Studio officially launched its textile line.

With an aesthetic she describes as “crisp, breezy, optimistic and art-driven,” the textile products available at Serena Dugan Studio include pillows that can be created out of all 101 available fabrics; screen-printed linen fabrics; outdoors fabrics; and 41 wallpapers including printed grass cloth, paper-weave and conventional paper. All textiles are designed by Dugan in Sausalito, and while the majority are printed in California, the outdoor collection and block print collection are produced in Connecticut and India, respectively. While Dugan’s collections can be found in showrooms throughout the world, swatches are available for perusal and purchase on her website.

Dugan doesn’t hold to a strict seasonal release schedule for her artisanal fabric lines, instead aiming for one big release a year, typically in the spring, with a refresh in the fall. And while trends tend to cycle through the seasons, Dugan says that she tries to acknowledge trends but float above them.

“I don’t want what I design to get time-stamped by being ‘of the moment,’ ” she says. However, she does have a signature style: “I see loads of color and pattern used fearlessly. I see style and period references mixing in a rather ruleless and exciting way. I see interiors getting more daring and expressive, and this thrills me!”

Reflecting the artistic experience under her belt, her website is chock-full of unique patterns and eye-catching prints. Dugan finds ideas for her designs from travel, fashion, vintage textiles, art and craft, but like many artists, she notes that inspiration can be less about what’s in front of her and more about her frame of mind.

“When I’m open and firing, I could find inspiration just by walking out the door and truly noticing what’s around me,” she says. “When I’m stressed and busy, I get desensitized to beauty and I have to go further and deeper to find it.” Dugan’s striking designs, whether they end up on your wall, on your sofa or even as a sofa, can easily transform a room. Whether on the canvas or in her fabrics, the patterns and colors have a vibrancy that’s always in style.

colorful serena dugan designs on pillows and fabrics
Dugan’s fresh fall designs (Photo by Robert Divers Herrick)