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A True Joy

Mariella’s Custom Drapery celebrates 40 years of passion for fabrics — and community.

At a young age, Sicilian-native Mariella Trentacoste found true joy in fabrics and bringing them to life.

The youngest of five children growing up in Italy, Trentacoste grew up with a love of sewing and fabrics, often scooping up scraps of material from a friend’s textile shop and transforming them into clothing, table coverings and more. 

As an adult, Trentacoste landed in the U.S. as a kindergarten teacher, but soon found herself focusing on her hobby by working at a drapery company. Recognizing her skill and passion, Trentacoste’s mentor encouraged her to strike out on her own — which she did, launching her own business in 1982. 

What began as a simple basement workshop “side project” has since flourished into Mariella’s Custom Drapery (MCD) in Birmingham — a full-service operation, replete with an in-house workroom where all drapes are custom-made. Offering everything textile from window coverings and drapery, bedding and blinds to cornice boards and bench seating, MCD guides clients throughout the entire process, including an initial consultation, project management and installation.

For Trentacoste and her daughter, Mary Grace Dickson, the key to success is establishing a connection with people. The family-owned shop — which is celebrating more than 40 years in business — prides itself on providing custom high-quality window treatments for residential and commercial clients with a personalized experience. 

“For me, it’s peaceful, it’s wonderful to be in contact with beautiful people and the community here. They give me joy and inspiration to continue my work,” Trentacoste says. “I love everybody, and it’s important.”

The shop also ignited a spark in Trentacoste’s daughter, who developed a passion for the business at a young age and began taking over the company 10 years ago. Dickson, now the company’s president, remembers spending time in the shop as a child, learning to sew, accompanying her mother to installations and developing close relationships with the seamstresses.

“The seamstresses became like my aunts; they hugged me and sometimes would bring cookies,” she says. “It really was a delightful experience growing up in that environment.”

Despite her knack for the trade, Dickson had to earn her place and graduate from college before her mother would let her join the business. She studied interior design at Wayne State University, which she said also is what sets the business apart.

“My background allows me to give more perspective and communicate better with designers,” she says. “It gives both the residential and commercial an assurance that someone is there, who not only knows the products but how to consider the space and its full value.”

The company has had to evolve over the years to stay competitive, especially in the age of endless options and quick delivery with online retail. Dickson says the company has maintained its core values of hard work, personalization and exceeding client expectations, while also embracing modern trends and product innovations. Since the pandemic, the business has also offered a new line of fabrics accessible to the budgets of a wider range of clientele.

While still involved in the shop, Trentacoste, now 77, is proud of the business and community she’s created and seeing it thrive under the reins of her daughter.  

“It’s my joy” she says. “I dreamed of this.”  

Looking ahead, Dickson and Trentacoste hope to keep the family tradition alive. Trentacoste's daughter Sofia, who is currently studying marketing and business at Michigan State University, has expressed an interest in joining the family business.

The next generation, however, won’t be handed anything on a silver platter. Dickson says the grandchildren will be expected to complete their education and gain outside experience before joining the company to maintain its high values.

“It’s always been very important to us,” Dickson says. “That’s what my mom did for me, and I think that’s valuable.”

HOW TO CHOOSE DRAPERY FOR YOUR HOME

  • Consider the space and the needs for the room: Is it a bedroom that may need room darkening for sleeping or a living room that could use a warmer feel?

  • Think about your favorite colors and patterns and the mood you’d like to create.

  • Peruse the Internet and magazines to find images that inspire you.

  • Don’t be impulsive, and consult experts for guidance. Drapes are meant to last years, possibly decades, so craftsmanship and thoughtfulness is important.

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