Shop talk with Terri Madden of Sand Sea and Air Interiors

Published On: January 1, 2013Categories: In the Shop

How did your shop get started?

Terri Madden, owner of Sand Sea and Air Interiors (SSA), began her career as a Textile Designer in the Home Furnishings Division of Burlington Industries in New York, upon receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in textile design. Her responsibilities included research and development for color trends and woven textiles. She moved to Puerto Rico in 1995 and combined her talent and expertise to incorporate Sand Sea and Air Interiors. Her first shop was in San Juan Bay Marina, but she is now located in a state of the art studio at the entrance to Old San Juan.

Who are your main customers?

Individual yacht owners and dealers, designers, and architects.

What unique design elements are built into your products?

Diversified projects include leather seating, wall panel systems, bedding, headliners, and window treatments. This year we have had several requests for a “beefy” top stitching as an accent for both marine and residential projects. It makes a handsome and unique accent on vinyl and leather. SSA has worked with many clients to provide privacy screens and wall panel systems for residential, hospitality, yachts, and aircraft.

How do you deal with scheduling and handling customers?

Employees are willing to work extra hours, if necessary, to complete a job and are compensated for their effort. I give my customers a delivery date based on their deposit. Ironically, Puerto Rico has a laid-back approach to work: it’s “mañana/mañana.” The dependability that SSA offers is appreciated and acknowledged by our repeat customers. We highly value the relationship we have with our clients.

What other products do you produce?

Projects SSA has been fortunate to work on include dramatic seating and shade solutions to props for movies shot on island, a custom tote-bag for actor Johnny Depp, slings for manatee-rescue operations, American Indian leather garments for a museum exhibition, as well as leather hammocks and leather seating for corporate jets. Anything a customer can imagine in fabric and leather we endeavor to bring to fruition.

Do you create a product that you consider your specialty?

We are currently immersed in a project for a local hotel; we are recycling kite-board sails into bean bags for seating during children’s programs sponsored by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment.

What do you do to stay busy in the off-season?

Puerto Rico is a 35- by 100-mile-wide island where summer lasts all year long. We broadened the spectrum of marine services SSA offers to include residential and commercial interiors as well as achieving an FAA certification to include aircraft interiors.

Shop layout

Our “Dream Table” is 8 feet by 24 feet with a drop hinge that can be extended from 24 feet to 36 feet in length, hence the name and upon which we create dreamy projects. The dream table has a cut-out for our sewing machine; it is a 28-inch-wide curved space for the operator. In front of the operator is a ledge of the original table—7 inches wide along the length of the machine. Also there is a 7-inch drop-hinge section of the curve behind the sewer to raise/lower accordingly for large enclosure projects. These two “ledges” give extra support for large projects as they minimize the space around the machine operator.


Our goal is to complete all work in a timely manner. Job clarification and in-process inspections are the most critical links. Occasionally we underestimate the time frame of a custom job; we glean experience from every project and consider hidden obstacles going forward. Our motto is “whatever you dream we can create.”