Jane Scott Hodges is the authority on couture linens for the home: The founder of Leontine Linens, Hodges has inspired a whole new generation of homeowners to love and use heirloom-quality linens. Her company’s approach to luxury linens is a reverent nod to history and heritage, tradition and ritual: Each item is designed for the client and handmade to order—and intended for everyday use.
So it’s no surprise that Hodges is a sought-after adviser on the fine art of living with beautiful things. Here, she shares a little history and a little advice on life with linens.
Natural linen fibers become finer with use, which is why there is such an abundance of heirloom and vintage linens available in antique stores and online auctions. Cotton and linen fabrics improve and soften with age.
What we consider ornamental embellishments today were once very practical: Marking one’s linens with a monogram helped identify them on communal wash days, preventing them going home with the wrong person. And quilting is a result of needing to create warmth in colder climates.
The traditional monogram, comprising the wife’s first, married, and maiden initial in that order, is a result of young girls who would begin to embroider their monogram long before they had a suitor, monogramming the side initials and leaving space for their new surname to be added once they were betrothed.
Eleanor Beard Studio, the historic workroom that makes Leontine Linens products, began in 1921 and to this day makes every item the same as they have for nearly a century, with no digitizing or computers.
Eleanor Beard herself traveled the world for interesting techniques to introduce to her Kentucky workroom. In the 1930s, she introduced Trapunto-style quilting after a trip to Italy. (Trapunto originated in Sicily in the 14th century.)
Invest in top-quality sheets for your guest room. You spend the most time in contact with sheets and pillowcases, so the touch and feel of the fabric is of the utmost importance. A classic, crisp percale is a mainstay for a well-appointed guest bed.
Place a stack of terry fingertip towels (smaller than a hand towel, larger than a wash cloth) in your powder room in addition to your linen guest towels. Guests are always fearful of “ruining” finely pressed linen guest towels, so give them an option they are not afraid to use!
Mixing “uptown” and “downtown” is the perfect way to both infuse your personality and create an unintimidating (read: welcoming) environment for your guest. So go ahead and serve water in mason jars with your Herend china, mix your vintage bakelite silverware with a beautifully monogrammed napkin, or serve a cold beer on a vintage cocktail napkin.
Having an assortment of linens in unexpected color combinations is the key to providing a dramatically different setting for each event you host.
Consider investing in square placemats, which allow you to fit more settings at one table, shows off more of your beautiful dining table, and acts as a charger under your fine china.
For the uninitiated, cocktail napkins are the perfect starting point for entertaining with fine linens. What better way to deliver that drink to your guest than with a charming, beautiful cocktail napkin tucked under the glass?
Catch Jane Scott Hodges with fellow design gurus Michael Devine, Markham Roberts, and Christopher Spitzmiller this Saturday, January 31, at the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville’s Design Panel. Sponsored by The HighBoy, the conversation starts at 1:00. Don’t miss it!
Images via Jane Scott Hodges.