Monday, January 05, 2009

Things I'm Rethinking for 2009


I'll admit that I've never been a fan of chenille, and I don't think I'm alone. There's something about chenille that seems to cause a visceral response- you either like it or detest it. So it came as a shock to me that Glimmer, a fabulous metallic fabric in the Celerie Kemble for Schumacher collection, is actually a chenille. I'm eating crow, and for once I don't seem to mind.

Ruffled and Pinked Edges:

I usually prefer a more simple and tailored edging for my curtains and pillows, but I'm rather intrigued by ruffles and pinked edges right now. This pillow, made from a Cecil Beaton collection fabric, reminds me of those fabulous curtains and pillows in Pauline de Rothschild's London home. John Fowler had a hand in designing Rothschild's home, and we all know that Fowler was the master of using those dressmaker details on his curtains and soft furnishings. Maybe it's time to pull out the pinking shears.


Actually, I turn positively green when I'm out on the water and no amount of Dramamine is going to change that. Sailing is not on my horizon for 2009, but I am loving Katie Ridder's "Beetlecat" wallpaper. (Available through Holland and Sherry.)


Paying no heed to my mother's advice about not airing one's dirty laundry in public, I'm coming clean about my napkin habits. I often use Vanity Fair paper napkins when I'm dining alone. And no, I don't live in a double wide, I don't drink PBR, and there are no rusting cars jacked up on cinder blocks in my front yard. That said, I'm trying to cure myself of this bad little habit, so I'm going to try to use my nice linen napkins on a daily basis. Now if I can only convince my housekeeper to iron them.


  1. Welcome back, and happy New Year!

    If you have children one day, you might reconsider the linen napkins on a daily basis! The Vanity Fair napkins are even a little high brow when mixed with children.

  2. This linen napkin thing keeps popping up and it's making me feel quite inferior. Shamefully, the Blandings are quite familiar with Vanity Fair napkins. I fear I would be laundering and ironing all day if I made this move. But - I'll wait for you to tell me how it goes.

    Welcome back. Missed you, of course.

  3. Sarah, well that makes me feel much better!

  4. Patricia- My housekeeper will not iron, and I hate to iron, so what's a girl to do? I'll keep you updated... but don't get your hopes up that I'll be successful!

  5. Anonymous9:34 AM

    I've been in Peak of Chic withdrawal. What a delight to have you back blogging, and hope that your holiday was lovely! John Fowler in the first post of the year. Very good indeed.

    I'm afraid that the linen napkins have me curious too, but for a different reason. You refer to Sferra linen napkins. Have you had good luck with those? I recently purchased a set of sheets and a blanket by Sferra, and have been beyond disappointed. The blanket is already unraveling, and Sferra is not being very good about customer service. Have you had any quality issues? And how do you plan to keep them up, since they're *supposed* to be washed separately from the rest of your laundry, to avoid fiber breakage?

    Regardless, bravo for your style! I should be doing the same too.

  6. Here's what we did when we were children: We used linen napkins, but used them for a week. We each had a napkin ring, so we knew whose was whose. If you can't bear to iron the napkins, don't put them in the drier, just smooth them out on a flat surface and let them dry that way. They won't be perfect, but they'll mostly wrinkle-free.

  7. PS... welcome back. Can't wait to hear all about your trip.

  8. We use cotton napkins from Pottery Barn or Williams Sonoma for everyday and only iron linen for company. It used to be that there were 'ironing ladies' who came to your home or you would drop off to theirs. Gone are the days...

  9. So glad you are back! YAY!
    I love my Vanity Fair napkins and wouldn't think about using my linen ones on a daily basis and don't consider if gauche to do so, but it drives me crazy when my husband grabs a paper towel instead the VF napkin! Now that's a NO NO in my opinion! Great post and WELCOME back!

  10. I usually just partially dry my cloth napkins and then smooth them out. As Pigtown said, they're close, if not perfect. I think it's good for kids to learn to use a proper cloth napkin, but maybe you can filter in paper when the meal is messy - like pasta?

    Love the Celerie Kemble chenilles - they really will make you change your mind about chenilles!

  11. I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone! The Pottery Barn napkins are a great idea. And yes, paper towels are a big no no!

  12. Don't you think there's something consoling about ironing linen napkins? It has a calming effect, and they're certainly easier to manage than sheets or shirts.
    As for pinked frills, I recently copied some Fowler curtains at Fenton House, where the edges were trimmed out in individually gathered petals that were not only pinked, but punched out with eyelet holes.
    Lovely effect, but hellish to execute.

  13. So glad to have you back and with Fowler, pinking and linen napkins — all in the first post! Everyone and his brother is having a holiday sale where you can buy cloth napkins, so get out there. Linen is lovely but cotton is OK, too. Think about prints or dark colors for everyday. I will use paper for picnics or cocktails but not otherwise. I must have at least a dozen different sets (of 8) of cloth napkins including fleamarket antique white ones and contemporary black. Frankly everyone is so pleased with cloth that I don't think they notice it's not linen. (Ah, Toby — the days of ironing everything ...).

  14. Ms. Wis- You've inspired me to try the cloth napkins. I think that sounds much easier than linen!

  15. Welcome Back Jennifer!!

    I agree with Ms. Wis and try to use cotton napkins instead of linen. They look great for a day-to-day use and don't need to iron them as bad as linen ones.

    All the best for 2009!

  16. Thanks Erik! Cotton it is!

  17. We follow the smooth the napkin on the dryer top routine and find it works very well--normally on cotton napkins which we use for all meals. I like a fabric napkin--we only use paper on holidays for the grandchildren who love a Halloween or Santa Claus napkin at their places. If I'm ironing, I'll run the iron over the napkins for a little extra smoothness, but the smooth as u dry approach is very effective all on its own.

  18. Anonymous5:18 PM

    Vanity Fair napkins are low-brow? Eek! What would you think of my use of paper towels? At least it's a step up from the back of the hand. I love the look of linen and use them for guests, but I tend not to make such an effort when it's just me eating dinner standing at the kitchen sink...

  19. P.S. - I have an ironing lady, and it is truly one of the best luxuries in my life. With three children, countless school uniforms that really look much better when ironed, a husband who wears business casual most days (translates into even more ironing), and my love for crisp white shirts, I decided it was more convenient to have an ironing person than a huge dry cleaning bill.

    I truly have no excuse for not using cloth napkins, do I?

    I read Pigtown's comment and it reminded me of my British aunt's household; when we visit, she assigns a napkin to us (I am not sure if it is linen or cotton) and a napkin ring, and we use it the entire time we are there. I actually ordered napkin rings with my children's monograms on them so I could do this, but I had completely forgotten! Since I ordered those napkin rings, I have had one more child, so I might need to put in another order. I am inspired!

  20. boy, i couldn't agree more with you on the chenille thing- not a fan- but those celerie kimball numbers sure look pretty.

    as for linen napkins, i do the same as when i wear a linen shirt- proudly wear it unironed, and enjoy a slightly dishelved yet hopefully still somehwat chic look.

  21. Anonymous7:30 PM

    Well, Vanity Fair are good enough for daily use even without kids. (Consider it a step up from eating over the sink and using a paper towel!) Here's my linen napkin tip because I am a fanatic about linen napkins for guests and just ironed 24+ post-holiday. Treat spots, throw napkins in the washer and let them soak overnight in whatever detergent you use plus some 20 Mule Team Borax. The next day, complete the wash cycle, then dry JUST A BIT in the dryer to take out excess water, turn on Turner Classic Movies and set up your ironing board. Iron away with just a hot iron (no steam). (If you cannot iron right away, do as my Southern mother used to do, put damp napkins in a plastic bag in the fridge until you can find time to iron. Do not wait too long!) Then, here's my best tip, roll the ironed napkins around a wrapping paper cardboard roll and put them away. They will be creaseless and the fibers won't break if they are stored for a very long time. When the next dinner party rolls around you will be very happy to have established this habit.

  22. I am with you on the sailing thing, but I did so love Katie's wallpapers when I saw them in the Times last week! Charming.

  23. I use cotton, (from Vietnam), not dissimilar to the green, pink and blue in your photo, but mine are white. We re-use a few times with our silver napkin rings, but the white does need a good dose of bleach occasionally, because they do get stained. I am lucky that I have somebody who "does", so ironing is not my gripe.

  24. Anonymous12:55 AM

    Thank you for recommending Chic in Paris, the blog for luxury expert Susan Tabak. Check out the site for fashion news and chic events in New York and Paris. Learn more about Susan on her website:

  25. Anonymous6:29 PM

    I have always used cloth napkins. Less waste and I cannot stand that paper feel on sticky hands. My mother used them and so does my family. NO NEED TO IRON 100 cotton of liene, just wash and dry. And if familes use napkin rings, no need to have clean ones every day. I am fond of the Williams Sonoma dish rags the perfect size and come in beautiful colors!

  26. Anonymous2:14 AM

    Anonymous (7:30pm) gives sage advice.

    Linen should be washed in cold water and ironed while damp.

    Skip the brief spin in the dryer - grab ahold of 2 corners and shake out the wrinkles with a quick snap.

    Never use starch on linen, or any other kind of napkins; leave the natural fabric unadulterated.

    Black & Decker, formerly General Electric, makes a great basic iron called "The Classic Iron." It's heavy (5 lbs), gets really hot, does an excellent job and costs all of $30!

    Napkins can be ironed pretty quickly, when you get the hang of it - and once you allow yourself the pleasure of cloth napkins, you'll never go back to paper. The rewards of a little extra effort are really gratifying.