Q&A: Jane Scott Hodges of Leontine Linens on dressing your bed and table

Jul 25, 2019

Jane Scott Hodges is the founder of Leontine Linens in New Orleans which has been around since 1996. She is known for her elegant designs for bedrooms and dining rooms that are found at homes across the country and abroad. She often works directly with designers to create linens that are luxurious but also practical and can be used every day. Her book for Rizzoli "Linens: For Every Room and Occasion" explains the use and care of linens and has many photos of room settings of sheets, bed covers, guest towels and monogrammed napkins she has designed.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Jane Scott Hodges creates luxury linens full of color and texture that are used by designers all over the world. Her firm Leontine Linens is known for its quality and attention to detail. Her home base in New Orleans brings her in touch with many design influences. The bold monograms Leontine Linens are known for are fun and bring a sense of personal style to bedrooms and dining rooms. Ask her all your questions about bed, bath and entertaining linens. Let's chat.

Good Morning, Jura and Washington Post readers.

I am Jane Scott Hodges, founder of Leontine Linens!

I am delighted to be here today to talk all things LINENS- bedroom, bathroom and even dressing your table. Please feel free to ask about pillow sizes, making the bed- how to select your monogram letters and my current summer favorite, selecting  colored linens for your table!

I am interested in purchasing my first set of table linens - where should I start?

Start with cocktail napkins!There is less pressure to decide!  They don't need to match your china or dining room - have fun with color and do a few sets! These are the perfect conversation starter when you deliver your guest a drink. 

Do you know a reputable source for those cotton quilts ?

Les Indiennes

What size napkins do you traditionally use? And do you change up the size based on the event/time of day?

I mostly use 22-by-22-inch napkins – no matter the event or time of day. For a while those oversized “lapkins” were all the rage, but they can make place settings too crowded. It’s easier to work with a traditional size.

I see so many stunning table settings , some with placemats, some with tablecloths some using both. What’s your preference? And thoughts on using both in tandem? Tiffany Adler

 

I love to use a hand-block print tablecloth which I pick up on my travels- William Wayne in New York or Simrane in Paris has them– paired with monogram napkins is a great juxtaposition of high and low.

I wouldn’t use placemats on top of a tablecloth – I find a tablecloth better suits a buffet dinner. Where as placemats work best for a seated dinner.

For placemats I LOVE a 15 x 15 square mat. Square placemats are such a wonderful piece for any table setting — they frame round plates beautifully and allow you to fit more friends and family around your table.

 

Seems design magazines show some overloaded beds. Is there a formula?

AMEN! I hear you! so many clients say their husbands get furious about the "pillow removal ritual" nightly!

We recommend what's best for your lifestyle but maybe a fun rule of thumb is 2 Euros on Queen bed with sleeping pillows behind them if you don't have a short headboard, if you do go with standard shams size.. add a boudoir with your monogram or a neck roll with your monogram!

For table linens that work during all different seasons and china patterns, which colors would work best?

GO CLASSIC. An ivory hemstitched napkin with gold monogram is the little black dress of tabletop. It gives warmth to the table, and is not as stark as white on white.

I have some 100 year old linen embroidered and hemstitched cloths . Is wrapping them in acid free tissue and storing in an acid free box enough to preserve them? Please advise.

I recommend GENTLE ARTS in New Orleans for all things heirloom, but yes, this sounds like the right thing. Also, using them is the best medicine! Why not?! The fibers are best being used, washed and loved by you! not sitting in a box - just a thought!

I always use my formal china and silver and monogrammed napkins for a formal dinner, but sometimes I like to bring a little boho in to my table song with the fancy. What’s your advice for how to mix it up a little?

Such a great point. I totally agree, bringing the tone down but still showing your guests that extra care was taken to make them feel welcome! I really like the idea of colored table linens (rather than white hemstitch) to achieve this! think about dressing your table as you dress yourself! THE FUN IS IN THE MIX!!

My parents and extended family always had tablecloths on their tables. So I continue to use them and change them with the seasons, especially in our formal dining room that we use daily. The best part is that we have had brunch for our DD college friends. It was great to set a formal and festive table and have them enjoy themselves with a leisurely meal. They loved the tablecloth, china, flatware, and crystal and no paper or plastic products. To me, tablecloths are the first step to set the mood and invite people for a dining experience.

What a special tradition and I love that you still are sharing that experience with future generations.. it all sounds perfect!! Keep it up and share the idea with your friends!

Curious about this? I assume sheets outlast towels. And even fine quality towels wear out after a few years.

I think they last longer if you rotate the sets. You can't expect sheets laundered weekly and last forever- so, either expect them to wear out in 3 years or invest in several sets to rotate! 

 

Please launder sheets and alone and towels alone- and no fabric softeners  for towels!

 

Linens are nice, but how much trouble is it to use lovely linens and other fabrics throughout a pet friendly home? Seems more trouble than it is worth.

the newsflash is... we all live with our pets! or kids or partners! So, you should have what you like best and enjoy!  Leontine Linens are machine washable and intended to be used and lived in, not relegated to the closet!

I know tablecloths aren't as popular as they used to be especially with younger people. But I do like colorful cloths and often use them to set off my china. Sometimes I do use white linen at a formal occasion. Is it okay to use colored linen napkins with a white tablecloth?

It is absolutely okay and totally by your design! think of the table top as you do getting dressed and how you mix it up! Also consider, you don't use the same flowers or candles for every dinner-- why not use colored linens!!

Which pieces should I start with if I am wanting to redo my bedding?

Simply put, I think the most bang for the buck is to update your top of bed. In Leontine speak, this is a blanket cover and shams- the bed is the largest thing in the room! so when you update this you literally hit the "refresh button"!

The mattress is 16" deep and nothing will cover so the frame doesn't show. Don't want to use dust ruffle. Why is it so difficult to find bedspreads in general, and why is sizing so terrible? When something is labeled full/queen for example, it fits neither!

We totally understand the frustration – and we can help! At Leontine all of our linens are cut off the bolt and made to order. We can accommodate any size and lengths needed – it’s our specialty. Making pieces that are just right for you!

I love seeing monogrammed linens! More and more I see photographs where the dinner plate is placed directly on the dining room table without a tablecloth or placemat. Is this just for photographs in magazines or is this a trend? It doesn't feel right and of course I like to use beautiful linens. Curious what you think?

hmmm, I  am with you! it is fun to set the table,  I pick up pieces at Pier One like rattan chargers or Anthropologie boho napkins- there are NO RULES!

JSH, What's your favorite source for funky non-linen placemats to jazz up a classic table?

I like Pomegranate. Also, Pier One, World Market- you can find fun placemats and napkin rings! they are like jewelry for the table!

JSH, I love to give people monogrammed linens for a wedding gift, but a sheet set or full set of napkins is often out of the price range. Any recommendations for a great linens gift within a normal $ range?

Brides today are really into the idea of heirloom linens, many call the shop about registering. So thank you for asking, I think a beautiful set of linen hand towels with a monogram and cocktail napkins makes a thoughtful gift.

Can you recommend a cotton blanket that would not be too flimsy and would last ?

I recommend our down blanket - it is much lighter weight than a traditional down comforter and adds a nice layer between the top sheet and coverlet. 

My guests can sometimes be a little messy at the dinner table. What kind of tips do you have for properly washing fine linen napkins? Do you have a recommended detergent?

Linen care is always a concern! Try not to panic when you see your guest spill red wine on your napkin, or wipe off Lamb au Jus across their chin! HA! Linen has been around for ver and is best washed in cold and gently. After guests have gone rinse it through and maybe add salt to the wash cycle-  PLEASE NO BLEACH and I like Tide-FREE or any simple and unscented products- there are specialty washes such as LE BLANC or THE LAUNDRESS available too- please don't stress and enjoy your GUESTS!!

Here’s my question: Give us some rules for dressing the bed. Should it be seasonal? One color two designs? What does the fully dressed bedding wardrobe look like?

Often it helps to send us a photo of your bedroom! If we cannot visit in person, this is the next best way to get a feel for your style and how you make your bed. The best advice can be given once we have a real conversation about what you have had and what you would like to create!!

How do you like to dress a table for a formal dinner—placemats or a tablecloth?

So many people ask this question and of course, it is so personal and there are many answers...I personally prefer placemats. I think they add interest to the table- I prefer a square shape, it frames the round plate and it also allows for more seats at the table. I find cloths awkward to tuck into at the table and prefer them for Buffet..

What is your favorite room to design for in a home? Why?

The bedroom! The bed is the biggest thing in the room. Even though your bedroom may have perfectly appointed pieces you can always refresh the linens. 

What linens are on your bed? Do you rotate them?

My bed has as many ensembles as I do in my closet! I love having the option to change things up and mix and match sets and colors. Right now, I’m favoring a lavender set, with an embroidery monogram and applique border. I love the mix of the two design elements - the monogram much finer details and the border a bolder statement. 

I like the look of a table runner instead of a tablecloth. But our dining room table is made of soft wood, and I worry that if it's not fully protected, we'll get nicks or water rings on the tabletop. Is there a compromise that's pretty but safe?

I always recommend a felt liner for both table runners and placemats. A felt liner protects the table. 

You work with the world’s best interior designers everyday. What is your favorite project to date?

Well, this is like naming your favorite child!! I will comment that I have learned so much from the interior designers I work with and I am very grateful for their appreciation of fine linen for their clients!

When getting monogrammed gifts for a couples, do I use a combined monogram or should I monogram always in the woman’s monogram? Please elaborate on all appropriate options. My husband and I have the same monogram, and I mix things up, but I always wonder about gifts.

 

When it comes to choosing a monogram pick what feels right. If I am giving a gift and unsure how the couple prefer their monogram I will stick with a single initial or a cipher combining both of their first names. There are so many ways that monogram combinations can be done these days – pick what you prefer best. The Leontine monogram guide is a great source for traditional styles. GUIDE HERE 

 

Have you considered opening additional locations in other markets?

Our flagship store is in New Orleans, and we have no other locations. We have the unique ability to make one piece at a time by hand for our clients and we want to give them that same service when they order. We travel to many cities annually and arrange appointments in their homes.

WE are partnering with MECOX GARDENS this FAll in their locations to do POP UP Shops to accommodate people who are not comfortable with the in home concept!  LOOK FOR US in PALM BEACH, LA, Dallas, HOUSTON , Pittsburgh, etc!

We also work really well remotely with iphone photos and our sales process! Just call we will get you your LEONTINE!!

There are so many color options, how do I narrow down what will work best in my home?

That is our expertise! We will guide you through the process- see our website and instagram for inspiration!

Do you prefer a buffet or food served at the table “Downton Abbey” style for a sit-down dinner? Can I do place settings and place cards and still do a buffet?

I prefer what the occasion  calls for! If Downton Abbey works in your home- by all means! But serve fried chicken! guests always love a surprise...let them know you don't take yourself so seriously!

I like a buffet- it works for so many reasons- people can come and go, a no show is not a fiasco, and my favorite- you don't have to sit by the same person all night!

Hi Jane Scott! What do you do at dinner when someone sloshes their wine on your tablecloth?

See above! Also, the party just got started! roll with it!

I love nice sheets and bedding and visiting someone with a luxurious guest room or a fine Inn with a delicious bed is a real treat. Can you go through the layers they would have?

I recommend starting with a nice set of sheets – percale or sateen or my two favorites. Percale has a nice crisp hand and sateen more of a silky finish. After the sheets I use a thin down blanket – it is a nice weight for year-round use and not bulky like a traditional down duvet insert. For the top of bed I always use a blanket cover. If you prefer a more traditional inn style bed I would do an over the pillow length coverlet to hide the sleeping pillows and one or two accent pillows in the front. For a guest bedroom - I tend to go with a more simple approach; making it easy on the guest. 

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Some sheet /bed linen start ups advertise 800 thread count sheets - does it really mean a higher quality sheet? And for someone who buys good quality sheets but likes a crisp rather than satin finish - is there a high thread count percale sheet?

Thread count is no longer a reliable indicator. Your sheets and pillowcases are the elements of your bed that you have the most contact with, so the touch and feel of the fabrics are of the utmost importance. Focus on the type of fabric and weave. Cotton percale is cool and crisp, while cotton sateen is soft and smooth. Pure linen is starchy but will soften with age and use, while silk has a luxurious look and feel.

What is the correct monogram for a wedding gift? Or are monogrammed pieces an appropriate gift?

Sometimes, this turns into a geographical question- Traditionally the bride kept her maiden initial as the right side letter, so MARRIED is center letter (bride first to left and bride maiden to the right). Another option is groom first to the right of center letter. and yes- what a thoughtful gift!

 

I am a color commitment phobe but I love the idea of a brightly colored bed. And I know “linens should last a lifetime..”. My problem is matching other things in the room, I don’t want all one color. And flowers are always changing, etc. (I know, such problems.) What color do you recommend as a unifier (or color pacifier) for someone like me?

At Leontine, we use a white or ivory base on our top of bed, so any color introduced is an an applique or an embroidered embellishment! We can help you through your "commitment issues" HAHA!

JSH, I have a ton of classic china and silver and beautiful monogrammed linens but I really like Boho/Gypset style too. How can I mix it up using my classics with a modern twist?

thanks- my favorite! I addressed this above!

Some of my cotton monogrammed sheets come out of the dryer bunched up along the edges. Sometimes I press them and sometimes I just don't feel like it. Is there anyway to avoid this? Does it have to do with the quality of the cotton sheet? Also, always press the monogram on the opposite side, right?

I recommend taking the sheets out of the dryer before the cycle ends and ironing while slightly damp. This will help get everything perfectly pressed. And always iron on the reverse side of the design details.

JSH, Are white napkins an absolute must for your basic set of classic fine linens or can you go with color? What's the best bet if you are likely only to have one or two sets of fine and fancy?

No longer are they a must but they are so elegant and timeless.

As an option, I often recommend Ivory linen with a gold embroidered monogram. We now call this the "little black dress of tabletop"! 

Most china has a gold detail and the ivory is subtly elegant..even if the china is white..

Your bed has too many pillows if removing them to sleep is a chore....if you like having a hundred pillows, have a hundred pillows. Why do you need to ask someone who won't ever be using your bed? It's YOUR bed!

YES! Agreed, your bed is your haven - do what you want!

Thanks for that advice. In lieu of fabric softener, I add about a quarter cup of white vinegar and a few drops of a scented oil (lemon or lavender) into the fab soft holder when I wash my white towels or sheets. It works better than a bleach might and keeps the towels soft. Love it.

thank you!

When you entertain, what is your process for designing a table? Do you start with a color and then build from there?

The fun part for me is thinking about how to use the things I have collected along the way. Sometimes a container or object purchased on a trip, reminds you of the travel. 

I start by pulling out the china i want to use and then the linens, by starting in advance I have the option to change my mind! i go to my "prop closet" AKA pantry and see what works-  I really think that if you think of it as dressing yourself you open up to different things- if you don't have flowers handy cut greens out side add fun votives, etc..

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByoS6RZp4LP/

This has been so fun! A linen whirlwind, thank you all for your questions and thoughts! Jura, this was a blast!

You can always follow me @janescotthodges @leontinelinens and we can keep the fun going! Jane Scott

This was so helpful. Thanks Jane Scott - you were amazing and such a font of knowledge. There is a lot of interest in this topic for sure. It will be great to reread the transcript. Meanwhile, next week join me for a chat with Jean Brownhill from Sweeten on how to make home renovation less stressful.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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