On a recent work trip to Belgium I was designing fabrics for Dorothy Draper Fabrics and Wallcoverings, no amount of Euro Vision Contest music blaring from the taxi’s radio (and each song reaching its zenith for the 40th time) could I escape the dull gray skies, drenched gray buildings, dark wet roads and tunnels. I am a positive person and when in such certain circumstances I like to steer my thoughts to happy visions. Coastal decoration and its connection to linen came to mind. Belgium as you may know, has a very long history of flax harvesting, which is the the fiber which is used to make linen. The linen weavers band together to protect their industry and fight heartily to maintain standards at home and to ward off against impostors from faraway shores.
Flax thrives in this region of Europe thanks to its moist climate and due to the rich soul lands and drainage, thus Belgium produces the best quality flax in the world. Those dreamy windmills of yore provide not only a means to drain and irrigate the land, they were also used to grind many harvest crops. Should you be are lucky enough to visit in June, you will witness the flax flowering fields turn to oceans of blue in every hue.
Think of all those historical sailing ships with their full linen sails catching the trade winds as they sail around the world, crisscrossing the ocean laden with precious cargo from gold, silks, tea and to olives. Dutch delft tiles capture the romanticism of all those very images, as does our fabric print, Martiniek (shown below)
Our present day romanticized costal living interiors contrast deeply against the harsh realities of the seafaring life. However, therein lies its success. Contrasting solid colors of cloud white against deep blues, Azure green or roaring thunder gray make for a natural color scheme. Slipcovered sectional sofas and armchairs in white linen are always so inviting and fresh. The simplicity of modern upholstery shapes make slipcovers easier to manufacture and replace, when needed. It’s fun to freshen things up with a new solid color or a print design to mark the season and your up-mood! ‘I’m alive!’ celebrate it!
The rugged lives lived by shores and ports have always inspired many, from sailors making Valentines from seashells for their loved ones, to Coco Chanel. Coco, having been raised in orphanage from the age of 12, began to develop a passion for sewing which the nuns thought her under strict discipline. While on the shore of Deauville Coco was captivated by the simplicity cut of the sailors trousers as they repaired their fishing nets.. Those trousers were the hallmark of her tailoring style, less is more. Chanel’s styling allowed for the use of rich textures and weaves designs in boucle and tweed, which are also another identifiable trait of the designer.
Every hostess loves linen for her or his table and guests. Linen provides durability to last with countless washes and ironing. Bed lines made from actual linen are so wonderful to sleep in in tropical climates. The offer a coolness and have such a natural feeling. The Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia from my experience offer great basic bed sets and at great value. Load up if you visit!
The Portuguese island of Madeira is home to many cottage-like industries where the create some of the finest embroidered and appliqué linens in the world. Unfortunately it’s a disappearing talent on the island as the newer generations come of age.
The Italians reign supreme in bed and table linen production. As northern Italy is the birthplace of Renaissance, its manufacturers express the rich culture through fine lines with perfect execution and tailor made details. They only use pure linen for their towels and table lines. My good Italian friends Edi and Roberto operate Edi B Fine Linens in Mayfair, London. Edi has built up a wonderful business over the years with many clients in the United Arab Emirates. My hosts in Ghent were wonderful and charming. I look forward to sharing my fruits of my labor and love soon.
Blog Written By, Brinsley MatthewsPhoto Credits: