Chèz Clark, there is a beautiful primitive pine chest with 5 drawers positively overflowing with stunning linen dinner napkins galore. Hemstitch, monogrammed, whipstitched, rolled edge, luncheon size, dinner size, antique, heirloom, Swiss dot, scalloped, Irish linen, you name it. There is even this sneaky half drawer at the bottom- if you look really closely, you’d still mistake it for a decorative front to the chest. Oh no, m’dear- that’s my stash of hundreds of cocktail napkins in every color of the rainbow- many delicately embroidered, some flaxen and Belgian, some crisp and preppy, all pressed and ready to dab.
We love a refined seated dinner- well, what designer wouldn’t? I know it’s truly de rigueur in the South to have a station-style wedding, and trust- je did for our own 10 years ago. When I have my druthers though, I’ll take a seated party every time; I can play with paper, linens, flatware, china, glassware, containers, and napkins to my wee heart’s content.
As an aside: I think it’s lame to clutch your sources to your chest . . . to build a virtual panic room to house your design “secrets” and your suffocating scarcity mindset. To offset that common practice in our industry, I aim to share within these posts. I hope you ‘preesh- because it makes me happy to think I may turn anyone on to these awesome purveyors we tap constantly for beautiful bits.
Here are our favorite go-to sources for elegant dinner napkins. Caveat emptor: I didn’t say inexpensive. Ahem. “Buy cheap, buy twice” is most certainly one of our design mantras.
1. Julia B. Linens
Julia is the end-all be-all of monogrammed fabulosity. Click and slobber over the options- it’s pretty painful. I am über decisive and even I stutter + stumble trying to narrow the field for our clients.
2. Leontine Linens
Jane Scott Hodges is a fabulous arbiter of style and her NOLA headquarters is chock full of inspiring linens ranging from bedding to tabletop. If you don’t have her book, Linens: For Every Room and Occasion, get thee to Amazon.
Sferra’s Filetto + Festival lines totally blow our skirts up. Gorgeous dye lots, dependable customer service, and exquisite edging are the hallmarks of a Sferra napkin.
I cut my teeth on Boutross. Even typing this blurb takes me back to being 22 at Design Cuisine– in the grip of the Rockefeller-Carnegie wedding (my 1st wedding, ever- could you die?) and The Kennedy Center Honors, ordering thousands of Battenberg lace napkins and chewing my nails to the quick that they made it through customs. I remember fondly the weeks-long span when they were stuck on a barge in some sea near Turkey- recurring nightmare of my career.
Those are just a few gems- the rest of our go-to faves are to the trade only and would likely “pedigree check” you (aka a “pedicure check” in our studio) and make your life hassle-ish.
Check out some of our favorite napkins, monograms, and folds below!
Could there possibly be a prettier fretwork faggotted edge or wedgwood blue that’s not too Williamsburgish and stuffy? Only with Julia B.
I’ve just always loved the simplicity of this look: continental bead plate, gold flatware, chunky white napkin folded simply and secured with a gold leaf napkin ring, replete with asymmetrical pink blooms. via Citrus & Orange
Jane Scott Hodges of Leontine Linens whipped this table setting up for Southern Living– natch. I have all this lying around in my abode, too- I just, you know, couldn’t get it together in time when they called. (wink). And this, my fine feathered friends, is why it always IRKS me when brides say they have no need or desire for china. It makes me stabby. I wanna say- ‘you sure ’bout that? take a look-see, glasshoppah- learn from the wise ones.’
This little gem of a shot came from Style Me Pretty, and reminds us that less is definitely more. A simple watercolor-lettered menu resting atop lemon leaf (or salal, or some such greenery) on top of an everyday powder blue napkin- it’s all good in the ‘hood.
I’m not a giant fan of the Victorian Depression Era pink glass in this application per se- it’s a little saccharine . . . but for some reason, I think the dip-dyed napkin folded into a rosette with two fresh green leaves for “reality” is really sweet without being precious. Perf for a bridesmaids’ luncheon, no? via Southern Lady
This two color custom monogrammed napkin in slate blue and navy goes with everything, as evidenced in this picture where it’s not super matchy McMatcherson but totally works. I’m guessing it’s via Number Four Eleven, one of our fave Savannah-based monogrammed napkin sources. I could be wrong, but whatevs- Number 411 is the bee’s knees anyway. found via The Enchanted Home
Here’s what works here, and why you love it like I do. Flaxen linen alone would be Dullsville, but here it provides the perfect tonal backdrop to gold flatware and a greige napkin. The napkin is simply rolled and fastened with easy-to-snag spiky garden greenery. No fuss, no muss. If you look closely, yes- the white china is embossed with a matelassé texture that adds a little oomph- but other than that, simple + classic + totally works. via 100 Layer Cake
Although we eschew “table trash” at a fête- meaning, anything that you untie that then creates a bunch of crud on the table, this one doesn’t bother me. I love that the lavender velvet ribbon doesn’t perfectly coordinate to the French dishcloth napkin, but rather to the small bunch of (heather? lilac? lavender?) bundled with a fork and knife. Rustic + pretty. via Wunderweib
You can’t go wrong with tone-on-tone. This is my go-to for pillow cases, napkins, sheets, and more. White base, champagne mono? Yes ma’am. This is a Sferra Festival napkin with a Number Four Eleven monogram, secured with a beautiful silver napkin ring. Oh how I wish I had a slew of antique sterling napkin rings- it’s time to start collecting.
These bordered napkins are Number Four Eleven, but I’m really into K Style Design’s versions too. I’m jonesing for one of our Fall clients to pick these style where KSD can border one edge in one thread color, and another in a second color, thus creating this fab effect if folded not in a pocket fold but bunched more grandly and secured with ribbon or a cool napkin ring. Loving the clean + modern + masculine mono here.
Last but never least, Julia B. for Taigan with her Paris Place Setting. Salt cellar? Check. Round scalloped edge placemat? Check. Fat angular pocket fold? Check. Rusty Hermès-ish colors abounding? Check.