A beautiful coffee table book makes a thoughtful gift for so many occasions and Kimberly Schlegel Whitman’s latest book, Monograms for the Home, is no exception. Today I am sharing my Q&A with the Southern Living Editor-at-Large and entertaining expert. Plus, a I’m giving you peek inside this gorgeous book (that is available again today after selling out of is first two printings!) No doubt it will be the perfect gift for someone on your list this year.
[ Update: get 25% day off any book on Amazon through December 14th with code 25OFFBOOK!]
First, thank you so much, Kim, for letting me interview you. Your very first book, The Pleasure of Your Company, has been in my constant rotation of coffee table books and I am just as excited about this new book. Tell me, what inspired this latest book about monograms?
I have been wanting to do this one for a long time. I love monograms and this gave me an opportunity to really explore how other people use them in design. I also wanted the book to just be for the home, and not necessarily for fashion or jewelry or any of those other ways that I also love to use monograms! [This book shows] ways to personalize our home spaces and the way we entertain.
Today it’s so fun and easy to buy something like a mass-produced pillow or throw at Target. To take something like that, and add a monogram to it, really personalizes it and makes it feel custom and special to you. On the flip side of that, I also love finding old monograms – whether it’s my letters or not – because the design of it is so special.
Personally, I’ve always monogrammed everything. Especially table linens. I love being able to add a new pop of color with monograms or make my plain white napkin all of a sudden coordinate perfectly with my porcelain or my china just by adding that signature element.
I appreciate so much that you talk about the history of monograms in this book. How did you go about researching the topic?
I did a lot of research in old etiquette. I have a collection of vintage etiquette books. My parents buy them for me whenever they see them around and I always pick them up when I go into a used book store. So I dug through those and I also had a long and extensive conversation and series of emails with Peggy Post, who is the great-great-grandduaghter-in-law of Emily Post. We talked through what it means to apply those old-order guidelines to the modern mentality, whether it means doing a duogram and combining the husband and wife, which a lot of people love to do, or how to [use a duogram] when it’s a same-sex marriage, or maybe it’s a divorce that’s happened and you have monogrammed items from before. We talked about what Emily set up as guidelines and how to use those in more modern situations.
On the subject of duograms, when I got married twelve years ago it was still very normal to put my married monogram on things in the home. Now it seems like most married couples are choosing the dugoram for linens and pillows and platters. What are you seeing?
Here’s what I found: People want to know what they should do. For whatever reason, a lot of the stores and dealers don’t really tell people. I had a conversation with the Me&Re Design girls about that and they said that when their customers ask them what to do, they tell them the old school rules, but then say, “do what you like!” Also, if your letters spell something unpleasant, then that helps make the decision for you!
As a side tangent, men are also playing more of a role in how monograms are designed. I love it when people do bed linens and they will do the women’s monogram on her pillow on her side of the bed and men’s on the other. There are really fun ways to play with it! My only pet peeve is when people do joint stationery because the letters come from one person, not two.
In the book you recount how your mother-in-law gave you a beautiful monogrammed silver for a wedding gift and you loved the monogram design so much you copied it and used it all throughout your home. Tell me about that.
It costs between $75-150 to have a monogram digitized. Once you do that you can put it on anything. It’s a certainly a bit of expense in the beginning, but once you do that you can use on just about anything. I have [my monogram] on gift tags, on napkins, on my website. Once you make that initial investment you can use it anywhere.
I love your cream and blue notepads in the book. Can you tell me about those?
Emily McCarthy is one of the people I discovered on Instagram. It is so fun to discover new designers and talent that way. She is in Savannah and will create custom monograms for people and for brands and companies. She is fantastic and so clever the way she uses them.
Speaking of Southern monogrammers, is it true that monograms are a Southern thing?
I kind of went in to it thinking that they were, but I have had such a wonderful reposne from people in the Northeast as well. So it’s been fun to see that whether you grew up in Connecticut or Dallas, there’s still an interest in it. I really think it goes back to all the points we were talking about earlier. With everything thats mass-marketed, it’s so nice to feel that something’s been customized just for you or as a gift just for a friend. It requires a little bit of thought, but it makes things feel a little more special.
I also think – wherever you live – there is something so special about honoring our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers that if we have their antique silver or something that belonged to them – even if the letters aren’t ours – it’s so fun to have that embellishment that makes it uniquely your family’s.
On that note, if someone wanted to start a collection of silver or monogrammed linens – or perhaps they didn’t have anything passed down to them from a grandmother – how would you recommend going about doing that?
I love looking at auctions! Oftentimes when silver is monogrammed you can get it at a great price at auction because you are competing with dealers who would then go have the monogrammed removed. So if you like the design of the monogram, or if you are lucky enough to find something with your own monogram, I think that is so fun. I also love looking at garage sales and antique stores and antique malls. I am constantly looking for them!
I actually found a beautiful set of Irish linen napkins at this antique fair in this really tiny town in Canada this past summer. I never see monogrammed things up there and it was the only monogrammed item this dealer had. And she had marked them down. It had a “W” on them, too. The thrill of the hunt is part of the excitement!
Are there any antique stores in Dallas you love to pop in and check?
At Forestwood Antique Mall there is a great linen dealer. She always has a stacks of hand towels and antique dinner napkins. It’s a great place to go look for gifts for friends this time of year. I found an “MS” for my mother and I found other letter combinations that match friends and that’s so fun when you find that.
Are you more traditional or modern when it comes to monograms?
I like mixing it up! I think one of my biggest design dilemmas is that I love everything. To be honest, I like things that are unique. And I have really funny pet peeves about my own monogram. Because i have a “W” I really appreciate symmetry. I don’t like it when it curves to one side or the other. A ‘W” is just a beautiful, symmetrical letter that lands so nicely in the middle. I also tend to like monograms from around the 1920s. They are more geometric and a bit off-kilter and I like that.
What is your favorite monogram piece in the book?
In addition to the monogrammed silver my mother-in-law gave me, it would have to be the elephant napkins. They are in there twice because I love them so much. My set is in there with rust colors and so is Kelly Ford who owns Madison, she has the purple and eggplant colors. I love this monogram because it is unique!
And this is exciting: you just launched your own line of monogram linens. Tell me about that.
I’m so excited. We have the simple, traditional monograms, but we are also developing really unique styles that have motifs in them. Forty Five Ten and The Loveliest will start carrying them in early October. And we are working to get them on our website soon!
And because I am a gift blogger, I have to ask: what is your favorite monogrammed gift to give?
It depends on how much time I have to be honest! I love doing a set of cocktail napkins for a hostess or guest towel for a powder room. I also love giving a monogrammed tissue box cover!
Last question: Who is this perfect recipient for this book?
Any monogrammed lover for sure! But also, it’s for anyone who loves design. The book certainly talks about monograms, and how to use them and where to use them. But it’s also more of an interior design book because it references how you can use a monogram to embellish design.
Kim, thank you so much for talking with me today! Your book is gorgeous and would be a wonderful gift for anyone who loves monograms, history, and beautiful decor!
Be sure to browse the full DoSayGive Holiday Gift Guide for more thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list!
Photo: Megan Weaver
Enclosure Cards: Southern Stationery
Monogrammed Linen Gifts: