Linen had its brand tarnished back in the 80's when 'middle-aged fashionable men' used it to be stylish in warmer climates, but the reality is that when it's used indoors for home furnishings it is one of the most beautiful, luxurious and versatile fabrics, a 'must have' classic in any interior.
Linen is deemed to be the one of the oldest fabrics in the world traced back to 8000BC in Switzerland. It is produced from the Flax plant traditionally from Western Europe. The highest quality Linen comes from Ireland, Belgium and Italy however, now France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Britain, India and USA produce linen of equal quality.
Apart from your synthetics, it's the workhorse of household fabrics as it's lightweight, breathable and durable, requiring far less maintenance than cotton and silk. It's also a great insulator making it ideal in kitchens near hot objects or curtains to keep your energy bills down.
It wasn't just born with these talents. To produce linen for upholstery purposes is a complex and finicky process requiring a lot of love and attention, whilst also depending on just the right harvesting conditions. Hence why it's often expensive.
But it's worth the price, aesthetically, Linen is versatile and undemanding, slipping into contemporary interiors just as well as industrial, rustic or traditional. It has a truth to it that can add instant integrity.
Here are some tips for buying Linen:
Go for the good stuff
Try to use Linen that's from the niche Western Europe producers – Belgium, Italy or Belgium. If that's not possible (or out of your price range) then feel the linen for it's thickness and look for a close, tight weave. Loose, thin linen will move over time and will eventually look sloppy.
Mixes are ok, but look for 50% +
Linen can be moody. It does require management. So if you want to minimise that go for a mix. Generally it's with Cotton or Viscose. If that's the case then try to not let the synthetic content in the makeup be more than 50% (unless its a commercial interior). Things can get a little shiny.
On upholstery make sure you steam-clean it at least two times per year and in situ is best. Make sure it dries well as damp Linen can attract mildew. If on a sofa or occasional chairs then make sure you rotate cushions and fluff 'n puff them on a weekly basis. This will reduce the chances of creasing or dirt build up. When ironing other Linen (napkins, tablecloths etc) make sure they're damp. Heat on dry linen will burn and break it.
Uocmas has some great new Belgium linen products in store now – I highly recommend checking them out…