A crisp look and feel
Ahead of the busy summer season you may with to look at replacing your linen assortment. Bill Lumley looks at linen care tips to keep it looking new and finds the fashion to be for plain colours and a higher thread count
With spring upon us more certainly than its arrival last year, now is a great time to considering a shakeup of your linen collection, whether it be in the dining room, bathrooms or bedrooms or all three.
Assuming that after we go to press with the March issue that the UK is not going to be treated to some late winter surprises, like the Beast from the East last year which saw snowfalls in Gloucestershire of nearly two feet and temperatures in Nairnshire drop to minus 11 Celsius, now is the perfect time to get in touch with a luxury linen supplier and discuss what options you may have.
If you are wondering what is in vogue this year, look no further than business development team leader Nikki Riley at Out of Eden, who says the move is generally towards un-patterned bed and table linen.
She tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast magazine: “We are finding that people who do not have themed guest houses are tending to move more to the plain linen and we are having more and more requests.”
Even the B&Bs that traditionally might have gone for something floral for example are now going more for the plain linens, and are putting colours into the room instead through the runners and cushions and the décor, she says.
Of course there are still plenty of people who run luxury properties that display more of a boutique feel about them, and where each room is very individually decorated and furnished. For example, there might be a giraffe theme in one room and an elephant in the next, but such properties are few and far between and very bespoke, insists Nikki.
The trend for plain rather than patterned linen is currently being matched with a growth in demand for higher quality linen, she says.
“People are asking for a higher thread-count linen now, and we have accordingly very recently added a 400 thread-count linen to our range. It’s 100% Egyptian cotton, but the thread-count has gone up, giving a satiny, softer feel. We are finding guest houses, B&Bs and hotels are just expecting more and more from the quality of the bedding.”
There is no apparent pattern or cycle in this clear trend towards plain, she claims. “It is a trend in retail as well,” she says. “Consumer trends are changing, and accordingly a lot of the BBBs that used to take the floral linen route or indeed the patterned or geometric style or whatever they happened to like, these owners now try to make themselves appeal more to a wider market. If you have gone plain, then white, then dressed it up with an on-trend colour with your runners and cushions, then you can’t really offend anybody and you can’t go wrong.
“By contrast there are young people who laugh at the idea of a floral bed linen set, seeing it as quite old fashioned. I think it is just a change in shift in general in consumers’ minds.”
The best advice may be to follow your own instinct, given that you know best the kind of demographics and taste of your guests.
In terms of colour, Out of Eden finds that white is by far the biggest seller when it comes to linen. Nikki says: “People are going for ivory or cream, which is off-white, allowing for a bit more of discolouration, but we have seen other things in terms of colour trends. For example we have some light grey colours coming in for linen. For accessories a bright vibrant yellow and saphron colour is very popular and seems to be in a lot of retail outlets. Greys and yellows and duck egg blues – duck egg blue is a colour that seems to have been in for years and is still very popular.
Unlike other product categories when it comes to linen shoppers are generally less interested in the brand and more so in the quality of material and the thread count.
“The quality and thread count is indicative of the quality of the textiles. From the point of view of a B&B owner, a poly-cotton sheet is probably far more attractive than a 100% cotton one simply because of the amount of ironing required by sheets. Poly-cotton irons, presses and launders a lot better than 100% cotton but conversely it doesn’t have the same sort of satin feel as the 100% cotton ones.
“There is always that debate in your mind: do I want it done more quickly or is it going to take me forever to iron?” she says. Obviously the decision is likely to have an impact on the feel of the fabric: do I want to go all out and put in 100% cotton thread which, from a commercial perspective, I am going to have to go to a commercial press to get it pristine?
“That is the kind of battle people have,” she says. “It’s not about quality – it’s about forgoing the feel of the fabric or the textile. A poly-cotton feels a little more coarse than a 100% cotton. There is a lot more to the latter and it is not just the washing – it’s the pressing and the ironing of it that is more of the issue.”
The linens can take a reasonably high temperature, she says. “They are designed to be in use in the hospitality deign business and to take the heat they need to get them as pristine as can be.”
The biggest mistake B&B owners are susceptible to making is if they have any poppers or anything on the underside, she says. “People can make the error if they are doing their own in-house laundry. If they have one of these steam irons or pressers it can potentially be really quite difficult: If a duvet cover has metal poppers, for example, and they get a little too hot in the ironing process then metal can distort slightly meaning the poppers may not go together correctly.
With the trend firmly on plan colour there are not expected to be any surprise changes or trends in linen in the coming year. “We are not seeing any trends or requests. We have a wish list and a customer feedback form, and we also have a competition on line for new product suggestions, and very rarely do the suggestions relate to linen.
“People feel what we have covered in the ranges we supply is on trend and is what they are looking for. We have a full range from poly-cotton right through to 400 thread count Egyptian cotton, and people aren’t asking for anything outside that range. Every now and then we do get a request for a 600-thread count, but these are very few and far between and personally I think that is a little over the top.
Even if you are happy with your linen collection, you may turn to the bedroom and consider what a number of B&Bs and hotels are doing these days which is triple-sheeting to retain the classic white look and feel. This might sound a costly endeavour for not much immediately visible return on investment but guests overwhelmingly equate crisp white with cleanliness. It follows that they will appreciate the lengths to which you have gone to produce the crisp white sheets, which in turn may help boost your TripAdvisor review ratings.
Linen vs cotton
Linen is just as easy to look after as cotton, but it is more durable and gets better with each wash, unlike cotton which can become threadbare as the fibres are weakened. Linen uses less resources in its production, so it is also a more eco-friendly, sustainable fabric.
LinenMe was founded by Lithuanian interior designer Inga Lukauskiene. She says: “It is a common misconception that linen needs specialist care. This couldn’t be further from the truth.” It is easy to care for linen and to keep it looking beautiful for years to come, she insists. Made from the fibres of the flax plant, linen has been cultivated and used as a textile for thousands of years, long before the existence of dry cleaners or fancy detergents, she says. “It is such a natural, simple fabric that caring for it is simple too.”
One of the top tips she has is to ignore advice that linen needs to be dry cleaned. “Linen that has been correctly manufactured and treated can be machine or hand washed. It can even be tumble dried on low temperatures. The only garments that are better being dry cleaned are more structured, tailored items such as linen jackets or suits, due to the way they are constructed.”
She adds: “Always follow the care instructions on your item, and test any cleaning method on a small, hidden area before washing the whole thing.”
Linen becomes softer and more absorbent after each wash. She advises you wash linen on low temperatures in lukewarm or cold, and preferably soft, water. “Use the gentle machine cycle and a mild detergent to protect the fibres,” she suggests
Linen can be machine-dried, but this should be done at the lower end of the temperature range to preserve the fabric and texture, she says.
One positives of linen over cotton, ads with polyester, is that it does not need to be ironed unless they have become particularly crushed after being stored for a long time or while wet. If you do have an item that needs pressing, remedy this with a medium-hot iron on the steam setting. White linen should be ironed on both sides while dark linen should only be pressed on the reverse side, she says.
Nikki says: “One of the hardest things with cotton is the temperatures at which it can be washed. Cotton as a raw material is quite delicate but when it goes to commercial laundry particularly if it has marks or stains then those items are being washed at 60 degrees or more and sometimes chemicals are used that degrade the fabrics.”
Generally speaking most people prefer not to wash at 40 degrees at commercial laundries but at higher temperatures, and once you start getting above 40, cotton does degrade, Nikki says. “There is nothing you can do about it. It’s a slow process, and you are not going to notice it after just one or two washes, but the more rigour you put it through and the more chemicals you add to something, the more damaging it is going to be long term.”
She adds: “The frequency of replacing the linen is going to depend on a B&B’s occupancy rate. You could have bedding that is not used for a week or two if you are not at full occupancy. If you are going for a 50:50 poly-cotton blend then you could expect that to last you that season – your whole year – but if your season is only from Easter to September then you might get another season out of it. It depends on a combination of usage and the season the venue is open for,” she concludes.
Black tie weddings are undergoing something of a revival at the moment and a crisp black and white color palette creates the perfect contrast with a stunning green outdoor setting. If you are hosting such an event you may wish to furnish round dining tables with black velvet linens and rectangular feasting tables with fitted white linens.
You may also wish to offer your wedding party the chance to have a luxury wedding silver personalised monogram linen tablecloth and matching napkins, which could be provided for the head table. They can be tailored with the appropriate initials for around £30 and add a certain cachet for the bride and groom. Matching linen napkin’s can also be made and ordered from such stores as India Jane in Chelsea.
Wedding colour themes 2018
Source: The UK Wedding Report 2019
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