The holidays are just around the corner. Dining room tables and guest rooms are ready for their moment. We turned to the amazing Julia Berger, of Julia B. Couture Linens for inspiration and some good (and much-needed!) advice.
Your creations take our breath away. Just scrolling through your website makes us long for a life filled with beauty and elegance, friends and family alongside, building lasting memories. What inspires you?
My inspirations come from many sources, having had the opportunity to live, work and travel across many cultures, the natural and artistic stimuli that I am exposed to are endless, yet two things continue to fuel my creative fires: first is my admiration for handwork and the amazing artisans that bring my designs and creations to life; second, I have always found inspiration in the challenge of transforming beautiful old things into objects of modern and timeless beauty.
Talk to us about how to best coordinate all of the elements that make a table pretty, festive and match the mood of the occasion.
To start with, I love breaking the rules and questioning tradition. I am increasingly excited by opportunities to mix and match multiple elements across the dining table, old and new, strong and subtle, colorful and neutral. Coordination is always a very personal question. For my designs, I am seeking to maintain a dominant color and to select a persistent pattern or motif that pervades across the tablescape. Perhaps most importantly, the process itself should be fun, and experimentation rules the day.
During the holidays, what are a few of your favorite ways to personalize a table?
I was lucky enough to live in Tuscany, and for me personalizing the table starts with the food and wine, which in turn often dictate the choices of the décor. I like to seek out something from my vintage collections with which to combine a new design. In our house, the holiday table is a testing ground for new ideas, yet I always try to ensure that my guests are honored with a personalized item to take home and make part of their future holiday table. Lastly, I always seek to make the spaces intimate, sitting closer together, sharing in the abundance of the moment are key to making the occasion a memorable one.
There is something so true about “getting what you give.” When you sit down at a table that has been set with attention, love, and care, you are put in the space of wanting to be there, knowing that something special is going on. How can we best create this for our guests? And what do we do if we don’t have enough matching plates, crystal, silver, or linens?
Creating and enjoying a beautiful table is the ultimate pleasure for me. I look for ways to bring people together with intimate spaces and not always having to rely on grandma’s same old twelve plates – as lovely as they are... We have one client who alternates every other place setting with an old and a new setting, celebrating the past and family memories on the one hand while introducing something new and vibrant on the other. I recently started guiding my clients to use a different pattern at each seat, and instead of assigning seats, I think it’s fun to say, “Choose your favorite place-setting” and see what happens and who you end up sitting next to.
Linens are so appealing with their beautiful touch and grace, but they are time-consuming to care for. Is there anything we can do to help clear this hurdle?
There is big perception battle to fight here because the truth of the matter is that caring for linens is not such a big deal. All Julia B. linen products are machine-washable and many of our fabrics simply get yummier over time. The only issue for some is the ironing, and even there, if you are precise in the timing of when to take things out of the dryer, the amount of effort can be significantly reduced – a little dampness can go a long way to keeping the wrinkles to a minimum. As mentioned, one of the fabulous things about fine linens is that, if proper care is taken, they can get better over time. At Julia B., we suggest following 3 essential rules:
Only use the right detergent, which should be non-abrasive and delicate.
Never use bleach, even with whites, as it weakens the fabric.
Store your linens after pressing and fold them carefully in a dry environment.
Are there any strict rules of thumb when selecting linens? Do you look to thread count, touch, ease-of-care? Or is there something more personal in the process?
Rule number one is taste. I always say, “You have to love it!” When it comes to thread count, there too we are constantly fighting a perception battle. The most common question I receive, is “What’s your thread count?” As proud as we are of our thread counts which go as high as 1,000 threads per square inch, I caution everyone from thinking that this statistic is a true indicator of quality. Far more important than the number of threads is the actual quality of the threads themselves.
Hostess and holiday gifts. Should they be monogrammed? What are some of your favorite things to give – and to receive?
The choice to include (or not) a monogram is a personal one, and there is no right or wrong answer. That being said, I find that the personal touch that monograms bring is always appreciated by the gift recipient. I love giving cocktail napkins and guest towels as much as I love receiving them. I can never have enough, and the opportunities for individual expression are endless. For this holiday, I am particularly in love with our Cock-a-doodle-doo rooster cocktail napkins, and for that someone who has everything, they certainly won’t have our delightful twelve days of Christmas cocktail napkin set.
The notion of making time for beauty, elegance, and fun is a beautiful thread that runs through your business. We would love to know what – or who – inspired you to start Julia B?
I started out my career in fashion, where I learned to love the artistry and craftsmanship of the couture world. Then, soon after my daughter was born, I found myself divorced and a single mother with no support. I had always had a passion for fine linens dating back to my youth when I used to play in my great aunt’s linen closet, so I decided to begin selling beautiful Italian linens from a handful of firms that I knew in Florence. Yet I quickly realized that selling other peoples’ designs out of the trunk of my car was not a long-term career that would keep me inspired. So I sat down, studied about numerous forms of embroidery that date back centuries and decided to create vintage made new!
Happy Holidays, everyone. May your homes be filled with warmth, wonderful friends and family, and excellent cheer!