Adding a monogram to a piece instantly makes it special, giving it a beautiful bespoke touch and turning the item in question into a unique treasure worthy of being passed down. While we’ve all seen gorgeous examples of elegantly embroidered table linens and traditional children’s clothing, there are plenty of out-of-the-box opportunities to add personality to your home and clothing through personalization. For inspiration on modern ways to incorporate monograms, we turned to Catherine Alexander, founder of Austin, Texas-based Grace Charles Design Studio, which produces an assortment of home and personalized goods that appeal to both the classic and contemporary sets. “You need to know the traditional rules so you’ll know when to break them and modernize your design,” says Alexander, whose designs include everything from monogrammed holiday melamine plates to pillows that display a keen eye for pattern-mixing. Here, she shares a fresh approach to monograms that will inspire you to rethink the way you add initials to your wardrobe and décor.
Think beyond the typical linens. Monogrammed napkins and bath towels are only the beginning when it comes to pieces that can be personalized in the home. “Monograms transform anything into an instant heirloom, honoring your family name from generations past or your new name for generations to come,” Alexander says, noting that casual and/or fine china, upholstered furniture, and desk accessories are perfect places to add initials.
Combine contrasting styles. “Traditional plus modern is my go-to formula for design,” says Alexander, who likes to pair a traditional font with a modern color scheme, and vice versa. “The contrast of the two design styles is where the magic happens, and traditional embroidery becomes unexpected.” She also encourages using letter combinations outside of the usual first, middle, and last names—for example, by putting a monogram that represents your children’s first names on a set of table linens for the family or on pillows for the playroom.
Put a twist on tradition. Traditions exist for a reason—some things just stand the test of time. However, being open to new takes on old standards can yield refreshing (and stylish) results. Alexander suggests incorporating monograms in unexpected ways, such as foregoing the traditional shirt placement on a pocket or collar and instead opting for a small, 3-letter monogram underneath the left pocket or on the cuff. Or, for a fresh take on a classic home accessory, skip the decorative monogrammed shams and put a single, two-inch initial on the edges of your pillowcases.
Give old monogrammed pieces new life. For treasured monogrammed items that feel out of date or are in need of repair, Alexander recommends coming up with creative ways to reuse the personalized section. “As long as the embroidery is in good shape, you can cut the fabric out and repurpose it into a new heirloom piece,” she says. For example, Alexander suggests sewing an antique handkerchief or pocket square into a ring-bearer pillow for a wedding, or reimagining a child’s newborn blanket into a lumbar pillow.
Photography by Chelsea Francis for The Scout Guide Austin, Volume 6. TSG Tip 288 from Catherine Alexander of Grace Charles Design Studio in Austin, Texas. Grace Charles Design Studio is featured in The Scout Guide Austin.