Style: Monograms make life beautiful

Mary Carol Garrity

Monograms are magic, in my book. Take an ordinary piece of cloth, like a pillowcase or napkin, and embroider on a monogram, and you’ve transported it from ho-hum to tres chic. Monograms, which date back to ancient Greece and Rome, came of age in the Victorian era, when the aristocracy turned embellishing their personal items with their initials into an art form. Soon everyone had the fever. Including me.

I’ve been crazy about monograms for decades. Intertwined letters are a personal creative expression. They link people and families together. They make everyday life more beautiful and luxurious. Whether I’m decorating my own home or those of friends and customers, I often use monograms to make a space special. Here are some of my favorite ways to use monograms in decorating and daily life:

Accent with monogrammed pillows: All by themselves, accent pillows have the power to change up the look of a sofa, chair or bed. Add in a monogram? Twice the drama.

When you’re monogramming an item for a husband and wife, or partners, with a shared last name, traditionally, the last initial is placed in the center and in a larger size. The initial for the wife or a partner’s first name is placed on the left side and the initial for the husband, or second partner, is placed on the right. For every rule, there is an exception: Sometimes using initials in this order spells words you don’t want decorating your home. Feel free to modify!

When doing a monogram for an individual, the last name initial goes in the center in a larger size. The first name initial is on the left and the middle initial is on the right. Another great option is to simply use the letters of your first and last name.

Make furnishings unique: When a friend of mine had a lovely antique chair refinished, she decided to make it exceptionally beautiful by decorating it with a monogram. I’m crazy about monogrammed upholstered furniture, and we do this all the time. It takes a few extra steps, but it’s well worth it.

Another tip when you are selecting a monogram is to pick a font and color scheme that suits the size and style of the object you are having monogrammed. For instance, if you are monogramming tip towels for your formal powder room, you’ll want something that looks a bit more elegant. If you’re monogramming a headboard for your little boy’s room, you might want something a bit more playful. When it comes to my own bedding, I’m partial to tone-on-tone monograms in creams because it’s so elegant.

Make dining special: I think the ultimate in dining luxury is using monogrammed linens on your table. One of my favorite tricks since we moved into our lake cottage is to use dish towels for napkins. I really like their generous size and how well they launder. And, when I grow tired of them on my table or they take on a few too many stains, I convert them back into dish towels. This spring, I’m spoiling myself and having cute blue and white towels monogrammed with bright pink initials. I think they will look sensational with my blue and white dishes.

Celebrate life events: Having something monogrammed for yourself or as a gift is a great way to mark a big life event. A wedding, the birth of a baby, the passing of a loved one. This spring I’m giving a few brides monogrammed pillows for their wedding gifts. I picked a 16-by-30-inch size because it’s perfect for the center of a sofa or a bed or a window seat. One side will have the initial of the couple’s last name. The other will have their combined monogram. I picked gray and cream, a classic combo that will go with anything in their home.

Monograms have that magical ability to link us to the past and the future.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at