Label Me Chic

April 23, 2012
Monograms are back, decorating everything from decanter stoppers to laptop covers.

Q: I have always liked to personalize some of my special belongings with an initial or a short quote. Has this mode of expression gone out of fashion? I don’t see much of it anymore.

A: Your observations are not wrong; for a few decades the custom of collecting and passing down monogrammed linens and initialed silver from parents and grandparents fell out of fashion along with the notion of trousseau teas. Women were busy elsewhere and the handmade details of life took a back seat.
However, monograms and words of encouragement never disappeared and are now very much back in style.
Modern retailers are showing a wide selection of inventory that is either pre-printed or can be labelled to order. West Elm ( has a treasure trove of items, all modern and stylish and labelled with letters or words that demarcate ownership, but also will make you smile and think a bit.
Modern monograms can be quite bold or as subtle as fine stitching sewn white on white. Bedding, bath linens and glassware are traditional targets, but how about coloured tealight candle holders, a child’s scoop-back chair, felt storage bins, or your very own initialed canvas laptop cover?
For entertaining, there’s acacia and olive wood serving boards, knives and glass whisky and wine decanters topped with sculpted wooden spheres.
Monograms are back, with more choices and design possibilities than ever.
Q: My 1950s bungalow has strange walls in the entry, living and dining room. I’m not sure what material the wallcovering is, but it’s very, very hard (almost impossible to hang pictures), and has a raised wood grain. I’d like to paint the walls a taupe or soft grey to bring it to a more modern feel but I’m afraid the lighter colour palette will make the weird embossed grain more obvious.
A: This is the most common question I hear: “What do I do with panelled walls?” All are dated and look gloomy. I have made a video showing how to paint these panels so that the paint will stick, and how to cover the panels with the latest in paintable wallcovering.
This wallcovering has an embossed or raised pattern and will camouflage your raised grain problem. Visit, scroll down to the video titled “Update Your Outdated Family Room with Debbie Travis” and see the remarkable results.
Q: I have four dining room chairs with very large, white seats. I can’t believe I let my sister talk me into getting them. They have all become stained from grandchildren mishaps at the table. My cleaning efforts only left water stains. I can’t afford to reupholster, how about camouflaging with fabric paint?
A:There are fabric paints designed to cover upholstery, but there is always the chance that the paint will rub off on clothing due to paint left behind between fabric fibres.
It’s almost impossible to rinse the excess paint away when you can’t remove the fabric. Also, paint will feel like paint, not your original material. It’s not hard to reupholster the seats yourself; you just need a staple gun and some lovely fabric that has a more forgiving design. This is your best option.