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Inside a Luxury Linen Designer’s Jewel Box Home in New Orleans’ Historic Garden District

Jane Scott Hodges' Exuberant Design Style and Love of Monograms Is on Full Display at Her Party-Ready House

BY
photography Paul Costello

In 1996, when Jane Scott Hodges made the decision to take on the staid and stiff monogram and infuse it with vibrant color and bolder scale, her company, Leontine Linens, was born. New Orleans-based Leontine has since led the way with contemporary monogramming for bed and tabletop and has become an unrivaled resource for couture-quality linens, handmade by Kentucky artisans renowned for their exquisite work.

Each piece is custom and made to order via a visit to Hodges’ charming Magazine Street-area store or through her website. Hodges and her team also frequently make house calls.

“Visiting your home is the best way for us to see your personal style,” says Hodges, who was recently in Dallas staying with friend and longtime Leontine fan Ann Hobson. Hodges acknowledges that not everyone wants the pressure of a home consultation, so she has scheduled two-day popups at Mecox stores around the country, including Dallas, in November of 2019. “The pop-ups at Mecox are a good way for people to be introduced to us and see what we have to offer,” she says. “Mac Hoak (founder of Mecox) and I go back a long way — we started our businesses the same year, and I did my first trunk show at his first store in Southampton.”

Thanksgiving
A monogrammed napkin by Leontine Linens.

Clients can design something totally unique, or they can choose from about 30 styles of embroidered and appliquéd monograms and borders ranging from classic to modern, in endless color combinations. Sheeting is made from Egyptian cotton and milled in Italy, then cut by hand at Leontine Linens’ sister workshop in Kentucky, the Eleanor Beard studio. In 2002, Hodges purchased the 98-year-old heritage company, which has employed generations of Kentucky women skilled in the traditions of needlework. Made entirely by hand, each order takes about two months to produce.

This luxuriously paced way of doing business harks back to a lost old South, when time and attention prevailed. But Leontine’s loyal devotees aren’t all south of the Mason-Dixon line. They include top-tier designers around the country, such as Charlotte Moss, Alexa Hampton, Alex Papachristidis, David Kleinberg, Mary McDonald, and Nathan Turner. The linens appear regularly in Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and Veranda. In 2014, Hodges published her first book, Linens: For Every Room and Occasion (Rizzoli).

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A welcome sight in the New Orleans home’s sunny entryway. (Photo by Paul Costello)

Hodges’ elegant and joyful take on linens has made her a hit, and nowhere is her exuberant design style better expressed than at home in New Orleans. She and husband Philip Hodges bought their 1869 Greek Revival side-hall house in the city’s historic Garden District seven years ago and renovated it with the help of interior designer Gwen Driscoll, whom Hodges has known since college.

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While Hodges may use vibrant color combinations in her linens, her previous homes had been decorated in neutral hues, including the 19th-century house where they lived in Kentucky for seven years post-Katrina. When they returned to New Orleans in 2012 with their two teenage children, it marked a period of rejuvenation — and an opportunity to embrace color. Their Garden District house is drenched in light and bold hues, with chartreuse double-lacquered walls in the parlor and rich amethyst linen wallpaper in the dining room. “I think the house reflects our joy in coming back to New Orleans, with all these bright colors,” Hodges says. “It’s a jewel box.”

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In the parlor, walls triple lacquered in custom chartreuse by Fine Paints of Europe. (Photo by Paul Costello)

The fun is also in the unexpected mix: In the parlor, antique French fauteuils are covered in Lee Jofa acid-yellow satin, while the upstairs study is cocooned in grays, chocolates, and creams, with floral Schumacher drapery layered against bold geometric Kelly Wearstler wallpaper. An iron bed in the guest bedroom is draped in lively orange and lavender monogrammed
linens, and a sectional sofa in the den is upholstered in Schumacher’s blue-and-white Chiang Mai Dragon, topped with pillows in coral and citron hues.

It’s a happy, comfortable house, ideal for hosting large gatherings, and a hub for the couple’s now-grown children and their friends returning home for Mardi Gras. “I love to entertain,” Hodges says, “so we created a double parlor out of two smaller rooms, and now we can have 25 for a buffet dinner in the parlor, a seated meal on the terrace, and the dining room can seat 12.”

For casual dinners, Hodges stacks Lucite trays at the end of the buffet with a monogrammed linen napkin and silverware — trays are so much easier to balance on your lap than plates. Custom-designed floor-to-ceiling windows in the parlor open all the way up, so when the weather is nice, guests can take their trays outside and eat on the terrace.

“We live in a year-round outdoor climate, so why not enjoy an afternoon of shucked oysters in your own garden?” When it’s just the two, she and Philip eat dinner around a small antique wine table overlooking the pool — and more often than not, it’s Philip who does the cooking.

“He designed the kitchen, and it’s lucky for both of us that he enjoys cooking. Otherwise, we would both go hungry,” she says. “He can sauté trout like no one else I know.”

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Rich amethyst linen wallpaper in the dining room, which can seat 12. (Photo by Paul Costello)

Hospitality is a big part of everyday life in New Orleans, and Hodges reaches for her collection of vintage glassware and china on a daily basis, even when friends drop by for coffee on Saturday mornings. As you might expect, table linens are a mainstay in her household, including vintage linens she discovered at flea markets around the globe and in unexpected places like Ikea. She keeps them neatly organized by color and tied with ribbons inside an antique armoire that was acquired from Henry Stern Antiques on Royal Street, and gifted to her husband, a New Orleans native, when he was a child.

“His mother collected furniture for him,” Hodges says. “Most children got fire trucks, he got antiques.”

Hodges’ favorite thing about the house — besides the beautiful natural light — is how every room is designed to be used. “We live in every square inch of it,” she says. The double parlor is a gracious place to host, but it’s also where you can find her in the mornings at her desk, writing thank you notes. Says Hodges, “Homes are meant to be well-lived in and shared. And for me, this home is a symbol of joy and happiness.”

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Jane Scott Hodges’ 1869 Greek Revival house is in New Orleans’ Garden District. (Photo by Paul Costello)

A Catch-Up with Jane
We caught up with Hodges over coffee and pastries at Bird Bakery in Highland Park Village — a favorite stop when she’s in town.

Trade secrets.
We’re always listening to designers to find out how to take some of the work off them, and we’ve just started some exciting new designer programs. Once they’ve finished the schematics of a bedroom, they can send it to us, and we’ll come back with a concepted rendering to show their clients how their custom bedding will look. We’re also doing down and poly inserts now for all our duvets and pillows, and creating mattress pads, towels, custom shower-curtain liners — all the annoying things you forget about until the last minute. We offer a free laundry service with big installations. Linens arrive pre-laundered and pressed so they’re ready to be put on the bed when you open the box. We also include installation documents with instructions on how to make the beds.

Start of it all.
I was getting married and wanted a trousseau. I’d been looking for heirloom linens but I couldn’t find them. We were getting married in Kentucky [where I grew up], and while there, I discovered the Eleanor Beard studio in Louisville, which was founded in 1921. I went, and they were making all these beautiful handcrafted linens. I ordered some for myself, then started selling them from our house in New Orleans in 1996.

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A cupboard with antique doors holds Leontine Linens. (Photo by Paul Costello)

What’s in a name.
My first home in New Orleans was a little cottage on Leontine Street. After struggling over a name for my business, my very down-to-earth father exasperatingly asked me, “Why don’t you call it Leontine Linens and be done with it.”

Leap of faith.
One morning in 2001, I received a call from Beard’s studio that the owners had decided to close its doors. It was on my farewell visit when a lady asked, literally as I had one foot out the door, “Would you buy us?” Without a blink, I took a
giant leap of faith and purchased the company. When we bought it, we really did not understand just how historic and ground-breaking it was. In those first few days of ownership, we were exposed to the rich archives of catalogs, photography, and correspondence outlining Beard’s genius approach to her linens business. I quickly realized I was a caretaker of something
very historic.

Safe haven.
When Katrina hit, we evacuated, and the artisans at Eleanor Beard rescued us right back. They found places for us and our store employees to live. They are not people of wealth, so it was mostly in their modest homes.

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