I was recently reading a column by Bernard Salt, Australian demographer and pop culture column writer, about some surprising results from the most recent Australian Census last year. In in, he noted that the number of bedrooms in Australia now exceeds the number of people in the country, and that the show bedroom, as he thought of it, was on the rise, given there has been a corresponding rise in sales in the bedding industry of cushions, pillows, and bed linen. This is because in Australia, living areas are to the rear of houses, so most visitors to a house will enter through a front door, process down a hallway to the outdoor entertaining zone, and pass by a number of bedrooms that are now required to be arranged attractively with stacked cushions, bedlinen and other things that used to be seen only by the rooms inhabitant, and never by a visitor. This is to give off a 5 star hotel vibe, and to show wealth and taste. You can read the very entertaining column here

This all tied in neatly with a phenomenon that I've noticed over the past few years - the rise of the cult of D.Porthault, French linen company and the linen of choice to the discerning connoisseur of fine living.  We are told frequently by anyone writing about the company on the many, many social media posts written on instagram/ blogs/ magazines that the roll call of famous people that were obsessed  with it include Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel and a bunch of other famous people from the 1950's up to today far too numerous to mention, aside from on the D.Porthault website. There's nothing like celebrity endorsement, especially when the clients are no longer alive to complain about being co-opted into it.

But we all know they're the style set, so the seal of approval means we can all rush out to buy our own very expensive set of linen and be stylish as well, especially given how distinctive the patterns are as they ensure that everyone knows where your sheets come from. The French company was purchased fairly recently by an American with a passion for linen, and under new ownership the marketing push has really gathered pace, particularly in the US where there are boutiques opening and constant magazine write ups, and now the glossy coffee table book released this month about the company's history.

What is distinctive and recognisable about D Porthault linen is that it is known for a variety of printed patterns on fine quality cotton sheets, and it's rather expensive, thus setting it firmly equivalent to the luxury logo'd handbag... or Hermes Avalon blanket. They do plain linen as well, but it's the distinctive floral patterns that they innovated in the 1920s and have become very well known for that have aficionados/ cult members pattern matching and clashing with gay abandon with their sheets and towels.

I suppose you can see where I'm going with this... I don't really like printed sheets of any sort, aside from in a child's bedroom, so for me it is slightly baffling that they're so popular. For grown up bedrooms I like plain sheets as they don't compete with the other decorative elements in the room. I also think my husband would revolt if I made up the bed in pretty floral sheets and then asked him to sleep in it.

I really do not like the sheets in this bedroom

And this is an interesting fact in the whole Porthault love in:  the women that originally embraced the D Porthault sheets such as Jackie Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor didn't actually sleep in the same bed as their husband. They had their own bedrooms, as was customary for women from the upper classes of that era. Their bedrooms could be decorated in the manner that they chose, and their sheets were theirs to select without consideration of what a male partner might think of having to sleep under a bower of love hearts or clovers or sprigs of roses and pansies.

Rita Konig's former bedroom in New York with heart print bedlinen

I have seen some criticism of the new book as being essentially a big glossy catalogue, with no photos of D Porthault in the famous clients bedrooms of the past to give weight to the celebrity endorsement. So I googled them for you as I suspected that there weren't any photos showing the flowery sheets for one major reason. My hunch proved correct.

Here's Jackie Kennedy's bedroom in the Whitehouse

Here's the Duchess of Windor's bedroom in Paris

Coco Chanel's bedroom at the Villa Pausa

The thing they all have in common is that you wouldn't know what sheets they slept on as they utilised an item very popular in that era: the fitted bedspread.

The bedspread was usually made out of a fabric that matched in with their curtains (in the White House it appears to be white with a fringe), and covered the entire bed and pillows with nothing to show of the underpinnings. Rather like a jacket could have any lining inside, so too the sheets could be anything. While they may have slept on floral D Porthault sheets, or plain ones, or anything else for that matter... the one thing we know is that they never intended them to be seen in a decorative sense. Sheet selection was a personal and private luxury.

So really, all this consideration about the topic is because I feel like I've reached peak saturation of the entire internet world banging on about how special and stunning these linens are, and I just don't get it. Somehow the cult of D Porthault has passed me by. The excessive femininity of the designs, the "it all goes together so mix in all the prints at once" thing, the competition the sheets have with fabrics and wallpapers and other things in a space... it's just not for me.

Estee Lauder's bedroom - I really love Toile de Nantes wallpaper, but would prefer plain linen with it

But it has made me wonder if throughout all the frothing at the mouth comments and coy photos of bedrooms and bathrooms with bits of the distinctive patterns on towels and sheets to get a bit of instagram love from those in the know, there are others who share my distinctive Meh feel about it all.

So over to you: Are you a card carrying member of the Cult, or is a slightly more subdued palette more your thing?
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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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