The (Modern) Rules of Monogramming

Savannah-based monogramming shop, Number Four Eleven, has become an Instagram obsession of ours recently. I ended up on their feed late one night and down the rabbit hole I went, perusing pics of ladylike linens, plush pillows, and custom heraldry until way past my bedtime. So when I struck up a conversation with a woman seated across the table from me at a wedding in Lake Rabun, GA only to discover that she was the founder of this boutique operation, I was pretty much pumped.

Courtland Smith Stevens moved to Savannah in 2005 with hopes of attending graduate school at SCAD. And while school was her intent, retail was her passion—so in the fall of 2006, she and her business partner Claire Lindley Reeve opened Number Four Eleven (named after the store’s street address) in the heart of the Downtown Design District.

There, they carry a mix of classic and fresh pieces with everything from sumptuous soft goods to vintage furniture finds. “And, exactly nine years later, we can unequivocally say we have seen it all when it comes to monogramming,” jokes Courtland. Now, the two even provide product for Reese Witherspoon’s company, Draper James. Throughout dinner, we talked about what works and what doesn’t in the wild world of monograming. I mentioned an informative article we posted on Vogue.com called “Married Monogram Etiquette: What to Know Before You Register,” and she and I started riffing on her “new rules”—based on everything she and Claire have encountered in their careers thus far. Here, are their takeaways . . .

1: Southern girls tend to want to put a monogram on anything that isn’t moving, but we say monogram in moderation. Branding yourself is big right now, but when it comes to monogramming, less is more! We promise.

2: Forget the dude. (Sometimes.) In most cases, you’ve already taken his last name. (Isn’t that enough?) So use yours when it comes to monogramming! On bed linens especially. Keep it classic and kick it old school: Use your first, last, and maiden name.

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3: Be modern and create symmetry by using two initials. Combine your first name with his first name, or your first name and your new last name. Ciphers are cool and very Old World.

4: Don’t be hesitant to only use your last name initial. Again, be bold and duplicate your last name initials by creating a cipher. This is a very David Hicks-ish approach to monogramming.

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5: Monochromatic monograms are really chic. Embroidering in different tones of taupes, ivories, and silver is subtle, and it allows you to do an over the top design without being too loud.

6: Mix your styles. It’s nice to have a variety. Make some traditional and others more modern. It looks collected, and it’s a great way to create a “traveled” look at the table. It’s also funky to mix and match on your bedding.

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7: Placement—not everything has to be in the center! Instead of monogramming a sham dead center, drop your initials down to the lower left and right hand corners. Put the monogram on a tablecloth in the corner. If you choose a busy monogram, put it in the corner of a cocktail napkin. It’s a little hard to balance a drink on a napkin with a mountain of thread in the center anyway.

8: Re-invent the past. Take an old family crest and have it incorporated into a new design.

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9: When getting married, register for a few monogrammed items that have just the groom’s initials on them—such as barware.

10. Finally, don’t let your initials scare you. We have seen some really bad ones. (Courtland’s daughter’s initials are PMS . . . somehow she didn’t really think that through.) It’s a great conversation piece. And, there are so many ways to arrange your letters—the problem can always be masked, so throw caution to the wind, and monogram away!

Click through the slideshow below for some of our favorite monograms from Number Four Eleven’s Instagram.