in praise of the linen press

One feature that always excites me when we've been househunting is the presence of a linen press. Some houses have them and some don't. Many old houses do, and the best ones, in my opinion are in the hallway, not in the bathroom. Some are beautifully finished and well laid out, with shelves of just the right depth and height. Others are rough and carelessly put together and I wonder about sheets snagged and years of constant irritation. I have yet to see a press with labels on the shelves and a neat array of folded linen like this. Or with a list of household linen pinned inside the door.


The illustration is from  a 1928 Home Beautiful article (via The Australian Home Beautiful, Julie Oliver, Pacific Publications 1999) and apparently, in the 1920s and 1930s, a beautifully managed collection of linens marked a household managed with skill. The accompanying article covered everything from lace mats and damask tableclothes to bedlinen and pillow slips, including hints for buying and repairing. How I wish it had been reprinted,so I could read it. Not that I aspire to a be a perfect keeper of linens, I'm quite happy in the land of if it's all cotton, clean, dry and doesn't smell bad, it'll do. Nonetheless, the idea of a perfect linen press fascinates me.

We don't have many tableclothes (damask or otherwise) or napkins but we do have teatowels, bath towels, facewashers and a full supply of bedding, including sheets for the guest bed and for events like sickness or camping. At present we have a linen press in the bathroom and it is not ideal. It is narrow and deep, and in the bathroom which is probably the worst place in the house to store fabric. But as I walk around houses without one at all, I'm thinking, but where do they keep their sheets?


  1. Oh i still love this blog so very much. good luck with your house hunting ... we bought our house exactly a year ago this month and i'm still enjoying having a home of my own :)

  2. Yes what is it about stacks of clean folded sheets? I love to find 100% cotton sheets in the op shop in gaudy colours - they are so much nicer than the ones I can afford in shops. When we recently renovated our house I demanded a huge linen cupboard in the hall and the builder tried to get me to make it smaller - but I love it. The only thing is that the shelves are a bit too far apart so hubby will put some extra ones in between (one day). I wish you much luck in finding a home.

  3. My mother had the most beautiful linen press. Immaculate.
    The older I get, the more humbled I am by it, and the more despairing of ever having my act that together.

  4. Any chance of you doing a post about how to clean a washing machine. I just took the agitator out of mine - yeurch.... I scrubbed away and disinfected but is there an easier way???

  5. We also need a tutorial on How to Fold a Fitted Sheet.

  6. Yeah, linen presses are very important. I like to admire mine when it's looking all neat and organised.

  7. In the UK these are typically built above the hot water tank as an "airing cupboard". These are unknown in California and I really miss it.
    On the topic of a neat linen press; my mother won't buy fitted sheets as they don't lie flat in the cupboard!