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Design trend: monograms

By Elizabeth Mayhew,

Everyone, these days, is a brand. If you blog, tweet, Instagram, friend, and/or pin, you can show the world who you are, what you like and what you stand for.

One thing that brands love more than anything is a logo. This might explain why monogramming is having its moment. Just like Gucci with its G’s, Chanel with its C’s, and Louis Vuitton with its LVs, each of us can have our initials embroidered, etched, silkscreened or printed on just about anything from yoga mats to rolling pins. Yes, what used to be thought of as elitist — think silver cups and linen handkerchiefs — is no longer. Monogramming has gone mainstream.

The new catalogue and e-commerce site Mark and Graham is setting out to modernize monogramming, both in its typeface selections and in its process. My favorite of their offerings is the Typographer’s Linen Napkins. With gosgrain trim in a choice of six colors, the napkins can be monogrammed in 16 styles and 16 thread colors. But what makes the shopping experience so pleasurable is that you can preview your design on your computer screen. No more waiting until you get the final product to know whether it’s going to look good. Plus personalization is built into the price of the product. Goodbye to $7 (and up) fees to monogram. And you get the items delivered in six to eight business days, with a rush option of two to three days. How do they do it? Mark and Graham is an offshoot of Williams-Sonoma, so it’s able to use the same giant personalization facility in Tennessee as its sister companies, Pottery Barn, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma.

Similar advancements in printing have made personalized stationery a huge online industry. No longer do you have to pore through unwieldy binders deciding which ink color and paper stock you want. Companies such as Minted, Tiny Prints, Iomoi, the Stationery Studioand the new Paper by Paperless Post offer hundreds of design, paper and envelope options that you can preview, approve and have shipped to you in a matter of days.

For some, the huge design selection might be overwhelming. But I welcome the choices, especially when I am choosing a gift for a friend. I often give Iomoi’s snappy note cards, and every year I religiously give my close friends personalized gift tags to use on their own holiday wrappings. I spend time choosing designs that match each friend’s taste and style.

A spinoff of the personalized stationery craze is personalized artwork. Minted and RedEnvelope sell customizable “art prints” that include specific designs to commemorate weddings, anniversaries, births and other milestones.

Typed monograms are not the only kind of personalization out there. Take a look at Bespoke Custom Gifts, where you can use photos, silhouettes, your favorite sports or hobbies, even the state where you live, to customize items. For my husband, I ordered silver cuff links that have mini antique maps of our home town set behind a magnifying resin. I also ordered a custom silhouette necklace for my daughter. It will feature her profile framed in an antique brass pendant.

This is why personalizing is hot right now: It’s personal. In this global economy, it is harder and harder to find unique items. Anyone can get anything at any time, but by adding a monogram or personalized message to something, you are making the item special and you are also signaling that you put extra time and thought into the purchase. That being said, not all monogramming takes time. Companies wise to the trend have created single-initial “ready-to-wear” items that entail no thought other than knowing what letter your first or last name starts with. Among my favorites are mugs from Anthropologie and belt buckles and gloves from C. Wonder

I am a fan of the trend: My wedding silver is monogrammed, and I have yet to see a bed decked out in custom monogrammed sheets from Leontine Linens or Matouk that I didn’t like. My desk is adorned with place cards that bear my name, each taken from a different wedding, birthday party or event that I have attended. As I left the parties, I pocketed each card, not able to stand the thought of seeing the hand-done work thrown away by the caterer. And I would rather have a belt buckle with my own initial than one with an H.

But like any trend, people can take it too far. Just because you can get a yoga mat or rolling pin monogrammed doesn’t mean you should.

Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”

Home Front chat will return Our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice will be taking a short break for the holidays. It will return Jan 3. Read recent transcripts.

Related:

Holiday Gift Guide 2012

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