Interior Design Glossary: Linen

Austin Interior Designer Amity Worrel Shares Her Love for Linen — Reviewing Its Definition, History, Uses, and Benefits in the Home

Linen Couch

I simply adore linen! While sitting at the height of beauty and luxury, the material simultaneously represented ease and freedom. It’s lightweight and easy to wear, hangs beautifully as drapes, and ages with elegance on upholstered pieces. It is so sophisticated, yet completely casual. It’s my goal to live among as much linen as possible. So, I thought, why not dive into all things linen to really understand what makes this material so special? In this Interior Design Glossary entry, I review the definition, history, uses, and benefits of linen in the home. 


My Design Experience with Linen 

Linen is one of my favorite textiles. As a teenager in the 1980s, I fell in love with all things British during the Second British Invasion. I often spent my afternoons romanticizing my life in poetry books and Merchant Ivory films. Linen is so prevalent in costuming and set design in these movies. Everything is draped in linen, from the dresses to the window coverings to the furnishings, creating a truly lovely feel. The material brings a romantic ambiance to interiors that’s hard to ignore. 

Early in my interior design career, I was working in NYC when I came across linen carpeting for the first time. Our client wanted a casual, worn look that mirrored their favorite linen garments.  At that time, I had no idea that linen carpet existed, but I was completely enamored with its beauty once I saw it. The material wears with all its gorgeous imperfections to reveal patterns of footprints. I thought, “This is truly luxury!” I’ve been completely hooked on using the textile in my designs ever since. 


What is Linen? 

Linen is a natural textile made from the fibers of flax plants. It is known for being strong yet soft. It has a high absorption rate and typically loose weave, making it perfect for breathable garments in hot climates. Because of its organic fibers, linen textiles often have subtle variations adding to the texture and character of the material. Its natural hypoallergenic and durable qualities make it well-suited for interior applications throughout the home. 


How is Linen Made?

Linen is made from all-natural flax. Flax seeds germinate quickly, making linen an incredibly sustainable material. Flax is harvested once the plant yellows and is dried. Once dry, fibers are loosened from the stalks in a process called retting. Fibers are then combed and spun into thread that is woven into a variety of linen textiles. 


A Brief History of Linen 

The history of linen goes back thousands of years and is thought to be one of the oldest textiles in the world. Evidence suggests people may have been weaving linen textiles over 30,000 years ago! In ancient Egypt, linen was used for mummification rituals and clothing for the ruling class. During the Middle Ages, trade demand encouraged the production of flax farms in Europe. Today, European linen is still regarded as some of the best quality linen available. During the Industrial Revolution, flax spinning and weaving became automated, so producers could manufacture linen textiles at a much larger scale. The material has remained popular in fashion and interiors thanks to its natural, timeless feel. 


4 Types of Linen Textiles

When shopping for linen, there are four main types of linen textiles to consider: damask, close-wave, loose-weave, and plain-weave. Additionally, you can break down categories into light, medium, and heavyweight. Each has its own properties and uses. 

Damask Linen 

Damask linen is the most formal variation of the casual textile. It has a tight, lustrous weave and commonly features patterns of florals, scrolls, or other decorative elements. Like all damask patterns, the two-toned textile is reversible.  

Close-weave Linen 

Close-weave linen has a tight weave, creating a softer texture. This variation is used for clothing and bedding. And it is very comfortable!  

Loose-weave Linen 

Loose-weave linen has an open weave, allowing light and air to pass through easily. This lighter-weight linen is perfect for draperies — perfectly catching the sun and diffusing a beautiful light pattern. 

Plain-weave Linen

Plain-weave linen is the strongest variation thanks to its warp and weft, or criss-cross pattern, threading. It is more of a workmen’s weave, as it’s highly absorbent and good for cleaning. 

Linen 2

Interesting Linen Variations

When conducting my linen research, I found so many more different types of linen — over 25, in fact! Two that I find particularly interesting, however, are Belgian Linen and linen velvet. 

Belgian Linen 

Belgian Linen is known in the industry as the “champagne of linen.” In fact, Belgian Linen is a registered trademark label representing and regulating more than 1,000 mills and artisans that grow and produce linen textiles. To meet the standard, the linen must use flax of European origin, contain at least 85% flax in weight, and be woven in Belgium. The result is a beautiful product known for its softness, durability, and beautiful character. It is the standard of linen luxury! 

Linen Velvet

People often mistake velvet as its own material when it is actually a type of weave. Velvet is made by weaving two pieces of fabric together at the same time and then cutting them apart to reveal the famously soft pile. Velvet can be made from many types of textiles, including linen. Linen velvet has a matte look and deep color. It has more pile variation than other velvets and beautifully wears and crushes over time. 

Linen Velvet

Ways to Incorporate Linen in the Home

Linen comes in many weaves and weights, making it uniquely suited to many different applications in the home. If I had it my way, I would use it on every surface! Linen is a beautiful choice for drapes, upholstery, throws, bedding, and even wallpaper. But why stop there? You can even stock your bathroom with linen towels and bathrobes and fill your closet with an all-linen wardrobe. How comfortable would that be? 


Benefits of Linen 

There are so many benefits of using linen in the home. Linen is soft yet 30% more durable than cotton. It offers a light, airy feel and is even cool to the touch (which is a very important concern here at my Austin interior design studio). Additionally, it is an all-natural, eco-friendly material, which is becoming an increasingly important factor in ensuring sustainable interiors. However, one of the things I love most about linen is the texture it brings to an interior design scheme. The weave offers beautiful variations thanks to the material’s organic properties, creating something cozy for the eyes and to the touch.

Austin Interior Design Bedroom

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Linen 

There’s something effortlessly chic about wearing a linen outfit; the same goes for interiors. Linen’s loose structure, natural imperfections, and beautiful wear offer a laid-back yet classic feel synonymous with styles like California Casual. I love the material and hope to design with it even more in the coming years. 

Linen is laid-back luxury. 

Amity Worrel

Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.



Austin Interior Designer