Q&A With Huddleson Founder Tim Gledhill – Building A Contemporary Linens Brand

 

How did Huddleson come into existence as a contemporary linens brand?

Prior to starting Huddleson, I worked for many years as a Director at The Rug Company. I was lucky enough to spend time in all of their showrooms around the world to work with some of the most talented interior designers creating custom rugs for some breathtaking homes. It was a very inspiring time, and The Rug Company gave me a great schooling in both design and management,  giving the combination of creativity and business knowledge that has been invaluable in starting my own design company.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Linen Tablecloth

I have always loved throwing parties and have been hosting dinner parties since I was a teenager. I had been aware for many years that there was not a contemporary linens brand that embraced table linens as a medium for interesting modern design and thought this was a great opportunity missed.  Some of our most special times are spent with loved ones around a table and the table should be as unique and special as the moment.  At the same time, I was introduced to a digital textile printer who explained that printing digitally allowed us to use the whole tablecloth as a piece of art without the need for repeated designs and with small minimums orders.  Voila!  I grabbed the bull by the horns and started Huddleson with a collection of nine original digitally-printed tablecloth designs.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Linen Napkins

We now have over 650 SKUs from linen cocktail napkins to luxurious duvet covers plus infinite options for custom table and bed linens.

Describe your typical day?

I wake up around 6.30am and check my emails, Instagram and the news. Our fabric mill and fabric printer are in Italy so I often have to get on the email first thing to catch them before they leave for the day. I then take my dog for a hike – followed by a quick weights workout if I have time. I run the business out of my loft so I take breakfast of yogurt and/or eggs at my desk while I plan out the day. My assistant arrives at 9.30am and her primary role is to get orders out, so she often has to go to our workroom to drop off fabric and collect orders ready to ship. Meanwhile my role is somewhat broad!

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Decorative Throw Pillows

I prioritize my day depending on what will be most effective to take the business forward: sending out quotes, planning photo shoots for the website and social media, pitching products to press and bloggers, meeting with clients and interior designers, designing new prints and overseeing production.

 Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Pop Up Shop Table Runners

I usually grab lunch on the go – living with LA traffic means that making lunch plans can take three hours out of your day, which I can rarely afford. I take a break at 4.30pm to play with (wear out) the dog again and buy myself peace for the rest of the day! I wrap up work around 7pm by which time I’m ready to get out of the loft or have people over. I live with my boyfriend in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles and we are spoilt for having some of the best restaurants (and best neighbors) within walking distance so we don’t need to travel far for good food and good company. I love a game of cards or an hour of TV before bed and to read for half an hour before lights off at 11pm.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Black White Artistic Luxury Bed Linens Duvet Cover

You’re a Brit living in Los Angeles – how do those different perspectives influence your work?

Us Brits are well known for a love of pomp and ceremony! I think that is true when we are entertaining at home: we love to put on a fabulous spread! Americans are more casual and more self-conscious about being too ‘formal’ – in actuality everyone loves to be made to feel special, whatever you personal style of displaying that.

Los Angeles has a very open, artistic and entrepreneurial culture.   A huge number of people here are working on their own projects so when discussing a new idea, the usual response will be “awesome – good for you – you must meet XX and talk to YY – I think they’ll be really helpful”.   A more natural British reaction might be, “You’re going to start a contemporary linens brand? Oh, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Does anyone use tablecloths any more?”  I honestly don’t think I would have started Huddleson if I was living in the UK.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand California Homes Tablescape Inspiration

What inspires you when designing a new collection of linens?

The starting point for any table linen or bed linen design is what I would like to use myself.  Then I have to assess whether my customers will also want to use it!   Functionality is key, so I stick mainly to a usable palette that our customers respond to: white, ivory, grey, navy blue, green.  Our designs are not just around for one season and then discarded, so I pursue ideas that are timeless, as well as original, elegant, unique and sophisticated.  The biggest single influence for designing new prints is fashion. The sheer volume of creativity that fashion designers put out each year is an endlessly rich seam of inspiration for textures, prints, embellishments and product photography.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Inspiration

LA has a very dynamic art scene, so I try to visit as many exhibitions as possible. They rarely provide direct inspiration, but they open the mind.

And at the origin, as with most designers and artists,  I take shapes and colors from the natural world – so travel is optimal, but just spending as much time as possible outside is wonderful.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Palm Print Tropical Leaves Bed Sheets

What is the process from idea to finished product?

Initially I come up with a concept and make a rough layout. I don’t paint to the standard required for a textile line, so I commission talented artists to paint the elements of the design – my boyfriend Clifford is an artist so it was fun to have him paint our recent Tropical Leaves palm print.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Painted Digitally Printed Luxury Design Oval Tablecloth

I then put together the final layout in Photoshop and tweak scale, colors etc and send it to our digital printer in Italy who prints the full-size computer file onto beautiful Italian linen. In a second process the ink is fixed into the fabric to ensure long-term color fastness and then shipped to our Los Angeles workroom to be cut and sewn into finished bed and table linens.

Why do you manufacture in USA?

We specialize in making custom size linens for clients with extra large or odd-shaped tables or beds – and we also offer all manner of custom options including monogram, hemstitch, contrast stitch and custom print – so it makes commercial sense for us to have our cut and sew workroom nearby so we can turn around one-off pieces at lightning speed.  There is a long history of textile production in and around Los Angeles and therefore a wealth of talent here. Particularly when customization gets complicated, there is no substitute for explaining what you need face-to-face…and we save a fortune on shipping!

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Slate Charocoal Grey Pure Linen Napkin Placemat

Who is Huddleson’s customer?

They’re a lovely bunch of people! Our customers are people who appreciate good quality and interesting design whether they be royalty or retiree, scientist or socialite.  We mostly sell online, but the linens are stocked in a few beautiful boutiques.

We have loved being a part of people’s weddings – our commemorative napkins printed with the event details and menu have been very popular – and our linens are in some very fine restaurants and hotels.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Guide to Successful Entertaining

Do you have any golden rules for entertaining?

Make it memorable – hopefully in a good way! People are busy so you need to ensure your hospitality is a treat not a chore. The number one rule is to plan well so that when guests arrive you are there to welcome them enthusiastically, fix them a drink and introduce them to others. Then you’re off to great start!  What you choose for décor and food should all be well within your comfort zone. If the table looks amazing, it takes a lot of pressure off the food! Linen napkins are your starting point – fresh flowers are transformative – a tablecloth should fit your table (approx 11” drop on all sides) – candle light is very flattering – music will make the mood. For food, there needs to be a very compelling reason to be cooking something that cannot be (mostly) prepared in advance (or served raw). Otherwise there is no shame in having an event catered – your guests would much rather have time with you and eat something delicious than the alternative.

Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Guide to Successful Entertaining Linen Napkins 

Dream dinner party guests?

Leonardo Da Vinci, Queen Elizabeth II, Freddie Mercury, Karl Lagerfeld, Claud Cecil Gurney, Joan Rivers, Warren Buffett, Cesar Ritz, Kate Moss, Axel Vervoordt, Dom Perignon and Thomas Keller could give a hand in the kitchen.

 Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand Ivory Round Pure Linen Tablecloth

What is next for Huddleson?

The goal is to grow from a contemporary linens brand to incorporate other lifestyle elements that energize me.   A true melding of my passions for entertaining/hospitality, design and great food and wine would be the chance to design and run a boutique hotel on a vineyard.   That is the ultimate dream – creating a hotel with exquisite linens, and food and wine sourced on-site.

Tim Gledhill Founder Huddleson Contemporary Linens Brand

Until then, we have some pop-up retail events in the planning stage; more hotel and restaurant projects in the pipleline and we are developing a new collection tailored specifically to hospitality clients.   And we will continue regularly to release new unique printed and solid colored table and bed linens.

Follow along as I chase my dreams on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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