Karin Larsson at the Linen Closet, by Carl Larsson, 1906. The artist's wife is carefully inspecting her linens. I like the large size of this beautiful cupboard--which holds a lot, unlike the narrow linen closets built into the upstairs hallway in many American homes.
I have always been impressed by a beautiful linen closet, so you can imagine how much I enjoyed this passage in Joy Street, a novel written by Frances Parkinson Keyes in 1950:
One afternoon, Emily [a new bride of upper-crust Boston society in the 1930s], led her husband to the spacious linen closet and, throwing open its double doors, revealed pile after pile of snowy sheets and pillowcases and towels, gartered with satin-covered elastic to insure perfect regularity, and scented with small bags of lavender nestling between each pile.
At the Linen Closet by Pieter de Hooch, 1663. The Dutch, the first to value housecleaning and whose art celebrated domesticity, naturally took their linen closets seriously. Here the mistress of the home returns sparkling clean sheets to the linen closet. Note the child playing hockey on the floor on the right, reminding us that chaos is always on the horizon.
The scene reminded me of a similar description in the book, Sweeping the German Nation: Domesticity and National Identity in Germany by Nancy Ruth Reagin. A non-German in the early 20th century visits the home of a German professor, whose wife:
"threw back both doors of an immense cupboard occupying the longest wall in the home... [For] their happiness, they possessed all this linen: shelf upon shelf, pile upon pile of linen, exactly ordered, tied with lemon coloured ribbons."
A German housewife was expected to wash her white linen and spread it out on the lawn for bleaching so it was snowy white before being laid in the closet.
I've always appreciate Martha Stewart's ideas about the linen closet, too, reading them in her magazine quite a few years ago. Here is a Martha Stewart Linen Closet Picture Gallery and a Martha Stewart Organize the Linen Closet Checklist.
Below a Martha Stewart linen closet--I love the eyelet border hanging over the edge of the shelves. Note ribbons.