Linda Cabot Talks Sustainable Design and Her New Boston Design Center Shop
The painter turned textile designer creates eco-friendly tabletop linens, bedding, pillows, and more.
A native of Dover, Massachusetts, Linda Cabot has been captivated by the natural beauty of New England since her childhood. “I loved the mountains, the coastlines, the fields,” she says. That fondness for nature is what drove Cabot to start creating landscapes with oil, watercolor, and encaustic paints about 30 years ago. Then, out of sheer curiosity in 2016, the painter began playing around with Photoshop and InDesign, isolating elements of her paintings before repeating and abstracting them to create patterns. “I would take a band of waves, and it would become sort of this abstract horizon motif, and then I could create that in different colorways. Or I would take a small flower from a painting and mirror that to become a floral repeat,” Cabot says. She eventually had those patterns digitally printed on fabric, which she then used to create tablecloths. “People would come over [to my house] and say, ‘Oh, these are great, you should start a business,’” she recalls.
So she did. Within six months, Cabot started making additional products, such as napkins and pillows, and began participating in trunk shows. She also received calls from stores who wanted to carry her designs. Then, in 2017, Cabot released her first collection, “North Haven Picnic.” The line of responsibly-sourced, organic-cotton textiles and homewares is based on a watercolor landscape of North Haven, Maine that Cabot painted about 18 years ago. Now, the collection has a new home at Linda Cabot Design: a recently opened boutique in Boston Design Center where the painter’s lively patterns grace everything from blankets to placemats to upholstered stools. “I love that my paintings sort of have a new life,” Cabot says, “They’ve become livable and usable.”
What’s the inspiration behind the “North Haven Picnic” collection?
It’s a summer collection with vibrant colors and more than 12 patterns that I derived from this one painting. Aside from the striped motif, which you can see in the sky of the painting, you would never recognize the patterns from it. There are a lot of beautiful blues and greens, and it definitely has an ocean feel to it.
How does sustainability play a role in your design process?
I think it stems initially from my love of nature and understanding just how special nature is, especially in New England. I decided I wanted to be a responsible producer if I was going to have a company. I want to make it easy for consumers to make a good choice, and I really think that there’s an onus for producers to be responsible that way. So that was my mission, and it’s now part of our mission statement. So, for instance, for this first line, I’m only using organic cotton, which is rain-fed and a really beautiful fiber. Conventional cotton, even if they call it natural, is the world’s most toxic crop. It also uses so much water, like 700 gallons of water to make one t-shirt. I also make sure that we don’t use any synthetics, [which are] petroleum-based and leach out microfibers into the ocean. And it’s hard sometimes to source all these materials but I’m very happy with what we have now. [Lastly], we use local, independent stitchers from around Massachusetts, so that saves carbon emissions because there is not a lot of travel in terms of moving the product around. I also love meeting the local sewers and talking to them. Many of them are women who are either working full time but can do this in the evening or want some extra income. And, you know, this is an all-women-run brand, and I really do believe that part of this is about nurturing and supporting everyone who is involved.
Can you tell us a bit about your new Design Center store?
I’m so happy with how the store looks. It’s a small store, but it has a sense of openness because of the tall ceilings. We thought very carefully about the look, and we wanted it to feel fresh and very contemporary. You come in and it does have this sanctuary feel, which I love. I also wanted it to be a space where I could host workshops. We have a workshop coming up in two weeks with local interior designers and I’m going to be talking about sustainable sourcing of fabrics. So part of the brand is not only retail, but education. We also carry everything from the collection. A lot of it is tabletop—beautiful tablecloths, table runners, cloth napkins. We also have lots of different pillows and bedding. Since we have so much tabletop, we also carry things that accentuate the table and gifts. I found some beautiful beeswax candles, called Green Candles, from a great maker in Vermont so we sell those in the store, as well as glass-blown candlesticks and some beautiful artisan sewing. We also made sure that we had this big area for a sewing machine and that’s out there 24/7. Much of the time [our store manager, Erin] is sewing there and people love coming in watching her and she’ll talk about what she’s making.
What’s next for you?
I have two other collections in my head that I’m thinking about. One is a floral collection, and I do a lot of paintings of flowers. That collection will be derived from 10 or 15 different paintings and will be more of a year-round collection. And then I have [another] collection that’s about a year or so away that’s about the ocean and has this fresh coastal feel. [Both collections will feature] tabletop [items] and I will do some pillows, bedding, and throws. We’re also moving into scarves. I found this beautiful fabric called Tencel, which feels like silk. It’s made from the eucalyptus tree and it’s probably one of the most sustainable fabrics out there. I also love talking about sustainable design and these amazing fabrics. [Sustainability] is becoming the number one trend in textiles, and I really want to elevate sustainable design in Boston.
Boston Design Center, One Design Center Place, Ste. 19-110, 617-249-1086, lindacabotdesign.com.