You can't register for enough table linens. While they represent the wardrobe of your table, their main purpose is to protect it. Your linens help create the look and mood for any meal. Whether pizza and beer with friends, Friday-night supper or Thanksgiving dinner, your table linens play a key role in changing up the look. Your table is your label and the look always begins with your linens.
How to Select Your Table Linens
Begin with the shape and size of your table or the table you will eventually have. Bring the size to the store with you when you register. There are so many ways to dress your table, so imagine that you are coordinating many looks and register for a lot.
When entertaining more formally, your tablecloth should extend over the table's edge evenly all around (this is known as the "drop") by 10 to 12 inches, which gives a striking effect. For a casual setting, the cloth should extend over the edge between six and eight inches. To calculate the size, measure the length and width of your table and add twice the appropriate drop to each dimension. Is your table round? Measure the table's diameter and add twice the amount of the drop to determine the size of the tablecloth you will need.
It's a good idea to register for a table pad to use underneath your tablecloths. It will protect your table from stains, spills and heat, and other damage, and will also prevent the tablecloth from sliding.
How many tablecloths should you have on hand? At least two for each table you have. Always include a white or ivory linen set. It's neutral and will go with any china pattern. I also recommend registering for lots of colors and patterns. Consider factors like furniture style and home colors when making your registry selections.
Mix and Match
Mix and match your different linens to create many looks. It's great to mix textures and patterns. I like to start with a solid-color base tablecloth and then layer on color and texture with place mats and runners. Your linens are a great way to change things up and surprise your guests. Layer a sheer square overlay on top of a round tablecloth and pick up a third color in the napkins. There are so many possibilities! You can also crisscross your place mats for a more interesting look. Place mats and table runners are available in many styles and patterns, embroidered or beaded, understated or high glam.
For a casual everyday and weekend look, try place mats -- not just as an alternative to a tablecloth, but to work with it. They are sold individually or in sets of four, so pay attention when you register so you get enough. The variety offered is astounding! From cork to linen to woven to metallic, there are so many options available.- The reversible vinyl place mats by Chilewich are modern and unique. I found mine at Bloomingdale's where they have the most extensive selection.
For a more formal setting, consider your monogram on a tablecloth and/or napkins. You might choose a single-letter monogram, or a three-letter monogram with each of your first initials on either side of your last initial. The monogram can be at all four corners or on two diagonal corners. Another formal look in tablecloths that is classic and more Old World is embroidery. It's gorgeous, elegant and sophisticated. You will dazzle your new in-laws!
Napkins come in a variety of sizes: six-inch square is cocktail size; 20-inch is luncheon size; 24-inch is dinner size. Be sure to get more than your number of place settings to have on hand. You will need extra napkins for the dessert course. Cloth napkins are available in virtually any color or style. Have fun while you mix and match with a neutral tablecloth and an altogether different napkin. This is a great way to update and change out your table inexpensively.
By the way, there is NOTHING like a cloth napkin! At home, I use cloth napkins every night for dinner, even if there is no tablecloth in place. Once you get used to the fact that laundering them is quick and easy, you will never use paper napkins again, so that's another reason you should register for extra.
Care and Storage
These days, most table linens are machine washable. The key is to treat any stains and wash immediately after using so they don't set in. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's care instructions. Remove your tablecloth and napkins immediately from the dryer to avoid wrinkling. It still may be necessary to lightly press, but worth it for the next use! You may decide that having your tablecloth dry-cleaned works best for you, especially if it is monogrammed, embroidered or made of lace.
- You'll find an amazing selection of table linens online, but it's essential to go to the store so that you can check them out in person for color, texture and feel.
- Don't forget to register for napkin rings. They are a fun and easy way to be creative and show your sense of style. You can dress down your table with napkin rings made of wood, shells or flowers or dress it up with napkin rings of sequins and gold or silver tones! Register for as many napkin rings as you have place settings.
- Consider registering for holiday-specific napkins, place mats and tablecloths.
- Don't forget to register for tablecloths and napkins for your outdoor entertaining.
- The bigger the store, the better the selection. Check out Bed, Bath & Beyond for a great selection.
- No storage? Use creative spaces like under your bed to store your linens. Pick up a plastic, lidded, flat storage. You can find containers in all shapes and sizes at Target. Be sure that the linens are completely dry before putting them away.
In closing, table linens are there to protect your furniture and to set the stage for your china, crystal and flatware. Everything should be a nice blend and should not clash or compete with each other. This is your opportunity to showcase your sense of style and good taste as you set your beautiful table. You don't have only one outfit, so neither should your table.
Dress It Up!