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Ways to use tablecloths

Ways to use tablecloths

Tablecloths are one of those extra things for the dining room that can easily get forgotten. Once an essential first step for dressing your table, now they’re more likely to be kept for special occasions, or swept away altogether so you can see the grain of a wooden tabletop. But we think it’s time to revisit them, and the various roles they can play in your home…

Reasons why you might use a tablecloth

Some people still like to use a tablecloth every day. You might like them for convenience sake (keeping the table clean) as much as the way they look, or the slightly more formal feel they bring to mealtimes. For other people, dressing the table is more something they do on special occasions, or at important times of year like Christmas. Day to day, a bare table feels more relaxed, while a tablecloth feels natural for celebrations, when you’re adding more layers of decoration.

It’s fine to think of tablecloths in terms of how “special” you want your dining table to be, but there are other ways to look at them too. For example, they can completely change the character of the room from season to season, or from day to night.

Think of them like the other textiles in your room: a fresh, white linen lifts a space in summer, or brightens a dark corner. In winter, a thicker, softer fabric or a darker toned one makes for cosier dining (and makes heartier dishes seem heartier). You probably don’t want a textile with a nap or pile that collects spills, but a heavy linen does the job beautifully (take a look at our Emily tablecloth).


As with curtains or a sofa, your choice of tablecloth fabric can create subtle shifts in mood. This is another reason we love linen on a table – its soft drape and natural crumples make any space feel instantly relaxed. And that’s one thing a dining table should always be, however big the occasion – it is, after all, a place for sitting down with friends and family, talking and being at ease.

How can I make them look more interesting?

For practicality’s sake, you’ll probably want to open out your tablecloth across the whole table when eating. But at other times, you can use it in different ways. Try draping it across the middle of the table, or at one end, making a feature of the folds in the fabric (this works really well to break up a long table shape). The dining room and kitchen pictured, both of which feature our Emily tablecloth, show just what we mean. Emily has a heavy, weighted hem that makes it ideal for draping and folding.

You could also fold your tablecloth lengthways and use it as a runner, if you want to keep the texture of your table (and its legs) on view.

Christmas is a time when everyone’s more likely to get out their best tablecloth. With a lavish table setting, sometimes simpler is better, as in the festive dining room pictured. Candles and greenery do most of the work here, so all that’s needed is a simple white cloth (this is our Emily design in Salt).

Or, if you prefer a plainer table setting, a patterned tablecloth could be the part that says “celebration”.

But tablecloths aren’t just for tables…

A beautiful piece of fabric is beautiful anywhere. There’s no reason why you can’t get more out of a tablecloth by using it as a throw on the sofa, or at the end of the bed. You could even hang it on a wall (look at Scandinavian fabric wall hangings for inspiration), or use it as an informal curtain. All that matters here is that the texture or pattern catches the eye.

Linen works especially well in this way, as its relaxed feel suits any room. And you can easily wash it, so it’s fresh and ready for all kinds of uses.

What about napkins and place mats – should they match the tablecloth or not?

There’s no right answer here, but generally it depends what else is on the table. With colourful glassware or patterned crockery, all-white linen is a lovely contrast. With simpler table displays, layering tones and textures is a great bet. Our Emily tablecloth in Mist grey, for instance, looks elegant with Emily napkins in earthy brown Peat, or Antonia napkins in grey-green.

Placemats can add a bit of pattern and texture. Try our Ellis design in an unbleached linen stripe with a grey or beige tablecloth. Or our Emily quilted placemats with scalloped edges – they come in the same colours as our Emily tablecloth, so they go together without being too “matchy-matchy”.

Explore our tabletop collection

Tags: Interiors