Are Placemats Tacky

Ellen Grant
• Tuesday, 29 December, 2020
• 8 min read

Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake And in 3D, the extra height will add structural interest to your place setting design.

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You are so correct, proper design really needs to incorporate vertical as well as horizontal elements. I think we've hijacked enough. You are so correct, proper design really needs to incorporate vertical as well as horizontal elements.

I, too, have a lovely wood finish on my table that I like to show off. I regularly use place mats to protect the table, but also to enhance the design of the setting.

I have a range of cotton and linen ones that I switch off depending on my mood and the season. I don't always want to cover up our wood table with a tablecloth but need to have something on there, at least for drinks to avoid water stains.

Now, if you want to use place mats and then paper or plastic plate that might be a little tacky !! Of course, I guess if you use your good plastic glasses, forks and spoons the paper plates won't look so out of place.

Hey, there are some really nice plastic forks and stuff being made today. OP, use the place mats. I'm looking for ours now since Mrs. BNP just exited a “tablecloth phase” and wants to use place mats now.

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I, too, have a lovely wood finish on my table that I like to show off. I regularly use place mats to protect the table, but also to enhance the design of the setting.

I have a range of cotton and linen ones that I switch off depending on my mood and the season. We do the same; have several sets, and we always have a centerpiece and/or a runner to dress things up.

I use them year round with guests or just for us. But I still prefer a tablecloth when hosting a dinner party. Where do people get these ridiculous ideas? Full disclosure: The place mats currently on my table are sporting a 1950s design, with mid-century modern houses, a kidney-shaped swimming pool and spiffy chaises, a reel lawnmower, and gigantic flamingos.

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EGullet Society staff emeritus 8,282 posts Location: Twin Cities, MN If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a place mat is Tuscan-style leaves on durable vinyl, tacky seasonal vignettes, or monochromatic table settings for Very Fussy People, you’re not alone.

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Years ago, a childless me thanked and kissed goodbye an unused handed-down set in one of my manic KonMari-inspired purges. But after noticing the cumulative scratches and stains where my toddler sits at our custom-made wood table, I thought about bringing place mats back into my life.

And once I started shopping for place mats (and more closely examining my entire tabletop), I regretted not using them all the time. Like formal dining rooms and fine china, place mats have mostly fallen out of style in favor of more minimalist, casual table settings.

They don’t take up much space; they protect your table without fully hiding it; and they’re easier to shake off, wipe down, or throw in the wash than a tablecloth. Plus, with all the gorgeous styles and materials available today, they’re a great way to add warmth and texture to modern table decor.

These charcoal cotton-blend place mats look great against darker wood and can make white dishes pop. But if you have a house full of messy eaters, these easy-care place mats are a breeze to wipe clean after every meal.

It’s true that tablecloths also serve these same functions, but designer Marie Burgos thinks place mats are more modern. Three of our experts recommended using woven place mats for casual use, made of natural fibers like rattan and water hyacinth.

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Danielle Fire, the founder of Secret Supper, thinks they strike a balance between playful and trendy, without being too formal. “They would make the cutest base for a summer dinner party and go with practically every table setting,” Fire says.

“Love all the colors, and it’s easy to clean,” Grim says, and she thinks they would be perfect for a beach party or a casual dinner. When looking for a nice, every day place mat, she loves adding textiles to a table that “add softness and richness as well as color and pattern to the space,” and this one hits all of those marks.

These are also woven, so they add a nice texture to the table, but they’re even easier to clean and more durable because of the unique material. If you want to avoid plastic or easy-to-stain fabric, Fire likes these wipeable, water- and stain-resistant place mats from the Italian company Ashram.

According to the description, these place mats only require a damp cloth to clean, and for heavier-duty spills like wine and oil, they can be rewashed with a mild soap. It’s made out of iron with a copper finish, and according to Noel Laws, Grim’s co-owner at ANGLE, these are perfect if you are looking for something totally different.

“A round shape and copper finish will add an interesting layer to any table setting,” she says. And for something even less traditional, Maria recommends getting creative and making your own (especially with all the time you’ve spent developing new hobbies in quarantine).

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They also have more of a symbolic meaning, too, of “the intention and importance of the person who is sitting at the table when used underneath a place setting,” says Grim. So when it’s time to entertain, our experts opt for place mats that aren’t so plain and have more prints, patterns, and embellishments.

(And even though these are recommended for formal use, they still wipe clean like the other Childish place mats on this list, so you could use them every day if you just want to feel a little fancy, too.) Weiss does the same swap, and some of her favorite place mats for a more formal dining situation are from Los Encoders, though she does warn it’s “for a wonderful splurge, and I mean splurge.” The luxury Spanish brand has been making handmade linens that have graced the homes of European monarchies for over a century, and they’re still crafted using many of the same techniques.

Weiss loves monogrammed or embroidered place mats, which these are, and says they are perfect for a “seated dinner party or a summer luncheon or bridal shower.” In the chirpy words of Katherine Mayfair from Desperate Housewives, 'we’ve all had days when it was either set a beautiful table, or curl up in a ball and die'.

Yet there is an alarming propensity to find alien and highly suspect objects on dinner tables, with the host laboring under the misapprehension that said item is 'posh'. You now have hostesses (usually single women in their late 20s) deploy such a runner on their tables making it look like some bubblegum-pink taffeta runway for the airplane of good taste fleeing the country.

William Hanson (pictured), recommends white table cloths and starched napkins instead of kitchen towels Although the charger (service plate) dates back to the 15th century, they are not traditionally used in English table settings.

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They are used purely for decoration across the pond by prudish American hosts who feel that a diner must not come to a 'naked' place setting, but are not to be found in old-school English houses. Chargers, which are also called service plates, are 'not to be found in old-school English houses', said William.

'Plates are round due to the trenchers of bread that were used in the Middle Ages,' explains Steven Moore, ceramics savant and creative director of Burleigh Pottery. Even worse is to allow a guest to place his bottle of beer (from which he has been directly swigging) that may have been drunk as an apéritif on the table.

William warns hosts against presenting guests with a piece of kitchen roll and a fish knife Too many hosts make the mistake of including lit candles on their tables when entertaining guests to a lunch.

Whilst this may have been an understandable measure during the 1973 three-day week, it makes no logical sense today. One wonders why a host would even bother to invite a guest over when the latter gets presented with a piece of kitchen roll.

You can get away with a paper napkin (three-ply) for a kitchen supper but for lunches or dinners it needs to be cloth, ideally linen, but cotton will do for the friends you don't like. Fish cutlery is a minor misdemeanor in comparison to this vulgar Victorian invention used to pair off smaller bunches of grapes at the table.

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If you happen to have inherited them from a lesser family member then keep them on the side, rarely polishing them to show they are not used.

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