A tablecloth can make an ugly table beautiful, hide a worn wooden top and immediately change the feeling of a dining space, indoors or out.
“It’s at the root of hosting and hospitality,” said Olivia Capuano, the founder of the interior design firm Olivia Jane Design, based in New York. “You’re literally laying down a layer for guests to be comfortable at the table.”
With so many designs available — like simple linen and fabric with graphic patterns — tablecloths offer a way to instantly customize the look of your table, Ms. Capuano said, whether you want to evoke the feeling of a rustic French farmhouse or set the stage for a casual pool party.
Another advantage? A great tablecloth makes almost any table look luxurious, even if it’s an inexpensive folding version or something you found on the curb.
Regardless of what’s underneath, Ms. Capuano said, “A tablecloth is the perfect canvas for the art that is the meal.”
How large should a tablecloth be? Ideally, it should fully cover the table and end just above guests’ laps, Ms. Capuano said.
Should it be patterned or plain? “It depends on the dinnerware and meal you’re serving,” she said. “If it’s a refined meal or the plates are subtle, it’s fun to play with pattern. If it’s a casual, family-style meal, I love a plain one, where the food is the star of the show.”
Can you layer tablecloths? “Layering is always fun,” said Ms. Capuano, who sometimes adds a runner or smaller, patterned tablecloth as a decorative accent over a larger, plain one.
Linen Tablecloth Indigo Natural Provence
Striped linen tablecloth made in Lithuania
From about $90 at LinenMe: 312-233-2929 or linenme.com
Metronome Peach Tablecloth
Boldly patterned organic cotton tablecloth
From $135 at Block Shop Textiles: blockshoptextiles.com
Black Mosaic Mud Cloth Tablecloth
Patterned tablecloth handmade in Burkina Faso
From $425 at St. Frank: 800-948-4105 or stfrank.com
Déjeuner d’Été Tablecloth
Antique linen and cotton tablecloth hand-embroidered in France
From about $985 at Oeuvres Sensibles: oeuvres-sensibles.com