Table Linens: An Expert’s Guide on Selecting and Caring for Luxury Table Linens
Throughout our lives, we spend many of our most special moments gathered around the table. Replacing your standard table linens with luxury, high-quality products and table décor invites extraordinary experiences into your life – going beyond your basic daily routines. Even just a delightfully patterned napkin alongside a morning cup of coffee has a positive, pleasurable impact on the start of your day. Whether you are someone who hosts guests regularly or simply enjoys the luxury of being at home, upgrading your table linens will truly elevate your way of living.
Liz Barbatelli is a world-leading expert in fine linens and luxury living, helping her clients create some of the most beautiful rooms in the world. Raised in a family with a rich heritage in fine tailoring, interior design, international business, and fashion, Liz has spent a lifetime honing her refined eye for design and style in top fashion houses including Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Today, she offers her creative services to an extensive list of elite clients at E.Braun & Co. of Beverly Hills, while simultaneously operating The Laundry at Linens Limited, an old-world fine linen laundering company. Here are some of Liz’s top tips for selecting the highest quality linens for your home’s collection.
How to Choose Quality Table Linens
When shopping for quality table linens to add to your home’s collection, you may choose to purchase some, or all, of the following types:
Then, you’ll need to consider the fabric you’d like your linens to be made of. The most common types of fabrics used for table linen include linen, cotton, and polyester with linen being the most desirable. Choosing the right quality and style linens for your table settings makes all the difference.
When choosing your products, it’s important to remember that the best table linens for you may not be the best table linens for others. Knowing what you are looking for in terms of practicality or luxury (or both) will help you make a buying decision that you’ll be content with for the long haul.
Maintaining the look and feel of your luxury linens requires some care and attention. High-quality linen or cotton can be washed and ironed at home, but a more intricate design and fabric may need professional laundering. Choose your linens according to the amount of use they will endure. Bearing in mind that they may require you to wash and iron them.
Size and Shape
Before you even begin shopping for table linens, you need to know the dimensions of your table. Measure the length, width, and height of the dining table(s) that you are shopping for, as you may need to invest in custom-sized items. Take a photo of your table, dining room, and dishes and keep it in a folder on your phone so you have easy access. Read below to learn more about the common sizes and shapes of different table linens.
Choose your table linens, tablecloth, placemats, or napkins, by color to use as a base for your overall dining style. White, off-white, or ivory are the most common tablecloth colors. But you can choose any color you like and one that complements your home. Don’t be afraid to choose a color! Think about the room, the chair fabric, your dishes, and the occasion.
Flowers, candles, and other tableware can help to add a festive atmosphere and to complete the look of the table.
How you choose your table linens relies completely on how you like to live and where you will be dining. Your dining room commonly has a more formal setting and you may like to dress up the table a bit more. You can use a tablecloth with napkins or placemats and napkins. Both are correct and functional. It really depends on your style. Some people like to use a runner down the center of the table, but it is not necessary. If dining in your kitchen or a seating area adjacent to your kitchen, you may prefer to use more informal hard placemats that can be wiped clean with your napkins. The options are truly endless to your desire and look. Using a linen napkin simply adds to your dining experience whether formal or informal, inside or out.
Smooth and Wrinkle-Free
Nothing about creating a nice or special dining experience is easy but it is well worth it. Linen or cotton fabrics require consistent care and laundering. Many will require ironing. To create a memorable experience requires a little effort. In an informal setting, you have more freedom to exercise your creative license. I am of the belief that it is better to dine with a few wrinkles than use a paper napkin. You can even use your family napkins more than once. If they are not too stained, smooth them out, fold them neatly, and use them again tomorrow night!
Determining Table Linens Quality
Choosing the finest quality fabrics for your table can elevate your dining moments – from the most extravagant of dinner parties to simply sipping a cup of hot tea on a cool evening. When it comes to table linens, quality linen and cotton are widely considered fabrics over others because of their long, durable fibers.
Linen is an excellent fabric for your table linens because of its strength and comfortability. When considering investing in designer linens, look for ones made in Belgium or Italy. Belgian flax is prized for the length and strength of its fibers and has a natural, yet comforting style. Linen comes in a vast array of hues so that you can match your style in just about any color.
Cotton is the most common and preferred fabric for table linens. Shop for a 100% cotton, as these are highly praised for their strength, absorbency, and luxurious look. Keep thickness in mind for cleaning and care purposes.
Many people like to use a linen or cotton napkin that is blended with Polyester. It is thought that they are easier to clean and require less ironing. This can often be true but will still require care similar to a pure finish table linen.
H2: Luxury Table Linens Shape and Sizes
Table linens bring a delightful scene to any table – from dinner parties to simple, intimate moments. Times have changed over the years and sizes are not always equated to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To make the right selection for your next meal will depend on the occasion. Is just an informal breakfast or lunch or a more formal occasion.
Before you grab just any table linen, you’ll want to consider the size to best fit your preference and your table.
Here are some ideas and a list of general sizes and shapes to make your selection:
Size and Shapes
Dinner Napkin: The most common size of dinner napkins are either 20 inches by 20 inches or 22 inches by 22 inches. Some people like larger sizes that can be used for a buffet or as a “lapkin”. These are often 24 by 24 inches but can be as large as 30 by 30 inches.
Lunch Napkin: A typical cotton lunch napkin is 20 inches by 20 inches in size.
Cocktail Napkin: 6 inches by 9 inches is the traditional size for cocktail napkins, but 6 inches by 6 inches is a common size that is used as a coaster.
Placemats: The standard size of placemats is 13 inches wide by 19 inches long rectangular. However, there are many shapes and sizes available. Round, rectangular, octagonal, cut-corner, square, or ellipse. Creativity is your friend. There are no rules when choosing a shape. Depending on how many people your table seats, the occasion, or your desired style, you can choose what you like and what looks nice with your table and your dishes. Get creative!
Tablecloths serve a multitude of purposes, so having high-quality, fine linen will ensure longevity and beauty over time. You cannot determine the size of a tablecloth by how many chairs are at a table – you need a tablecloth that fits the dimensions of your table. You must know the dimensions and the shape. Is it oval, rectangular, square, or round? What are the measurements and the height?
Not all tables are the same and there is no standard. Having a tablecloth that fits your table perfectly can make all the difference.
Be sure to measure your table before going shopping for a tablecloth. If your table has multiple leaves and extends, then you may want to consider getting the right dimensions for this as well. Making a simple sketch is helpful but the measurements are crucial. Your tablecloth drop should be between 12 inches to 15 inches in length. If you want it to go to the floor, you will need to know the height of your table.
You don’t always have to buy a tablecloth shape that is the same as your table. For example, if you have a round table, you can choose a round or square tablecloth. However, to get the correct drop you may need help from a seasoned linen expert. Determine the best tablecloth shape for your table by using this suggested list:
Rectangular table – rectangular tablecloth
Oval table – oval or rectangular tablecloth
Square table – square tablecloth
Round table – round or square tablecloth
After settling on the size and shape of each item you need, you can begin searching for your next collection of table linens to make your occasion exactly what you envision.
Putting Your Table Collection Together: What You’ll Need
When shopping for your table linens, consider the pieces you will need to add to your collection of table linens and the number of different occasions for which you are planning:
Formal Napkins and size desired
Informal Napkins and size desired
Cocktail Napkins – Formal and Informal
Number of Tablecloths
As far as tablecloths, start with an even number so that you always have a second set in stock. From there, you can continue adding to your collection. It’s good to have a more casual tablecloth for everyday use to prevent wear and damage to your favorite luxury tablecloth. Make sure you have a dark and dry space available to store your unused tablecloths.
Number of Napkins When it comes to napkins, both casual and formal, always start by purchasing an even number and get a few more than you need. A dozen is most commonly recommended to have in your collection, but if you have a smaller table or are decorating a smaller space, then purchase what works for your table and get a few more than you need, especially if they are for everyday use.
Number of Placemats The number of placemats is determined by the number of seats at your dining table. If you have a bar or island that seats additional guests, you may want to include putting placemats there to match the ones at your dining table. Then you will always have extras on hand for those extra guests. The same rules apply for placemats as for napkins, a dozen is recommended so that you have a few more than necessary on hand.
Number of Cocktail Napkins Cocktail napkins are necessary when serving cocktails and hor d’oeuvres. They can be formal, informal, monogrammed, or novelty. Have fun with them. It is suggested that there be two to five cocktail napkins per guest. This will depend on the quantity of cocktails or appetizers you are serving.
Caring for Your Luxury Table Linens
When it comes to caring for your luxury table linens, always look at the manufacturers’ instructions on the care label first to know what process to use for washing your items. Some delicate fabrics need special attention. When caring for your fine products, there are some basic rules that you can follow to keep them looking their best and lasting longer.
Table Linens FAQ
Below are answers to some of the most common questions about picking out fine-quality table linens.
How do I get wrinkles out of table linens?
Wrinkles can appear in your linens over time from general use and having been stored. If your table linens aren’t as crisp and smooth as they could be, there are several steps you can take to help remove the wrinkles and renew the look of your linens.
How do I wash table linens?
Washing your linens doesn’t have to be tricky. Knowing and understanding the right settings and detergents to use will help prevent stains and ensure the best results.
Where can I buy table linens?
The best place to look for your next luxury table linens is to seek advice from an expert. As one of the world’s leading linen stylists, Liz Barbatelli commits her time and expertise to designing and curating exquisite yet practical environments for all your dining experiences.
How do I press table linens?
All linen and cotton table linens can be washed and ironed at home, but a more intricate design and fabric may need professional laundering. The Laundry at Linens Limited has brought expert care and attention to the art of laundering and restoring fine linens for over 50 years.
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“A love of linens is innate in my being. There's no greater comfort than beautiful Supima cotton bedding, 100% Giza cotton towels, and gathering family and friends around the dining room table dressed to perfection with linen napkins and festive settings.”
“A love of linens is innate in my being. There's no greater comfort than beautiful bedding, 100% cotton towels, gathering family around the dining room table, dressed to perfection with linen napkins and festive settings.”
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