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When it comes to setting a beautiful table, it’s tough to beat the versatility of table mats. Not only do they look great, but they’re easy to clean and they protect your table from damaging rings of condensation from water glasses. Best of all, table mats make the rest of your dinnerware pop, adding charm and elegance to your everyday table or your special occasion dining set up. Before you stock up on your favorite colors and patterns, consider the features that matter most to you to pick the table mats perfect for your repertoire.

Tips for Buying Table Mats

The first thing you might consider is the material. Like all table linens, placemats come in a variety of options ranging from fine linen to beaded to cork. The material determines the finished look and the way you care for a placemat. Cotton is durable and functional. It’s also easy to throw in the washing machine for easy clean up. Linen is another favorite among elegant table settings. It’s easy to machine wash and a quick iron can smooth any wrinkles to keep it looking crisp and neat. Today’s table mats also include a variety of natural materials like woven rattan for an earthy look. Typically, these materials are easy to care for by shaking the mats to remove crumbs and wiping the surface or hand washing the placemat.

The size of the table mats is another important factor. One way to choose is to scale up or down according to your table size, although that’s not an exact science. For example, if you have a large table, oversized placemats provide full coverage and balance the extra space. But small placemats might even work better to let more of your table’s natural beauty show through. Similarly, if you have a smaller table, smaller table mats will make the most of the petite size. But you might prefer to choose two large placemats to create a cozy look for two. Small table mats also make a great impromptu spot for hot pots, dishes, flatware, glassware or acrylic glassware on a buffet.

Once you have a good feel for the material and size you want, it’s time to seriously think about the shape. Rectangular table mats are among the most popular options, and they’re ideal if you want your entire table setting to fit neatly on the mat. Round table mats add a charming touch, and they add interest to your place setting. Square table mats offer a contemporary look to the table.

Lastly, pick your table mats based on color, texture and design. Simple cloth mats work great for everyday use, or you could choose beaded or woven options for a luxe look that contrasts with your other table linens.

Tips for Using Table Mats

Now that you’ve chosen some beautiful table mats, it’s time to set the table. Count on using one table mat for every chair at the table. Layer them over your tablecloth, or place them directly on your gorgeous table. If the placemat is large enough, use it for the entire table setting: plates, flatware and glasses. If you’re using a smaller table mat, place the flatware and glassware off the mat directly on the table.

No matter how you choose to use them, table mats are a great way to add style and panache. Whether you prefer simple and easy or fun and funky, the perfect table mat is waiting for you at Pottery Barn.