Serving a memorable meal is a fine art. That art begins with sumptuous cookery: delicious dishes composed with rich daubs of color, broad swathes of texture, and subtle accents of spice. But plating out a delightful dinner is only half the magic. Table setting provides the ultimate framework for the meal you’ve poured your culinary creativity into. Flowers – always. My wife loves when I bring them home, but often picks them fresh from the garden. My kids enjoy collecting pebbles, branches and leaves in the fall and creating the look of a little Japanese garden on the table. They’ve even used a battery operated dime store Zen fountain as a centerpiece, and the effect is charming. Candles? Absolutely, but keep them unscented so they don’t compete with the amazing smells wafting from your serving dishes. I’m also a big fan of oversized, oft washed, super soft dinner napkins. Buy the best and use them often. They just get better with age. But I have to admit that as a purveyor of placemats, I am most inclined to wax poetic about the spectacular qualities of these regularly rectangular, occasionally oval little beauties.
Placemats are a beautiful adornment for a bare table, but they also look lovely on a tablecloth. I recently attended a function at a very fancy restaurant and was pleased to see our Red Maple placemats embellishing a tablecloth of crisp white linen. The look was surprising, both modern and classic. I got a kick out of how several of the other diners commented on the table setting, without knowing the placemats were one of my products! I also surmised that the restaurateur was saving a fortune on laundry bills by using our dishwasher safe placemats on top of the linens!!
Placemats come in a wide variety of colors and weaves, and your best bet is to make sure they complement your dishes, serveware and home decor. Sometimes we serve off of very modern white dishes at home, and pretty much anything goes. Placemats can tie in with a seasonal or culinary theme, flowers, or even complement the color palette of the food being served – although I would warn against getting too cute and matchey-matchey. If you are serving on a patterned china, then the placemat should be more subtley paired, to be a backdrop for the plates. A tailored neutral is often best in that case. But whatever you do, have fun. Think a little outside the box – or rectangle – as the case may be. If you do, you are sure to produce a masterpiece!