Art of the Tablecloth

by Lydie Stassart, Tastemaker in Residence & Author of The Art of Hosting & Decorating

One way or another, whether at the occasion of a child’s birthday party, a weekend at the lake, a luncheon, a neighborhood holiday party, a breakfast gathering, or a lavish soirée, we are all bound to entertain. Entertaining should not be considered a burden; it should be fun and enjoyable. No matter what the local customs are, there is a universal “savoir faire.” It is usually around a table that ideas are exchanged, new projects are started, and friendships are made.

I want to share with you some guidelines, ideas, and tips I have learned over the years while entertaining on both sides of the Atlantic, and to help you acquire those skills, no matter what your entertaining abilities are, to turn a dinner party into a memorable evening for you and your guests. I will also incorporate some designing rules and ideas as far as lighting, furniture placement, colors, and accessories.

As a little girl, I remember watching my mother and grandmother set tables, wondering how you could go from a simple wooden table to such an elaborate décor. It was magical, and I was fascinated by the artistry of it all. As I grew up, I spent endless hours leafing through decorating magazines, scrutinizing every detail of interiors. I hope to share my passion and pass down what I have learned to my daughters, granddaughters, and now you.

Today we're going to focus on the tablecloth. 


The choice of tablecloth will vary according to the event and the place. For a luncheon at the lake, choose coastal motifs (coral, seashells) or bright colors. In the mountain, you can achieve a more rustic look with embroidered linens. For a formal event, a white organza, damask or lace tablecloth is always elegant.

I like to store my tablecloths on hangers to keep them from creasing. When I set the table, I iron the tablecloth directly on the table itself with the pad underneath. It works great, especially if you are dealing with large tablecloths. Make sure to set the iron temperature on a low setting.
Here are some beautiful color palette combinations:

  • Reds and gold are perfect for the holiday season, and bring out everything that glitters!
  • Orange and yellow; this color combination is perfect for a summertime dinner. It is often found in Provençal motifs. 
  • For a more contemporary look, mix shades of purple with deep browns.
  • Coral and pale blue is a combination that works great with a coastal theme.
  • Pastel pink and shades of grey will give a distinct feminine and delicate feel to your table.
  • In the fall or for a rustic look, try a mélange of warm tones of orange, aubergine, brown, and green.
  • A black tablecloth adds a touch of drama.