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Size up for the best settings and choose the right nuances for your perfect dining experience

EXPERT: Jane Scott Hodges, author of Linens: For Every Room and Occasion

Q What is your best advice on entertaining – beautifully and practically – with linens?

A 1 Use place mats for seated dinners, tablecloths for buffets and never both. For place mats, I love a 38cmx38cm square mat. Square place mats are such a wonderful piece for any table setting. They frame round plates beautifully and allow you to fit more friends and family around your table.

2 No “lapkins”, please. I mostly use 55cmx55cmnapkins – no matter the event or time of day. For a while those oversized “lapkins” were all the rage, but they can make place settings too crowded. It’s easier to work with a traditional size.

3 Mix high and low. I like to pair elegant monogrammed napkins with less formal printed tablecloths. I love to use handblock-printed tablecloths, which I pick up on my travels. WilliamWayne in New York and Simrane in Paris have them.

4 Go classic for a look that works in all seasons. An ivory hem-stitched napkin with gold monogram is the little black dress of the tabletop. It gives warmth to the table and is not as stark as white on white.

5 Don’t forget napkin rings. They are like jewellery for the table.

6 Protect your table. I always recommend a felt liner for both table runners and place mats. A felt liner protects the table.

7 Don’t panic about spills. Linen has been around forever, so try not to panic when you see your guest spill red wine on your napkin, or wipe off lamb au jus across their chin. It is best washed in cold water and gently, using any simple and unscented products. After guests have gone, rinse it through and maybe add salt to the wash cycle. Please, no bleach.

Above all: Please don’t stress, and enjoy your guests.  

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