How To Choose A Placemat

Placemats are a useful addition to any table. They protect the table from scratches and stains, as well as impart some style into the table setting. But with so many different styles and materials that they come in, it can be hard to choose a set. So below we'll cover which placemats work in which situations.

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What Types of Materials do Placemats Come In?

You have a wide variety of materials to choose from, each with their own uses and benefits.

  • Plastic: These are made to be as washable and water-resistant as possible. However, these typically aren't the cheap plastic placemats you'd find at a children's restaurant. These can often be made to look classy, like they have a woven texture, for example. Choose plastic placemats for ease in washing and style.
Reversible Decofoam 4 Piece Plastic Placemat Set
6 Piece Oval Plastic Placemat Set
  • Cork: This is a fairly durable placemat material that is resistant to stains and wrinkles. However, it tends to be hand washed only. Cork is also good for not sliding around a table too much while protecting the table from scratches. Cork mats also tend to be heat-resistant.
  • Polyester: This durable material is easy to wash. Many are water-resistant. Polyester can also be made to have different textures to it, like a classy tweed look.
Frayed Polyester Placement Set
  • Mixed materials: Some styles come with fronts made from materials like polypropylene with a foam backing. Typically, you choose mixed materials because those materials impart a sense of style. Though the materials may impart their own use, like foam makes it harder for the mat to slide around. Like any good placemat, these are often made to be stain-resistant and water-resistant.
  • Cotton: You might also find a placemat made of cotton because it gives a soft texture and is machine washable. However, cotton may be more prone to staining.
4 Piece Cotton Placemat Set
4 Piece Cotton Placemat Set
6 Piece Cotton Placemat Set
4 Piece Round Decorative Cotton Placemat Set
  • Jute/rattan: Choose this placemat for a classy woven texture, which works well in rustic and classic spaces. However, these are often dry clean only.
  • Recycled materials: If you're eco-conscious, try a green product that makes use of recycled materials. For instance, some mats are made from repurposed wood or leather. These are often treated to be heat, stain and water-resistant.

How to Choose Placemat Style?

The other most important consideration is style. Below are some of the main types of styles and in which setting they work best.

  • Solid color: If you're looking to make a transitional or modern table setting, a basic solid color can work. Modern spaces do well with neutral colors. Any space can get away with muted shades. Bright shades work well in artsy spaces or accent color designs.
6 Piece Placemat Set
  • Weave: Many placemats come with weave textures. Weaves look great in rustic or classic spaces, since the handmade texture gives a more historical look.
Vintage Burlap 6 Piece Placemat Set
  • Wood texture: Another favorite of rustic or classic spaces, wood textures go well in less modern tables settings.
  • Theme prints: If you're going for a certain theme, choose prints. You might find holiday themes, flower prints can work well in romantic settings and classic themes or children's characters can work in a kid's playroom.
  • Geometric designs: These cover anything that has a pattern, like boarders, striping, checkers or circles. These can look good in modern spaces that make use of stark geometry. More detailed borders can also give a classic look.
Dotted Navy Cotton Placemat Set Of 4
4 Piece Cotton Placemat Set
4 Piece Placemat Set
Octagon Navy Cotton Placemat Set Of 4
  • Quilted: For a country kitchen or rustic look, go with a classic quilted texture.
  • Tassel or frayed edges: It's common to find the edges purposefully frayed or tassels added to placemats. If the tassels look purposeful, these can give a regal look.Fraying, especially the more messy it is, is good for casual dining environments or rustic table settings.

A secondary consideration in the style of the placemat should be its shape. Placemats come in circular, oval or rectangular shapes. In general, the material and overall design of the placemat make more of a difference for a table setting than the shape. However, if you want max design cohesion, match the placemat shape to the table's shape. Choose a rectangular placemat for a rectangular table, for instance. A circular or oval placemat can go with tables of the same shape.