Sunday, August 30, 2009

In praise of the white tablecloth

Close your eyes and imagine this: you’re going out to dinner. Walking into the restaurant you see that the tables are covered with crisp, creased white tablecloths, and set to perfection; the glassware sparkles and the cutlery shines. You know that you’re in for a treat.

J’adore white tablecloths. A crisp, white cotton or linen tablecloth can transform the look of any table, and elevate a simple meal into an elegant experience. In Annecy it was not uncommon to see bistro tables adorned with white tablecloths, often for lunch, and always for dinner.

But you don’t need to go to France to achieve that elegance—you can do it at home, tonight. Many of you have a white tablecloth, oui? I recently purchased one at Crate and Barrel for $21.95. Pure, white cotton, 60 inch square with mitered corners and a beautiful drape, it’s exactly what I wanted and I will have it forever. But if you don’t have a tablecloth, a sturdy piece of white cotton fabric will work (dare I add, even a clean, percale sheet . . .).

After washing, let the cloth dry, but not completely; a little dampness will let you iron out any wrinkles with ease, and ensure crisp, knife-edge creases. And don’t forget to do the same with your napkins!

No special places settings are necessary, just make sure whatever you put on your table is sparkling. Take a bit of time to remove water spots from your glasses and rub your cutlery until it gleams. And remember, take pleasure in this preparation. Delight in performing these small domestic tasks; they will add to the experience.

Want an added touch? A small bunch of flowers from your garden in a small vase or juice glass will add a touch of color. After you’ve set the table, open a bottle of wine or sparkling water and set it on the table, et voilà! You’ve created that special “white tablecloth restaurant” feeling at home.

Simple and elegant, n’est pas? If you can’t try it tonight, save it for one night this week. I promise, it will make you want to linger, converse, and have just one more glass of wine, which is very, very French.

C’est bon, oui?


  1. Oh yes, yes, yes. Beautiful, pure, elegant, pristine, perfect.

    Lovely post

  2. I agree. Down here they call places "white tablecloth", as a way of defining if it's a nice place or not. I think they make a table look so nice and clean.

  3. Cant wait to try this! I have been using place mats and napkins, I don't know why I didn't think about adding a table cloth. Hubby is going to love dinner tonight-small touches always make him feel special

  4. I love white table cloths. Every woman in my family has one and uses it often. I went to my cousin's house last week for dinner and his wife set the table with a white tablecloth, white napkins, white china, and white roses. The crystal and silver added some sparkle. It made a rather ordinary weekday meal (roast chicken, salad, bread, asparagus) very special.