Vintage or modern? Stripes or plain? Runner or overlay? Short or long? Speciality or polyester fabrics? The options are endless. A great starting point is to decide whether the gathering you are catering for is a formal or informal event. There are a whole host of websites across the internet that offer advice and tips on how to design your table layout to create your desired atmosphere. Drawing from our own personal experience of catering for corporate clients, weddings and celebrations at various venues, we have put together our own tips on helping you select the right table linen.
Before purchasing any table linen, decide if it might be more economical to hire the linen. If its a one-off event you are putting on, it might be more cost-effective to hire your table linen from someone like Northfields. Northfields have been providing quality table linen to restaurants and caterers since 1952. Based in Stoke Newington, Northfields have a massive range of linen, runners, overlays, chair covers and accessories.
Focus on the style and atmosphere you want to create. At formal gatherings, you will commonly see table linen in whites, ivory and ecru. Occassionally you will see pastel colours at a formal setting. Any fabric patterns tend to be small and subtle with motifs that do not distract away from the tableware itself. The textures associated with formal dining are of quality finishes such as smooth-porcelain, crystal and silver so an appropriate tablecloth might be one which is woven with a satin sheen like Damask. For continuity purposes the tablecloth should match the napkins. Learn how to fold your napkins into a Bird of Paradise. This will really wow your guests.
At formal dinners, the table overhang tends to be long and luxurious. Bear this in mind when ordering your linen. Know the size of the table you are covering and then add roughly 10 to 15 inches so that when the diner sits down the overhang will tuck under the table and a napkin can rest on the lap easily. If your tables have unsightly metal legs, a deep overhang will cover these too.
To further add to the feeling of luxury, you may want to add a silence cloth underneath your table cloth. This is a protective pad that insulates the table from noise.
With informal dining, the focus should be more on relaxing and fun so let your imagination run wild. OK, not too wild but you can be more free with using dark and contrasting colours. Pay attention to the colour of the room you are hosting your event in. If the wallpaper is highly decorative and bold, consider using a colour that will accent the decor. However, if the room has a subtle design theme and small-scaled patterns, go with a simple patterned tablecloth to emphasize the setting.
The tablecloth overhang at informal diners, tends to be shorter. Apportion no more than 10 inches to your cloth size for overhang unless you are using lace, as the drop can be longer here.
Below are some images from events we have catered for. We hope you can take some table design inspiration from them.