The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Table Linens
Vintage table linens are an elegant way to spruce up any table setting—formal or casual. Although not new, used table linens can live on through second and third terms as family heirlooms so long as they’re properly cared for, cleaned, and stowed away when not in use. To learn more about the types of vintage table linens available, along with tips on how to use them to set a formal dining table table, read on below.
When it comes to secondhand table linens, think of napkins as the appetizer, the perfect way to set an overall color scheme for a table. Available in a variety of colors, designs, and fabrics, napkins are a no-fuss way to add a subtle pop of color to any tablescape.
When on the hunt for vintage napkins, look for materials like polyester, cotton, acrylic, and spun polyester. These materials will be easy to clean, preventing those after-dinner party blues from feeling quite so epic.
Secondhand table linens are a go-to way to add an elegant touch to a dinner party or brunch. But what if you’re looking for an option that can be left out after your guests call it a night? Enter the vintage table runner. Traditionally used to add an extra layer of protection to prized tablecloths, the table runner is now used as a purely decorative item. Available in rectangular, oval, and square shapes, we especially love using these pieces to anchor a parade of small floral arrangements marching down the length of a dining table.
Like the table runner, placemats can be used in both formal and casual settings. While many use placemats on a regular basis to protect their tables from scratches or spills, placemats can also be used to anchor extravagant, multiple-plate place settings during dinner parties or other lavish affairs.
For an everyday, look for placemats in easy-to-clean materials like bamboo, PVC, and vinyl, but for parties, spring for burlaps, colored cottons, and raffia materials (t.hey’ll be harder to clean, but so worth it!)
Perhaps the best-known member of the vintage table linens family, tablecloths can be used on a regular basis or reserved for holidays and formal dinners. Like placemats, they protect tables from scratches and spills, but are generally easier to wash, dry, and de-wrinkle.
Important to note is that different shaped tablecloths are available for round, rectangular, and square tables. Also available are fitted or stretch tablecloths. Tablecloths come in an endless variations of colors, designs, and patterns too.
Tips for Setting a Formal Table
When setting a formal table, factoring in vintage table linens will allow you to infuse your table with color, elegance, and function. Here are some of our best tips for setting a formal table with vintage linens:
- First, decide on whether you want to use placemats or a tablecloth to cover your table. Tablecloths allow for more elbow room on the table, while placemats will take up a bit more space.
- Cover your table with the tablecloth or placemats of your choice. If you have a round table, choose a round tablecloth, and so on.
- Next, complete the table by setting your dinnerware—forks on the left of the plate and knife and spoon on the right side (the knife should be closest to your plate and the spoon should be on the outer edge).
- Fold each linen into a long strip and place it lengthwise on top of your plates. Top each plate and folded napkin with a teacup and saucer.
- Lastly, add your candles, glasses, centerpieces, and remaining table accessories to the table.
- Photograph your elegant look and wait for the compliments to come pouring in as your guests arrive!