Hi guys! In our previous post we talked about tablecloths and how to look after them. Today we want to jump into another topic that generally raises doubts: how to choose the right placemats, a good alternative to tablecloths and in some ways even better. But why is that?
They are much easier to clean, to iron if you go for fabric ones and to store.
They can be used on tables of different sizes adapting to the number of guests, being an excellent alternative to visually organise what happens on the table. Don't forget that when it comes to choosing the right linens as well you need to consider the dimensions depending on the size and shape of your table.
Placemats, specially the ones that are made of natural fiber, also protect table surfaces much better from heat and cold, which is especially important for more delicate tables. Any wooden, marble or lacquer table needs protection.
While placemats are believed to be for informal occasions, there are fabric or woven alternatives that will look very nice for elegant dinners. If you belong to the tablecloths team we invite you to read our last publication and find out how to choose the right textile and how to look after them, otherwise stay here and let's talk about placemats:
Plastic or vinyl placemat
Let's start with the most common and cheap ones. Plastic or vinyl placemats are very easy to clean as they only require a damp cloth, are very durable and you can even fold them to store without leaving any mark. We recommend you to consider this option if you want to use them on a daily basis and especially if you have kids in the house. However, do not think that plastic placemats cannot also be used on special occasions. Today it is possible to find beautiful designs on the market that adapt very well to more formal dinners. Just an important clarification: some plastic placemats can only withstand heat up to 65º degrees, which means they are not best suited for very hot dishes.
Due to their softness and relatively easy maintenance, fabric placemats such as cotton or linen are an excellent choice for your table. Compared to plastic placemats, they require more care when washing, ironing and storing them. Although, paying attention to temperatures and products, it is possible to wash them in the washing machine. However (we are not gonna lie on this), they are more prone to staining over time, which is why many prefer to leave them for special occasions. About the price, it will depend on the fabric and dimensions but they are usually more expensive than plastic or vinyl ones. If you are interested in knowing how to choose the right textile and look after them, we invite you to read our previous blog post.
Natural fiber placemat
Natural fiber placemats look great on tables and are easy to clean. They are perfect for a summer dinner (in fact, given their composition, it is possible to use them even outdoors) and also fit perfectly with winter set ups. If you are looking for versatility and style, this is surely your choice. However, when it comes to choosing the right placemat fiber we know it could be difficult as there are many options available at a very varied price. So here we will point out the most common ones and what to expect from each material and why sometimes quality comes at a price:
Seagrass placemats: As its name implies, seagrass is a herb that grows in the sea mainly in Vietnam. It is a light and soft material with a rustic appearance that is commonly used for placemats in a woven style. Considering all the natural fabrics available on the market, they will probably be the cheapest you can find due to the fact that they are not firm and given their rustic appearance, they can often be less formal than other materials. However, it is a noble and relatively long-lasting material. We would say around 1 to 2 years depending on the frequency of usage.
Rattan placemats: Natural Rattan generally comes from Asia and is a solid natural vine material that grows in rainforests. Despite its fragile outward appearance, it has a very hard core. When solid rattan vines are processed together, rattan can be as strong as wood, which is why rattan is well known for furniture production. Following this line, rattan placemats are famous for their firmness and durability. In addition, their finish is very neat,making them suitable for more formal occasions. In terms of durability, rattan placemats score even much higher than seagrass as they are highly resistant to humidity, temperature changes and they do not absorb odors. Its price range is usually high, however, if it is natural rattan, you will get the quality that you are paying for. In addition, it is a sustainable alternative since it allows its complete and natural recycling.
Bamboo placemats: Bamboo is also a solid natural material (this is a plant by the way). Bamboo and Rattan have similar qualities, yet are commonly mistaken for each-other. Rattan stems are similar to bamboo with the same characteristics of resistance, but their main difference is that bamboo stems are hollow and rattan stems are not. For furniture or placemats, it is typically easier to find rattan than bamboo, bamboo being less malleable than rattan.
Overall, when it comes to comparing prices for your new placemats, do not forget that all the natural fiber placemats are woven and made by hand ;)
Just to summarize, the type of placemats you choose should depend on the use you want to give to them and how much you are willing to spend. To be honest, as in most cases, there are no magic tricks. Higher prices typically mean better durability and quality of the materials.
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