Decorating the table always brings up the debate – do you leave it bare or add something to it?  If you add something (which we always find a good idea) should it be a table runner or a tablecloth?  Let’s take a look at the two and get some ideas on the pros and cons of both.

Why decorate the table?

Before diving into the comparison, let’s take a moment to consider why we decorate or ‘dress’ a table in the first place.  After all, there’s nothing wrong with the table or you wouldn’t have it in your dining room!

There are two main reasons to decorate a table.  The first is to make it look different and more attractive when you are sitting down for a meal.  This is a nice touch and allows you to make the table look in season, add a theme and have fun with all those lovely table decorations.

The other is practical.  During meals, there’s lots of potential for spillages and mess.  Most tables are made from polished wood and hot liquids, or foods can spoil the surface.  Adding a tablecloth or table runner can protect the table and make it easier to clean up after the meal.

Why use a table runner?

A table runner is a long piece of fabric that’s designed to sit down the centre of most tables but still leave areas of uncovered tables at either side.  They add colour and texture to the table while still allowing the wood beneath to shine through.  You can also layer them with tablecloths to create really effective and practical looks.

The biggest problem with a table runner is that there will still be areas of the exposed table that could be damaged by those spills and stains.  There’s also the problem created by the uneven edge of the table runner – if this is where plates would sit then it can make them off balance.  You can use placemats, but the problem is still the same.

Why use a tablecloth?

A tablecloth is an entire table covering that usually overlaps the edges of the table by a short distance.  They cover all of the table, offer complete protection for it, and still have a range of other table decorations added to them, including runners, placemats, and decorative features.

Tablecloths are easy to remove and clean with most being washable and some being wipeable.  They can even be used for things like kids’ craft projects to protect the table.  Because they cover all the table, they also act as insulation, reducing the risk that hot plates and bowls mark the surface underneath – and they act as noise reduction too.

Perhaps the only downside with a tablecloth is that if you get one that’s too big, they can get in the way when sitting at the table.  That’s why getting the right size is important as well as considering the shape if you have something other than a rectangular table.

Practical and stylish

While table runners are very stylish and let the table shine through, tablecloths offer the most protection and also help to save the table from hot plates bowls.  They look stylish and can be layered with other decorations to create seasonal tables and different looks.  So, while we enjoy a good table runner, it’s tablecloths that win out for us – and at The Tablecloth Shop we can cut your tablecloth to size and even add a parasol hole!