The place mat is a favorite at many dinner tables. The often-whimsical plastic version catches the slip of spaghetti from a youngster’s fork, while a nice cotton place mat elevates the dining experience.

There’s something civilized about setting an individual dining place with a frame of sorts. An heirloom set of fine linen place mats are a quick and elegant way to dress the table. For something unusual, mats made of faux or real tropical leaves, lashed bamboo sticks, glitter, pebbles or squares of birch bark create a textural platform.

Place mats are a relatively inexpensive addition to dining decor. Here are a few options from retailers and designers:

New York designer Sandy Chilewich experiments with woven vinyl material, producing an array of textured mats in neutrals, metallics and colors. There’s a hand-silkscreened, brushed-dot pattern, delicate filigreed foil mat, faux printed cowhide and hip Mod Croc pattern in red, black and tan (www.chilewich.com for retail locations).

There are more woven mats at CB2: a selection of vinyl, basket-weave squares in on-trend hues like carbon, chartreuse, orange and white. Textile designer Liora Manne’s signature felting technique of layering and interlocking acrylic fibers is used in two very different place mats. A sophisticated plaid mat in layered grays and lime yellow pops when set with white china. And her laser-cut, geometric Corte mats in peacock and fire engine red pack a playful punch (www.cb2.com).

Eco-friendly dyes are used to make two pretty, midcentury, patterned place mats at Crate & Barrel. Dax features a digital linear print in teals and greens, while Gus has a starburst pattern in muted sunset hues. For a more feminine look, there’s Oona, an organdy and sateen cotton eyelet-patterned place mat, and the delicate Capiz shell mat, a luminous circle (www.crateandbarrel.com).

San Francisco-based Lian Ng’s PopMat paper place mats are inspired by children’s popup books. Made of recycled paper, Ng’s mats come in packs of 10 and have a spot to write a guest’s name. There are many designs that would work well for themed affairs or just for fun: butterflies, balloons, cakes, trees and even a troupe of safari animals (www.publiqueshop.com).

At West Elm, find a dramatic graphic place mat inspired by Japanese ink brush art. Also, there’s British designer Sarah Campbell’s floral-print table linens. A stone trellis design in stone or citron takes the table in a tailored direction, and a denim-y mini stripe heads into farm table territory (www.westelm.com).

Elizabeth Liberty elevates lowly burlap to simple chic with hand-painted place mats stamped with cows, roosters and flowers (www.etsy.com/shop/LibertyByDesign).

Zazzle.com has a range of place mat designs. You can contribute your own design if you’re creative; most custom mats sell for around $20 each (www.zazzle.com).

Or make your own place mats using some of the ideas at www.homemadesimple.com. For a party, use scrapbook paper as place mats; you can toss them in the recycle bin afterward.