Place mats add extra touch to dinner table

In this undated publicity photo provided by Publique Shop, artist Lian Ng makes paper placemats with clever and charming cutout designs like trees, safari animals, hearts and butterflies that are inspired by childrenís pop-up books. He will do custom designs, as well. Mats are sold in packs of ten (www.publiqueshop.com). (AP Photo/Publique Shop, Lian Ng)

Lian Ng

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.