Skip to Content

Table Runners and Tablecloths to Dress Up Your Tabletop

Make an everyday tabletop into something special when you dress your dining table with table runners and tablecloths. These home linens may be essentials, but they don't have to be basic when you shop the high-design selection available at west elm. Check out exciting new patterns, play with new color combos and learn a few tips for how to use your textiles to their best effect at your next meal or celebration.

The Difference between Cloths and Runners

The difference between tablecloths and table runners is mainly one of dimension and proportion.

  • Your tablecloth covers the entire surface of the dining table.
  • The table runner is a slimmer piece of fabric that runs down the center of the table.
  • You can use one or the other at a time or layer both to create a more formal look.
  • Tablecloths tend to come in sizes relating to the length and width of your dining table. They're also available in round shapes for cafe, bistro or planet tables.
  • Table runners may not vary in width as much. They are available in different lengths, though.
  • Since they only run down the center of the table, you don't need a special one for a round table. Any runner you like will do.

How To Use Different Table Linens

Your tablecloth is fairly easy to use. Unfold a clean one and place it evenly over the surface of your table before you set it. You can put a centerpiece in the middle or let your place settings create the atmosphere.

  • Your table runner is usually placed right down the middle of the table. If you want to get creative, choose two of the same color and pattern for a wide dining table. Place the runners so that you've divided the table into thirds.
  • Usually, placemats go at the edges of runners, where they either overlap the outer edge of the runner or have space around them to show off a fabric or weave.
  • If you use the double runner method, you can choose to layer placemats or skip them and put place settings out directly on the runners for a more communal or bohemian feel.

New Patterns and Colors

When you decide to refresh your older tablecloths and table runners, use the opportunity to have fun with color and pattern. Look for basket weave patterns, jacquard fabric, Belgian flax linen, lustrous velvet or zany pop art designs. Crisp white table linens are always in style, so stock up on a set of those while you're at it.