This is a place where beauty is a large element, and most people understand the charm of a daintily laid table, as the family gathers for a meal. But many factors must be taken into account, for it is an easy matter to pass from the simple and beautiful to an extravagant display, to spend more on the dining-room equipment than the income warrants, and to waste much energy in unnecessary work. Our great need here is to learn to see beauty in simplicity. We must remember, too, that many people in our country live in crowded quarters, and have no time for anything but the simplest kind of table service.1
The table should be firm, large enough to accommodate the family comfortably, and it should permit of extension when occasion demands a larger board. The top should have an oil finish that will not easily mar and that can be washed off. Have a thick cloth or pad to protect it - the "silence cloth."
Table covers may be the small doilies with centerpiece, strips of fine linen crash, or blue or brown and white Japanese toweling laid across both ways, a cloth that just covers the table, or a large cloth that hangs well below the table edge. The doilies and strips are used conventionally for breakfast and dinner, but save much labor when used for all meals. The color may be white, or tinted, but the dark-colored cloth should be banished.
The material may be linen or mercerized cotton. Many people think white table oilcloth is impossible, but a table covered with it may be made very pretty; it can be kept clean by washing at the end of each meal, and the saving in labor is incalculable.
The pattern and quality and cost of table linens are mentioned in Chapter XXI (How To Shop And How To Buy).
Napkins may match the tablecloths. A small size economizes labor. Avoid fringes, selecting a scalloped edge or hemstitch. Japanese paper napkins are useful in summer, and for box luncheons.