Elevate your French table setting with French napkins
By Mathilde Vuillemenot | Last update on September 16, 2022
If you wonder how to make your home and kitchen feel French, one of the easiest options is to have French kitchen linens. And especially French cloth napkins. Using them every day will add a little French flair to your living. Plus, when you receive guests for get-togethers lunches or fancy dinners, they will all be amazed by your attention to the details. Indeed, napkins are a detail that everybody notice.
In this article, I will share the different styles of French napkins as well as tips on how to display the napkins on your table and some recommendations to choose the right napkins.
How to harmonize the napkins with the style of your French table setting?
I imagine that you have tested a French bistro in Paris and that you would like to find this very particular atmosphere and style at home daily. By the way, the French bistro is also appropriate for fancy dinners. Your guests will love being transported to Paris over the dinner.
The atmosphere of a French bistro is so typical: the decor immediately transports you to the 19th century. From the table and chairs to the lights to the tableware, everything is perfectly harmonized. We can summarize it as traditional and chic. So, let’s mention the characteristics of French bistro napkins. First, the emblematic color of French bistros is the red. Did you watch the movie Amelie? She was working in a Parisian bistro, where the decor was in the typical red color. For French bistro napkins, look for napkins with the red color. In can be in plain red, or in white and red; Here are 2 examples: the Bon appetit napkins in white and red, so lovely with the French words for ‘Enjoy your meal’ and the French stripe napkins white and red.
French country home, also known as French farmhouse, is a very popular decorating style. The mix of rustic and chic is appealing, right? Timeless, welcoming, … This home style has many qualities. It is also versatile: it adapts perfectly to modern interiors. You can define your own balance between rustic and modern. There are so many options within this style. Make it yours and create a unique French country interior with your touch. The essential is to stand by 2 pillars: neutral colors and natural materials.
For a French country table setting, the same pillars apply. The French country style relies on natural material, so, it’s generally recommended to have a wood table with patina. In this case, a tablecloth may be optional for everyday meals and even for dinners with guests. Then, for the napkins, there is a large choice: plain with neutral colors like linen or beige, French blue stripes, with embroidery… And the best is that you can use them every day, as for special occasions. I already mentioned it, the French country style is so versatile.
For more tips on French country home decorating, read our guide French country decorating: from inspiration to action.
Ah Provence, a region that many people envy us! This is my favorite region in France. I love the quiet villages during the nap time, the sound of the cicadas, the tasteful fruit pies, the morning markets to discover talented artisans, boules games, the lavender fields, the cheerful mansions… So many things, and I could add many more!
The Provence decorating style is colorful: it reminds the sunny weather and the vibrant landscapes.
For a Provence table setting, the guidelines are effortless: go for table linens from Provence. I draw your attention to one point: many brands illegitimately claim their products as provencal. So, check the linens are made in France, this is a guarantee of quality. The French provencal napkins are made in quality fabric. Their authentic patterns are woven with the traditional Jacquard technique. Plus, the French Provencal manufacturers use a special dye to prevent fading.
Get inspired by the selection of Provence napkins below and bring Provence to your home!
This French decorating style is inspired by the 18th century aesthetics. The movie Marie Antoinette illustrates perfectly the type of decor that corresponds to the French chateau style. Curves, gold accents, blown glass decor, intricate details, Toile de Jouy textiles… The style is luxurious and sometimes extravagant, like Marie Antoinette!
French chateau is particularly adapted for fancy receptions. You will take time to create a table setting with refined details, in the purest 18th century French style. The best napkins for this type of table are embroidered napkins, here are 3 ideas:
- Napkins with an embroidered monogram – the French aristocratic families used to have the first letter of their last name on their linens
- Napkins with a floral embroidery
- Napkins with pearls, embroidered with delicacy on the napkin
How to place napkins on the table?
You can either place your French napkins on the left of the plate or directly on the plate. If you choose to place them on the left of the plate, you can place the utensils on the napkins. If you use napkin rings with the names, I recommend placing the napkins on the left. This is how my grandmother placed our napkins. She was a teacher of good manners and of the art of receiving in the 1960s, so she knows well the French etiquette. The idea is that when we use napkin rings with names, we are in a family environment, so it's more informal. Placing on the left of the plate corresponds to this type of at-home dining experience.
Now, the second question you may have is: how do you fold a French napkin? If you have skills for DIY, then you will enjoy folding your napkins. Watch this video, on folding a napkin into a French fleat. Specific foldings are for Michelin-starred restaurants or exceptional events, like a wedding, for example. For dinners, the French don't fold the napkins into complicated shapes. Here are some examples:
Where to buy French napkins?
The top 3 stores for French napkins
Where to buy French decor? Where to buy French furniture? These are questions frequently asked in communities of people loving French lifestyle and all things French. The difficulty is that when you search on internet, there are tons of results and most of them are not French.
As this question was so frequent, I decided to do a comprehensive and objective review of French stores in the US. I selected the best 25 stores for French decor. These 25 stores sell authentic French decor: they are small businesses passionate about France and the French lifestyle.
Now, specifically on napkins, there are 3 stores that have great selections. They sell French napkins from the key styles I mentioned earlier: French chateau, Provence, French country and French bistro.
- French Address: for my store, I selected high-quality napkins from the oldest kitchen linen expert in France, Charvet. From French bistro napkins to embroidered napkins to French stripe napkins, you're sure to find what you need for your French tablescape.
- Lavender blue: Catherine travels to France every year to find exquisite new designs. Year after year, she's amassed an extensive high-end collection of patterned napkins, especially from Provence.
- My French country home box: the store owned by Sharon Santoni, a renowned specialist of French country home style, has a large and elegant selection of vintage monogrammed napkins.
What is the best fabric for napkins?
Is cotton or linen better for napkins? The debate is not settled, even if it is rather in favor of linen. Let me share with you the 4 key points that make linen the best fabric for napkins.
- Linen fabric is hypoallergenic and antibacterial, which is precisely what we require for textile in contact with our skin.
- Linen napkins have a longer lifespan because linen is very resistant. Think of how many times we use and wash the napkins. You're sure to keep longer your napkins made in linen.
- Linen textiles can absorb up to 20% of dampness without feeling wet.
- Last but not least, linen is sustainable and environment-friendly:
- Very little water and little to no pesticides are required to grow the flax;
- 100% of the fiber can be transformed: part of the plant is used for textile, other parts are used to produce food (oil for example);
- When disposed of, linen is biodegradable.