Place mats with a natural look
- The San Francisco Chronicle, 01/03/2009

Unless someone picky and important is coming for dinner - like your mom, in-laws or boss - chances are you're planning to keep the place mats in the drawer. But even if that's the case, there's no reason your table setting should look like another awkward guest.

To avoid this, consider place mats whose natural tones and materials will blend nicely with an evolving collection of dishes, silverware and tablecloths.

New York designer Kim Seybert sells a series of round, textured place mats that have been hand-strung with a bull's-eye of wood beads. The 15-inch place mats are sold in sets of four for $208 through Seybert's Web site, KimSey bert.com, and Neiman Marcus, and come in a range of light and dark brown options. (Seybert also sells a variety of round place mats made of bone and glass beads in sets of four for $300 and above.)

Should this seem steep, consider the rattan place mats sold for $9.95 each at Crate & Barrel (crateandbarrel.com). The place mat has a semigloss finish that makes it easy to wipe down and a light brown woven overlay for a rustic, hand-worked look.

Whatever your price range, these place mats mix easily and lend a warm, earthy touch to your table. And during chilly months - or chilly gatherings - that's a welcome addition.

$208 Kim Seybert place mats (set of four)

$9.95 Crate & Barrel rattan place mats (single)