I asked her to join a recent live Q&A to share her expertise with readers. Here’s her best advice on entertaining — beautifully and practically — with linens.
Use place mats for seated dinners, tablecloths for buffets and never both.
“For place mats, I love a 15-by-15 square mat. Square place mats are such a wonderful piece for any table setting. They frame round plates beautifully and allow you to fit more friends and family around your table. ”
No “lapkins,” please. “I mostly use 22-by-22-inch napkins — no matter the event or time of day. For a while those oversized “lapkins” were all the rage, but they can make place settings too crowded. It’s easier to work with a traditional size.”
Mix high and low. Hodges like to pair elegant monogrammed napkins with less formal printed tableclothes. “I love to use hand-block-printed tablecloths, which I pick up on my travels — William-Wayne in New York or Simrane in Paris has them.”
Go classic for a look that works in all seasons. “An ivory hemstitched napkin with gold monogram is the little black dress of tabletop. It gives warmth to the table and is not as stark as white on white.”
Protect your table. “I always recommend a felt liner for both table runners and place mats. A felt liner protects the table.”
Don’t panic over spills. Linen has been around forever, Hodges says, so “try not to panic when you see your guest spill red wine on your napkin, or wipe off lamb au jus across their chin.” She says it is best washed in cold and gently, adding that she likes Tide Free & Gentle laundry detergent or any simple and unscented products. “After guests have gone, rinse it through and maybe add salt to the wash cycle. Please, no bleach.”
Above all: “Please don’t stress, and enjoy your guests.”