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Why the only tablecloth I use is plastic

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It’s acrylic, can be wiped down—and it’s French

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I Dream of France

My life is messy. I may have HGTV-sized ambitions when it comes to color schemes and fabric choices, but in reality I’m more likely to splurge on a massage than an expensive sofa. Whether it’s thanks to my 7-year-old, my 4-year-old, or the fluffy mutt that leaves his hair everywhere, nothing fancy in my household stays nice for long.

The one item that makes me feel like I can have it all—both beauty and function—is the acrylic Provençal tablecloth I first discovered while living in Paris back in the late 2000s. Each night as I’m preparing dinner for my chaotic crew of four, I do as the French do: I pour a hefty glass of wine, set up a table in our backyard, and drape a brightly patterned imported tablecloth over it.

Lemons, lavender, poppies, or roosters, the color scheme can be anything. And, admittedly, I own quite a few. White Williams Sonoma Apilco plates on the Mediterranean design transports me from my harried urban life into a garden oasis where the stresses of the day melt away.

It doesn’t matter what’s under the tablecloth—shhhh, it’s an extra-large folding table—or even whether the chairs are scratched (did I mention I have kids?). The rustic-yet-sophisticated patterns provide a little je ne sais quoi to my everyday crazy.

As if that’s not enough, the absolute best part of these life-changing tablecloths comes at the end, when my husband and I brace ourselves for clean-up duty. Because these fancy cotton French tablecloths are covered with an acrylic—dare I say plastic?—coating, I just wipe them down with my extra-large tub of disinfecting wipes and voila, it’s ready for tomorrow.

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I don’t have to add it to the ever-growing laundry mountain that sits by my washer, nor do I have to freak out when my youngest kiddo scribbles what’s supposed to be a dog onto the lovely citron centerpiece. This is dining decor, simplified.

It’s plastic, you say. Why would I ever want that? Well, first of all, it’s French, and they know a thing or two about style. Second, these tablecloths don’t feel or look like plastic—thanks to the 100 percent cotton base—and they drape so naturally that I use them inside as well. There’s also a line of more expensive fabric Jacquard cloths that are treated with Teflon to make them stain- and spill-proof, but for me, the acrylic patterns fit just right: my family, this season, my life.

I have dreams that one day I will feel a little less frantic and that my house will look like something out of a shelter magazine—more polish and less utilitarianism. But even when I upgrade my sofas, bed frame, and hand towels, these tablecloths will still take center stage. It’s a small act, to be sure, but I capture a bit of country French design each time I smooth the creases of my plastic tablecloth and sit down to an outdoor family dinner. And that will never go out of style.