PSA: You Need a Swedish Oilcloth Before Your Next Summer Cookout

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No offense to the French Riviera or the Med, but Swedish summers are simply the best. You may think of Scandinavia as a cold and mysterious Stieg Larsson backdrop, and, well you’re not wrong—in the winter, things get pretty dark and dreary. But come summertime, the sun barely sets, temperatures are pleasant and there’s a sense of celebration that the warmer season is finally here. Part of that celebration involves lots of gatherings with friends and family, whether it be for a Midsummer celebration, a crayfish party or just enjoying the late sunset.

It sounds pretty magical, right? If you too want to embrace those Swedish summer vibes, you’ll need a few things in your entertaining arsenal: some akvavit, an oilcloth (a “vaxduk” in Swedish) for your table and a few servings of pickled herring (just kidding—jars of fish optional).

The oilcloth is one of those products that you don’t think you need until you try it and then don't know how you ever possibly entertained without it. Made from cotton or linen, oilcloths are a must-have because they’re coated with boiled linseed oil, PVC or vinyl to make them waterproof.

You might have seen one of these cloths before—maybe a dainty version at a potluck or a red checkered one at your local Italian restaurant, but in Sweden, these tablecloths are used for all sorts of occasions and are actually quite chic. I just came back from a two-week trip to the Stockholm archipelago and saw them at coffee shops, friends’ houses, indoors, outside—anywhere really. You can buy them from large department stores or homeware boutiques on a roll and cut the fabric to size so that it perfectly fits your table. They’re much nicer than your standard plastic cover, but are still stain resistant for easy clean-up.

No time to jet off to Scandinavia to pick one up? No problem. We’ve picked out some of our favorite ones below. (Tip: For sizing, you want your tablecloth to hang about 10 inches over each side. So, if you have a rectangular table that is 60 inches long, you’ll need about 80 inches of tablecloth.)

  • Size: four sizes available: 78 x 59 inches, 98 x 59 inches, 118 x 59 inches, 138 x 59 inches
  • Material: cotton with an acrylic finish

This one may have “French” in the name, but it’s giving us serious Scandi forest vibes. We like the elegant look of white plates and clear glassware with this one for a sophisticated lunch or dinner, but it would look equally chic with a mismatch of plates and glasses for a more laid-back vibe. And with a range of sizes that fit both rectangular and oval tables (seating six to 12 people), you’ve got options.

  • Size: 60 x 102 inches
  • Material: flannel with vinyl finish

This large, rectangular cloth would look just as stylish outside for a family-friendly BBQ as it would inside for an adults-only soirée. Play up the Italian vibes with colorful ceramics and faux olive branch stems or make it more Scandinavian with Nordic crockery and neutral tones. Either way, don’t skimp on the candlesticks or candleholders for an ultra cozy ambiance.

  • Size: 60 x 84 inches
  • Material: cotton andEVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)

Picnics are meant to be laid back but not so much for the host when you have to mop up all that potato salad and spilled lemonade from the table. This adorable yellow gingham oilcloth from Hearth and Hand with Magnolia makes it easy, thanks to the sealed coating—simply use a damp dishcloth or paper towel and the mess will disappear.

Pottery Barn
  • Size: 70 x 108 inches
  • Material: cotton and acrylic coating

Created with bridal designer Monique Lhuillier, this pretty tablecloth evokes warm summer days along the Amalfi coast sipping on cold white wine and slurping up fresh seafood pasta (just us?). But if a trip to the Mediterranean isn’t on the horizon, we think this sweet pick would work perfectly for an at-home garden or tea party. The top is crisp and white, while all the charming details peek out from the sides.

  • Size: four sizes available: 78 x 59 inches, 98 x 59 inches, 118 x 59 inches, 138 x 59 inches
  • Material: cotton and acrylic coating

Simple and sweet, this oilcloth is available in multiple sizes and is perfect for a rustic tablescape (think burlap napkins, mason jars for drinks or as vases for wildflowers, tealights, etc.). Another pick with multiple size options, it will fit both rectangular and round tables. Also available in blue, this distinctively Scandi cloth would be bright and cheery in the warmer months, but also earthy enough to fit in come fall and winter.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...