The place mat is a favorite at many dinner tables: The often-whimsical plastic version catches the slip of spaghetti from a youngster’s fork, while a nice cotton place mat elevates the dining experience just a little without having to set down a whole tablecloth.

Place mats are a relatively inexpensive addition to dining-room décor, and can also be used on portable trays or big coffee tables if meals are served unconventionally.

San Francisco-based Lian Ng’s PopMat paper place mats are inspired by children’s pop-up books. Made of recycled paper, Ng’s mats come in packs of 10 and have a spot to write a guest’s name. There are many designs that would work well for themed affairs or just for fun — butterflies, balloons, cakes, trees, even a troupe of safari animals. (www.publiqueshop.com )

— The Associated Press