Choosing the right dining table for your home

 

The dining room table is where friends and family come together over a bountiful meal to share stories, trade jokes and catch up. So it’s no surprise that many people shop for a table right before the holidays. But before you run out and buy the first thing you fall in love with, you’ll need to consider a few factors first.

Start with your lifestyle. One of the most important considerations is how and where will you use your table?

If your table is an extension of your kitchen or family room, chances are you’ll use it more often, such as for food prep, homework or crafts. You’ll want something that’s more casual in style with a durable surface that won’t damage easily.

However, if you’re looking for a table for your formal dining room and you really only use it for special occasions, and then you have the freedom to choose a more ornate table with a delicate finish.

Do you entertain often or only a couple of times a year? If it’s the latter, consider a table with an Expansion, You can create a cozy space for your family to enjoy on weeknights that easily expands when company comes.

Obviously, your own personal style preferences—eclectic, modern, traditional—will help inform the style of table as well.

It’s so important to have a table and chairs that are comfortable and fit the scale of the room. Think like Goldilocks. You don’t want a table that’s too large or too small. If you follow my basic measurement guidelines, you’ll find a table sized just right for your dining room.

  • Allow 24 between the table and wall so people can easily sit down and get up from the table.

  • Allow 36 between the table and wall if people are going to walk behind the table.

  • Plan 24 inches for each place setting, so people can comfortably eat without hitting elbows.

  • The maximum width of a traditional table should be 48 inches, any more and your guests won’t be able to pass things across the table and conversation becomes strained.

  • The minimum width of a table should be 36 inches, any less width and you will have difficulty placing serving pieces in the middle of the table.

  • If space allows, base your table size on the number of persons you usually have for dinner then add two. That should accommodate a normal number of guests.

The shape of the table is equally important in creating a beautiful and comfortable space

Rectangular

A rectangular table is the most common shape because most dining rooms are rectangular. It’s also a great shape for seating more than four people. Rectangular tables are often more flexible since many come with leaves that extend the length.

Square

A square table looks best in a square room. It’s also a great solution when you have a small guest list – a large table can be off-putting. You can always put two square tables together and make a rectangular table for special occasions.

Round

A round table works well in small rooms and smaller square shaped rooms. It creates a cozy and intimate setting, so it’s the best shape for a small group of people. A large round table, however, can make guests feel very far away from each other. For versatility, get one with a leaf that changes into an oval shape that accommodates a larger group of people.

Oval

An oval table is very similar to a rectangular shape table, but visually it uses up less space because of the rounded corners. Therefore, oval tables are a great fit for a narrow or smaller size room. Many oval tables also come with leaves to extend their capacity

There are so many shapes and sizes of dining tables. Which one is right for you? The look of your table is important, of course, but making sure it fits your space and gives enough seating is even more critical.

Your table needs to allow for the number of diners you want to seat comfortably and still leave enough room to walk around it. The width of your table should be at least 36 inches wide so there is ample space for place settings as well as food. Typically, as the table length increases, so does the width of the table top. Read on for sizes and shapes to consider when planning a dining room table.

Measure table-to-wall clearance. Measure the space around the room. To allow diners to sit down and get up easily from their seats, try to leave 24-36+" between your table and the walls.

Measure table-to-furniture clearance. If there is other furniture in the dining space, begin your 24-36+" measurement from the edge of the furniture instead of the wall.

My crazy way of measuring. To test out a table size in a room I grab a bed sheet or two, place it where the table will go, and fold it into the shape of the table. This allows me to visualize the space it will take up. Then I can measure the wall/furniture-to-table clearance. If your table has leaves, include them in your calculations.

Don't overcrowd your table. The table manufacturer should recommend the number of people that can comfortably be seated without touching elbows while eating.

Each person needs about 2 feet of eating space. Of course, if your table allows for it, you might be able to squeeze in another seat or two for those occasional larger gatherings.

Round tables are great for small spaces. They fit in tight spaces and have no sharp corners to bump into. You can usually fit more people around it because it has no corners. Pedestal tables are even better, as they offer more legroom.

Seating size for a round table. I usually stick to this calculation to begin looking for round tables. Manufacturers may offer different recommendations, and you might be able to add more seating for a tighter fit. Also keep in mind that using a pedastal base allows more seating because it eliminates the legs that can get in the way of a chair.

  • 3' diameter seats 4

  • 4' diameter seats 5

  • 5' diameter seats 6

  • 6' diameter seats 7

  • 7' diameter seats 8

Note: Large round tables can make it difficult to reach for food. Rectangular shapes seem to work better for seating very large crowds.

A rectangular table works well in a long, narrow room, it leaves more room for traffic flow.

Seating size for a rectangular table. These are the sizes I stick to when designing rectangular tables. Different bases/legs may offer different seating arrangements, and you might be able to add more seating for a tighter fit.

  • 4' - 5' long seats 4 - 6

  • 6' - 7’ long seats 6 - 8

  • 8’ - 9' long seats 8 - 10

  • 10-11' seats 10 - 12

 

Lazy susan feature. If you choose a round table 60-72" in diameter, add the convenience of a center lazy susan. Although the round table can be a space saver, the larger it gets the harder it becomes to reach the mashed potatoes.

Go big on the table and small on the seating. When looking to take up less room in a space, try a bench instead of chairs on one or two sides of your table. Make sure you can push the bench under the table so you can stash it away when not in use.

Go square. If your room is square, a square table, like a round one, makes for a more intimate dining experience because everyone is an equal distance apart. Also it will look great mimicking the room shape around it.

Like the round table, the bigger a square table is, the harder it will be to reach for food. If you are looking to seat more than eight people comfortably, you might be better off with a square table that has extensions, so that it can turn into a rectangular shape for a dinner party.