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What Should I Consider When Buying a Dining Table?

Small families may choose a small dining table for everyday meals.
A sleek, modern dining room table.
For entertaining purposes, choose a larger, more formal table.
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  • Written By: Paulla Estes
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Images By: Chris32M, Dmitry Pistrov, Kurman Communications, Inc.
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2014
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A dining table can be many things to many people. For some, it is a table that sits elegantly in a little-used room that enjoys human company only on holidays and special occasions. For others, it is the table off of which they eat all their meals each day. For still others, the table might serve not only as a place for meals, but also as a desk and work area. When buying one, you'll want to consider a number of factors, including its size, style, and functionality.

The first detail to consider when buying a dining table is size. A good rule of thumb is to allow 48 inches (122 cm) from the edge of the table to the wall of the room. Also, each person sitting at the table should be at least 24 inches (61 cm) from each other.

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If the dining room is a large, formal room with a china cabinet, chandelier, and elegant carpeting, perhaps a long, table would be appropriate, especially if you commonly entertaining in your home. A less formal home with a large family might also choose a long table, even if the room is a bit smaller and becomes filled when the whole family sits down together. Perhaps a small family that chooses not to entertain would like an intimate meal at their dining table, even though the dining room is large; a smaller table is fine, and the rest of the room can be filled with a settee or love seat, or perhaps a buffet table. Some people choose to put the table into a large, country-style kitchen, rather than the dining room, and again, its size usually depends on the size of the kitchen.

Style is nearly as important as size, because how the table looks says something about the people living in the home. Differently styled tables can be found to suit nearly every preference on the planet. You can find anything from a pine, country table with shaker style, ladder-back chairs to a bulky, cherry wood table with Chippendale claw-foot chairs, and all styles in between. The table does not have to match the style of the home exactly. A family with a formal, Victorian home might choose a more casual table to fit their lifestyle, while someone living in a small apartment might opt for a more formal dark oak table with Queen Anne chairs.

The table should be functional as well as attractive and stylish. It might be used as a part-time desk for office work, for students doing homework, or for meetings held in the home. If the dining table will be used regularly for activities other than eating, consider a sturdy wood with a strong finish to protect the table.

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Discuss this Article

Mykol
Post 12

@golf07 -- I agree, it is nice to have enough room for everyone to sit around the same dining room table. When we were kids it seemed like we always had to sit in a separate room at our own table because there wasn't enough room around the big table. Of course, as kids, we thought this was kind of fun because we could get by with more than if we had to sit at the table with all the adults!

golf07
Post 11

We have a rectangular dining room table in our dining room that can seat up to eight people. If we extend the table and put the leaf in, we can get up to twelve people.

It is really nice to have this extra space when we have larger gatherings. I like having everyone seated around the same table. If I had the room, I would just leave the leaf in all the time, but it would be a tight squeeze to get around if I did that.

bagley79
Post 10

My grandma had a dining room table that had a beautiful finish on it, but she always kept if covered up with a table cloth so the finish wouldn't get ruined. I always thought it was kind of sad that you had such a beautiful table like that and kept it covered up all the time.

myharley
Post 9

I always think of wonderful holiday meals seated around the dining room table. My mom refinished an old dining room table and set of chairs, and it is a beautiful set. This would be considered an antique and would probably sell for quite a bit of money today. At the time, it was all she could afford.

About the only time we would use the dining room table was when we had big meals. We ate at the smaller kitchen table for our everyday meals. My mom would get very frustrated because the dining room table was the first place we would drop our junk when we came home.

As a mom now, I can understand her frustration with all the stuff cluttering up the beautiful dining room table. It seems like large flat spaces like a table are just magnets for stuff like that.

profess
Post 8

@starrynight - I am the same way. I have found or made every dining table I have ever had. And you know what, a lot of them looked good.

The one I have now is big, solid and classy looking. I found it in an alley about a year ago. It took a little work to restore it, but within a week it was ready to go and basically free.

summing
Post 7

I think that dining room tables with leaves are the best kind. That way you can add or subtract space as you need it.

This really helps in my family where we sometimes have 4 and sometimes have 12. When the table is fully extended it does not leave a lot of room to move around but it does give everyone a place to sit.

Ted41
Post 6

@starrynight - It is a good rule to make sure the dining room table set is 48 inches from each wall of the dining room. Having a dining room table that's too large for the room can make everyone feel cramped and uncomfortable at mealtimes.

starrynight
Post 5

I have to admit that I've never actually purchased a dining room table. When I was in college, I lived in a dorm and then I lived with a roommate who already had a dining room table. Then, when I got my own place, my mom gave me a small dining room table she had laying around in the basement.

However, my boyfriend and I are about to move into a bigger place, and we're going to get a bigger dining room table. I definitely want to get something that fits well in the room, so I'm going to keep in the rule about leaving 48 inches between the table and the wall of the room.

indemnifyme
Post 4

@JaneAir and @Sara007 - You guys both brought up a good point about being able to add on to the table when you have company over. That's definitely something to consider when buying a dining room table. Is it expandable in some way?

JaneAir
Post 3

@Sara007 - When I was growing up, we had a round dining table set that took up pretty much the whole dining room. It was normally just roomy enough for our family of four to sit at normally.

However, it could also be tugged apart to add an extra piece for more people. We usually did this when we had family or friends over!

I always really liked the table and thought it was neat that it was round rather than square.

wander
Post 2

I wonder if as many people are investing in large dining room tables as they used to?

I have found that many families are living apart, and there isn't as tight of a network in the community to really justify formal seating for 20. Those who like lots of guests, usually have buffet style serving bars set up in their home for mingling and nibbling.

I know most families that we are friends with all have tables of modest size and they are multi-purpose tables in high-traffic areas. It seems silly to waste so much money and space on a showpiece room that no one ever uses.

Sara007
Post 1

I remember my grandmother had a huge, austere, dark wooden dining table that only got used at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That dining room table was a huge monstrosity that had to be tugged apart so we could put in the middle piece for extra seating.

I always swore that when I had a home, I would have a dining room table that I would actually use, and that wasn't intimidating for the family.

Nowadays, you can buy a smaller tables that are stylish and don't mind having pizza boxes sat on them.

Does anyone else have any memories of their family’s dining room tables?

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