How to choose the right dining table?

April Kennedy April Kennedy
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The right dining table is the perfect size, height and shape to suit your living space. Choosing the right table sounds easy right? But it can be hard to estimate the space needed for chairs and common walkways when you are working with an open plan layout. If a room is small, it can be even trickier to make best use the available space without creating a boxed in dining area.

But the most important consideration for many people is how to choose a dining table that will create a harmonious atmosphere over a good meal. The right dining table has the power to bring people together and quite literally shape our relationships. There are countless set designers that have used this to illustrate stories of family conflict through impressive dining tables so long the actors can barely hear each other!

So come with us on a tour of a few beautiful dining areas to explore the options. We will cover the measurements, size issues and the best shape to suit your space. So if you need a new dining table, here you go!

Measure the space

It is so blindingly obvious, but it's important to measure your space before buying a dining table because we often greatly over or underestimate the size of our rooms. So start by measuring the space to determine how much room you have to work with. It may be good to use a large sheet to help get a sense of the table size and how much room it will take up. A general rule is that guests will need to sit without knocking elbows as they eat. You will also need at least 30 centimetres between your table and the surrounding furniture. But consider that this leaves little room for you once the chairs are pulled out. We feel that it's better to calculate another 30 centimetres once the chairs have been pulled out. No one wants to be knocking furniture around or leaving their dinner guests to be trapped in their seats!

Consider the material and colour options

A natural wood grain is an optimal choice for a dining table. It is hardy, resistant and unlike glass, it doesn't make every clanking sound bounce around the room. Wood also has strong a strong earthy quality that has long associations with the sensual pleasures of food. It is fine for those with small children, some may even see the dents and marks on a dining table as a sort of history of family life. Those with young children will need to avoid upholstered chairs.

If you are after something more contemporary than a wooden table, a combination of glass and steel might work. Don't dismiss the option of mixing it up a little like this. The white curvy chairs add a light modern touch to this old, rustic style dining table. 

When to use a rectangular table

A rectangular dining table works well in a long, narrow room. It also has a few advantages over other table shapes. The most obvious advantage is that you can generally fit more people around a rectangular table. If you need to buy a square table, it's a great idea to choose one with extension panels for extra guests. 

 A rectangular table provides almost the optimal shape for serving. But the downfall is that not all the guests will be able to see and talk easily to each other.

The benefits of a circular table

Round tables are the perfect solution for small homes. You can fit more people at a round table and this is particularly so if you choose one with a pedestal like this. Circles are known to make us relax and this kind of table shape is great for human interaction. While we love round tables, they can be problematic when they are too large. The table should be large enough to contain various feature dishes. But it shouldn't be so large that guests can't easily talk to each other or reach to the center of the table.

Square tables for square rooms

Square tables are great for square rooms. Everyone will be able to see each other at equidistance and this shape tends to create an intimate ambience. As with the round table, the larger a square table gets, the trickier it can be to reach the centre of the table. If you have the option, again, choose one with side panels that can be extended when needed.

Explore different seating options

As evidenced so beautifully here and in previous photos, dining room seating does not need to match your table finish exactly. They can be mixed and matched with bench seating and stools. White, upholstered benches like this are a perfectly elegant choice and we bet they are very comfortable. They also provide decent back support. If in doubt about the comfort level, it's a good idea to choose a seat that you can comfortably occupy without standing for a good hour.

Those with small homes might want to consider stools or chairs with no arm-rests. These can save you room because they can be pushed under the table when not in use. A good option are transparent acrylic chairs. They are minimal and make the space appear more airy and bigger than it may otherwise be. Because if you have to choose, go big on the dining table and small on the chairs!

If you are interested in dining tables, you would love this Ideabook Fabulous table top ideas for dining tables.

Which of these dining table shapes is your favourite? We'd love to hear in the comments below.
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