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How to Choose a Dining Table

Here's what you need to know to make the best selection for this centerpiece furnishing.

By Jan Soults Walker

Bringing the right dining table into your home matters. Here's how to select one that's as comfortable to use as it is stylish to look at and lets diners relax, putting the focus on the fellowship and your tasty meal.

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Mark Cravotta

Get the look

You have a plethora of choices when it comes to the style of your dining table. You'll find designs to complement virtually any look—traditional, modern, country, cottage, and transitional, to name a few.

To get an idea of the style of dining table you like best, search online and visit some large retailers just to "window shop." Page through magazines and peruse the inspirational products and photos on this website.

You'll discover a tremendous variety of materials to achieve different styles, including wood, metal, glass, and combinations of these and other materials.

Think about how often you'll use your table, whether it's in a formal space that you use occasionally or in a breakfast nook that hosts three meals a day. If your table will receive daily use, look for long-wearing materials and durable finishes that are warrantied by the manufacturer to resist moisture, scratches, and stains. You'll want a tabletop that easily wipes clean, too.

For ideas, see Cozy Dining: 9 Breakfast Nooks, Alcoves, and Niches.

Shape up

Robin Baron
In addition to style and materials, you'll need to pick a table shape. Round, oval, rectangular, and square are the most common.

Round tables work well in smaller dining spaces, allowing all diners to easily converse with one another face-to-face, and typically accommodating a nice-size crowd. A six-foot round, for example, can comfortably seat eight people; however, that table can also make it difficult to reach food items placed toward the middle.

A rectangular table can seat a large number of diners in a narrow space while allowing them to easily reach food placed near the middle. To seat eight diners, select a seven-foot long rectangular table.

Don't forget about your dining chairs. See our tips on how to Mix Up Your Dining Chairs.

Fill the bases

You'll also need to consider the type of base you want for your table. A pedestal base won't interfere with legroom, so you can usually seat more people around a table with one or more pedestal bases. Alternatively, legs supporting a table top can sometimes limit seating—especially at table corners.

Size it up

The final consideration in choosing your table is the number of diners you want to accommodate while balancing that need with the available space.

Diners require plenty of elbow room—a rule of thumb suggests two feet for each person. Plus, diners need to be able to scoot back from the table and walk between the chair back and the wall. The minimum clearance space between the table edge and the wall (or between table edge and other furnishings, such as a buffet) should be 42 to 48 inches.

Consider some options

To get more bang for your buck, consider a table with leaves that can be inserted to lengthen the tabletop and increase seating space. Some tables offer self-storing leaves that are readily accessible when you need them.

Another option for increasing seating in tight spaces is to choose a banquette-style dining table, which uses bench seating that tucks under the table and requires less floor space.

For more home design ideas, take a look at:
Partners in Design

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