How to Choose Dining Room Furniture

Get ready to perfectly outfit a dining room to host memorable meals and good times with family and guests.

By Jan Soults Walker

As with any other room in the house, you want your dining room to look good, function without a hitch, and make everyone feel at home. Here are some tips for selecting the ideal furnishings to make your dining room dreams come true.

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Garrison Hullinger

Gather around

The table. As the centerpiece of your dining experience, the table should be inviting to everyone. Choose a size that fits well in the room, allowing a minimum of 42 to 44 inches between the table edge and the wall or other perimeter furnishings. This preserves a walking aisle for diners to easily navigate around the table. Likewise, each diner requires two feet of space along the table edge to ensure elbow room. A 6-foot round table, for example, has an approximate circumference of slightly less than 19 feet—roomy enough for eight. For size flexibility, select a table with leaves you can add for additional length and space for more diners and food.

In a small dining room, you may find that a round table, sized accordingly, fits nicely. In any size space, round tables are often the go-to choice for entertaining because diners see each other face-to-face. Keep in mind, however, that especially large round tables can make it difficult to reach food placed near the middle.

In a narrow space, a rectangular table may best accommodate foot traffic around seating. You may also consider other table shapes, such as square or oval as well as a variety of materials, including glass, wood, metal, or a combination.

Serving surface. If you enjoy serving meals buffet style, add furnishings that provide a horizontal surface to accommodate serving dishes, platters, and dinner plates. Make sure that the width of the serving surface doesn't impede walking aisles or isn't positioned to create a bottleneck with seated individuals. You may opt for a serving surface that's part of a storage piece, such as a buffet or sideboard, or use a second, freestanding table or the top of a console.

For more tips, see How to Choose a Dining Table.

Have a seat

Tineke Triggs
While you can purchase chairs as a matching set with your dining table, express personal style by selecting chairs separately, whether they match one another or are mismatched for an eclectic feel. In terms of comfort, the seat should be 18 to 19 inches off the floor with 7 to 10 inches of space between the seat and the rail supporting the tabletop. Check that armchairs can slide completely under the table. To give backsides plenty of room, seat width should measure at least 17 inches (22 inches considered optimum) with a seat depth of 20 to 24 inches.

You might also opt for one or more benches, which can allow you to squeeze in a few more diners around the table.

For seat upholstery, look for durable options, such as leather, vinyl, or sturdy fabrics that repel moisture and stains, such as those treated for outdoor use.

Get ideas with Mix Up Your Dining Chairs.

Optimize storage

Take inventory of all your dishware, flatware, glassware, serving pieces, table linens, and tabletop decor that you want to use in the dining room, and look for an appropriately sized armoire, buffet, or sideboard to keep it all organized and easily accessible. You may also want to put some of your prettiest pieces on display, so look for storage pieces that includes open shelves, racks, or glass-door cabinets, which keep dust at bay.

Another handy storage option is a serving cart to transport food and table settings to and from the butler's pantry or kitchen.

See our tips in Storage is Served! Dining Room Organization Ideas.
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