Dining tables tend to hang around long after you’ve stopped loving them. They’re substantial pieces of furniture, after all, and they don’t come cheap; it can seem indulgent to buy a new table when the one you have is in perfectly good order.
The problem is, the dining table that worked in your old house may not be the best choice for your current house. Or trickier still, you may have inherited a dining table that you feel obligated to keep, or it tugs at your heart strings when you think about its no longer being around. Whatever your situation, it pays to know which table is best for your space and, if you’re stuck with the table you have, how to make the most of it.
A rectangular table is the most traditional choice but works just as well in a modern setting as it does in one that’s steeped in history.
Make it better: If your space lends itself to a rectangular table, don’t be afraid to choose one that’s on the narrow side. Even a table that’s 28 inches wide will allow space for shared dishes in the middle of the table and, best of all, will bring your dining mates closer together. The danger in having a rectangular table that’s on the wide side is that it will feel overly formal and impersonal, rather than warm and welcoming, as you want it to be.
A long table like this one not only can seat a crowd, but also is pleasing to the eye, because it echoes the shape and dimensions of the kitchen island behind it and the long bank of glass doors in front.
Make it better: If you need to be able to feed a lot of people regularly, you can make your setup feel less like a boardroom by choosing more casual chairs. Or opt for an extendable table that can be shrunk to cozier proportions for everyday use. There’s nothing intimate about eating dinner with empty chairs as your only companions.
Rectangular tables have other benefits, too — they can be squeezed into small spaces without dominating the room. This kitchen may be small, but it still manages to accommodate a dining table that comfortably seats four (six in a pinch).
Make it better: The trick to squeezing a table into limited space is creating the illusion that it hasn’t been squeezed in at all. Choose a table that’s small enough to allow at least three feet of free space around it, more if it’s in a thoroughfare.
If your style leans toward minimalism, you’ll want even more room around the table to add to the feeling of space.
Make it better: If you’re in the market for a new rectangular table, you’ll have many to choose from. It’s the go-to shape for most people, after all. With so many options, why not use the table as a way to add punch to your home? An option like chunky, rounded legs is a far more interesting choice than one with the square or turned legs we’ve come to expect.
Oval tables can bring a sense of occasion to any meal, whether you’re dining just with the family or want to impress your guests.
Make it better: Pedestal table legs solve the leg-banging issue and are ideally suited to oval tables. Pedestal legs can make an ordinary oval table decorative and traditional …or sculptural and contemporary. Because there are no sharp corners with which to contend, an oval table also allows you to accommodate last-minute guests with ease. Just add another chair to the mix.
In small spaces that must double as thoroughfares, the curved edges of an oval table can help the energy flow more gently than the harsh lines of a rectangle, and people are likely to use the area more freely than if they had to gingerly avoid sharp corners.
Make it better: Simple stools can be a good choice for small spaces; they can be tucked away under tables of any shape when not in use. This will not only give those working in the kitchen some room to move, but also open the space up visually.
Choosing chairs in a similar colour as the table will give the room a more unified look, and if the chairs are as curvy as the table, you can feel free to introduce sharper angles elsewhere — in the artwork and sideboard, for example.
A round table is the best choice for those who want to encourage closeness and conversation among family and friends. Everyone can see and hear one another in this setup, and shared dishes are easy to reach. Compare this to a dinner party at a rectangular table where you’re stuck talking with the people on either side of you even when you’ve run out of things to talk about, and the mashed potatoes you want more of are at the other end of the table.
Make it better: If you want to fit more than four people at a round table, it will need to be a minimum of about 60 inches in diameter. If your space can only accommodate a table that’s about 48 inches (any smaller and things will start to feel cramped), consider a round table that can be extended to become an oval when you need it to.
Keep in mind that tables made of wood or another visually solid material will occupy a large amount of visual space. Instead of shrinking your table, consider a glass tabletop that makes the base the star. It can make a room feel open and airy without compromising on style or table size.
A square table is a contemporary choice that can make conversation easier, but it does have a few downsides. A square table tends to take up a vast amount of room — more than you think it will — and although it allows everyone seated at the table to see one another, the distance from one side of the table to the other means people may not be able to hear one another particularly well when there are numerous conversations going on at once. Also, unless you have a lazy Susan in the middle, passing food from one side of the table to the other usually involves a dish’s having to circumnavigate the table for it to arrive at the desired location.
If your room is big enough, a square table can be a dramatic addition that can also accommodate plenty of people — 16 in this case!
Make it better: Curved, comfortable chairs will soften those hard edges. Also consider adding a round centerpiece to balance the angles of a square table. A round bowl piled high with fruit, a voluptuous vase filled with flowers and leaves, or even a shapely sculpture will do the job nicely.
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