Square, round, rectangular; timber, glass, concrete? For most of us, the dining table is a pretty major purchase, and the range of options on offer seems to hinder rather than help.
Here’s our guide to avoiding retail regret and choosing the ideal table for your home, your heart and your hip-pocket…..
Planning makes perfect
First things first. In dining table shopping 101 there are a couple of key questions to consider. So before you do anything else – answer these:
- What shape is the room where the table will sit?
- How many people will regularly sit at the table at once?
- Does the table need to accommodate more people from time to time?
- How much cleaning/maintenance are you willing to do?
- Will the table be used for every meal – or just for entertaining?
- Is the table also a homework desk and part-time home office?
- Does the table need to be moveable?
- How much do you have to spend?
Now, measure the room where the table will go and mark out – using chalk, bedsheets or a tablecloth (or a scaled ruler and grid paper from an art shop if you’re that way inclined) – the maximum size your table can be, allowing for at least 90cm behind each chair (a metre is better) for easy access and to avoid the humiliating squeeze.
Everything you need to consider next is covered below in our go-to guide, so school up and let’s go shopping. First let’s consider SHAPE – probably the biggest decision style-wise…
Universally beloved for its form and functionality, rectangular tables work in modern and old-school settings, can fit into most spaces without overtaking the room and can range in width from 70cm up to around 120cm, giving you plenty of choice depending on your space and passion for entertaining.
These tables are symmetrical, easily accommodate food serving and sharing and come in a range of lengths – including extendable. If you want to most diverse choice of styles and materials, rectangular tables win hands down.
Dimension-wise oval tables are similar to their rectangular cousins, but without any sharp corners and with the ability to more easily accommodate an extra last-minute guest. They’re especially suited to traditional décor schemes.
Ideal for intimate dining, round tables work well for up to six diners. While they can accommodate more, conversation, serving and sharing food becomes trickier with substantial round tables.
Smaller round tables with the option to extend to an oval are an ideal choice for smaller dining areas which only occasionally need to accommodate larger groups.
Pedestal legs are the most comfortable for more than a couple of diners, and rounded edges are excellent for high traffic areas or houses with small children.
Cool and contemporary, square tables require plenty of space but can work well in a spacious formal dining room or generous open plan area, however, the distance across the table can make conversation tricky so be sure to have good acoustics and a lazy susan on hand!
Small square tables are terrific for compact spaces as they can fit snugly into a corner when only being used by two people.
Next up is MATERIAL:
Our love affair with timber tables is an enduring one, and with good reason. Ideal for dealing with wear and tear, sturdy and available in a range of tones and finishes, timber is timeless, beautiful, natural and not going away any time soon. Be sure to check it’s been properly sealed to avoid moisture or cracking, and remember that highly polished timber tabletops will need to be protected from heat with mats/coasters etc
While solid tables occupy a lot of visual space, glass tabletops have the opposite effect, making an area seem roomier so they’re especially suited to smaller rooms, studios and apartments – and modern aesthetics. Just remember they’re tougher to clean than timber, and are prone to surface scratching.
Concrete is having its moment to shine right now, and it’s not surprising. It’s clean, contemporary, durable and works well indoors and out (just don’t try carting it between the two, it’s kinda heavy). Remember though, it may look tough, but like stone, concrete is porous and will stain so a quality sealant is essential to keep it looking good. Unfortunately, sealant doesn’t provide total protection though, so be sure to wipe spills swiftly and use coasters!
Time to move on to SIZE:
Around 60cm of table surface per guest is a good minimum guide, 75cm is roomier and more conducive to long lunches and comfy entertaining. Extension tables are incredibly useful and well worth considering if you’re a sometime entertainer in a smaller space.