A guide to choosing dining tables - Size , Shape, Material & More
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
As times have gone by, a dining table has become more than just a place to eat. It has evolved into a space that forms the nucleus of our homes.
Today, most of us use the dining space to work, catch up with friends over brunch, host a fancy dinner party and turn it into a craft corner for the kids to explore new ideas.
An ideal dining table should meet a few core factors – be solidly built, fits your space, and is a style that you will love for a few years to come.
With the endless choices and styles available today, choosing the right table needs some thought and a little expert help (at times!).
To help us along the way, we had a chance to chat with Nehal Shanghavi, an entrepreneur, a home decor consultant, lifestyle photographer, and a dedicated volunteer teaching disadvantaged kids.
Her mantra “significance matters more than success” was the catalyst for Nehal to leave behind a thriving corporate career to follow her passion for design, creativity, and home décor. She started her own branding firm “Vedanth” about 10 years ago and this has given her the freedom to create and push creative boundaries every day.
With an obsession for home décor, Nehal sees home decorating as a therapeutic journey that she seeks joy in every day. This passion eventually opened doors to a new career opportunity of becoming a home decor consultant.
Nehal has put together a buying guide that covers table measurements, choosing the right finish as well as design and hopefully this will help us in our next dining table buy.
# Consider your dining needs: How do you plan to use it?
The first step is to evaluate your family’s needs and how the table plays a part in your every day. For everyday dining, choosing a durable and low-maintenance dining table may be your best bet. If you're someone who entertains often, buy a table that is warm, inviting, and versatile. In addition, buying table extensions might come in handy when you have a large crowd. If you have young children or pets, go with something that is durable, functional, and beautiful.
# Balance size and space available
As important as looks are, making sure it fits your space, has sufficient seating and ample space around the table is crucial.
The primary factor to consider here is where would you place your dining table in your home as that will determine the ideal table size to go with.
Factors that determine the right table size:
Size and shape of the room
Space around the table for people to walk about, to push chairs back (Tip: account for 3ft clearance on each side of the table).
Minimum/maximum number of people to be seated.
Other pieces of furniture (sideboard/buffet console) in the dining room
Measure, measure, measure!
Measure the length and width of the area where you will place the dining table - then subtract six feet (ideal) from the two measurements to get the target dining table size.
Tip: Use masking tape on the floor to mark the dimensions and get an idea of the layout.
Also, remember that each person will need at least 24” at the table for their plate, other utensils + elbow room. In addition, your table needs to be at least 36” wide to be able to accommodate food and for place settings.
Don’t forget to account for other pieces of furniture in the room and ensure there's ample space between your table and other pieces of furniture(for e.g-buffet console/sideboard -measure from the edge of the sideboard/buffet console to the dining table).
Source: Pottery Barn
# Shape of your table
The size and shape of your dining space plays a large part in determining the shape of your table. Round or square tables are great for smaller spaces and intimate conversations, whereas rectangular tables are for large groups and work well in rooms that are long and narrow. It allows for defining spaces by dividing open plan layouts.
Round: perfect for small spaces, gives an intimate and cozy ambience
Square: suitable for small spaces, intimate
Rectangular: suitable for larger rooms and more people can be seated
Oval: quite versatile – can be used in small and medium-sized spaces and it accommodates more people vs round tables
Pedestal Base: Owing to its central supporting pillar, this table offers the flexibility to accommodate more people at the table.
Source: Westelm & Anthropologie
# Style & Design
Modern - Classic - Abstract? Once you determine the shape and size, you can now choose the style and design of your table. Pick a style that suits your personal style! That way, you will not wake up to your table one day and say, “What was I thinking?!!”
Nehal personally prefers simple, clean designs, so you have room to play around with accent pieces that go on the center of the dining table.
Tip: Invest in a beautiful, versatile table versatile table that will stay classy and is preferably made with solid wood. They act as a wonderful canvas for all your changing decor moods. Making small changes to the accent pieces now and then and VOILA, you have a room looking as good as new.
# Material Matters
Consider all the ways you may use your dining room table and choose a material that has the right balance of low maintenance, is within budget, is durable, and matches the rest of your home.
Wood - Classic, durable and long-lasting!
It's probably fair to assume that you and your dining table are in it for the long haul. Wood tables not only offer warmth and comfort but are unique because of the varied grain patterns. If you are looking for something that will stand the test of time, consider a solid wood table. Although wood shows wear and tear and expands and contracts when exposed to heat, it's rather easy to maintain and only looks better with age.
Acacia, Mango, Sheesham, Oak, and Teak are other popular alternatives to solid wood and are fairly easier on the pocket.
Sheesham has a prominent, overpowering grain while Mango wood has a natural yellow hue with a lighter finish. Mango and Sheesham are good choices for chunkier or clean line mid-century modern pieces.
Teak, Oak, and Ashwood have a more close and straight-grain pattern which comes out beautifully when polished, hence making it a popular choice in woodworking projects.
Teak is quite resistant to mold and rot and will last a lifetime if maintained properly.
Source: Westelm & Solid Bench
Stone/Cement/Quartz – rustic sophistication!
Stone tabletops, including marble, composite, cement, and quartz, can lend an air of sophistication to your space. They are sturdy and durable too!
Cement tops offer a sense of earthiness that is hard to match with other materials, but they are high on maintenance.
Marble is extremely porous, with a tendency to absorb stains, and works well on smaller tables due to its sheer weight. Further, any chip or cracks can be difficult to restore.
Source: Dezeen, 1stdibs, & Westelm
Glass Tops - simplicity and elegance!
Glassworks best in small rooms where you want to make the space feel more open. They are modern, elegant, easy maintenance and economical too.
Veneer Tops – easier solution to wood!
If you are looking for something that offers the wood table look but your budget is restricted, then a veneer top would work for you. However, they are usually short-lived as it wears off easily and the surfaces blister or peel.
With these simple tips, hopefully choosing your next dining table shouldn’t be an unnerving task and you end up with something that reflects your style and creativity.
Deepthi Velkur (@deepthi9844) is a Bangalore-based freelance digital content writer and mom to a busy 10-year old. Her writing credits include health and fitness magazines, running stories, and wedding planning articles. While redecorating her apartment she fell in love with home styling and now marries her love for home decor with writing.