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How to Choose the Right Dining Table for Your Home
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How to Choose the Right Dining Table for Your Home




The best dining table for you will be one that works for your budget, is solidly constructed, fits in your space and has a style you’ll love for years. There are some core factors you should consider when choosing a good one.


First, be wary of giving into trends, said Christophe Pourny, a master furniture restorer and the author of “The Furniture Bible,” who noted that a good table should last at least five to 10 years. “If you get something too funky, with too many weird details, one day you may wake up and wonder what you were thinking,” he said. “Keep it simple and sturdy.”


Along with affordability and a timeless style, stability and construction are important to look for when inspecting tables at furniture stores. Think about how it feels to sit at one of those tables, whether it will be comfortable for long periods, and examine floor models for signs of wear. Look for nicks and scratches that may indicate how the tables would endure through serious use at home. If you’d like some specific recommendations, Wirecutter, the New York Times product review site, has great sub-$1000 dining table guide here.

Beyond the basics, here are some additional boxes to check before opening your wallet.


Use your measuring tape


The number one rule: Your dining table has to fit your dining area! But a dining table is a deceptively large piece of furniture, and you need to account for space around it, too.


“In addition to the footprint of the table, you’ll want three feet of breathing room on all sides — and more is better — to comfortably sit in a chair and move around the space,” said Lucy Harris, an interior designer in New York. So whether it’s part of a multiuse space or a separate dining room, start by measuring the length and width of the area you can dedicate to the dining table. Then subtract about six feet from those two measurements to get a target dining table length and width.


Next, think about how you’re going to use the table. “Figure that each place at the table needs 22 to 24 inches of table space and that larger-scale chairs will require more,” said Max Dyer, a furniture industry veteran and a current vice president of casegoods (a category of hard furniture like tables, cabinets, and chairs) at La-Z-Boy Industries.

As a longtime apartment-dweller, I’ve found that the “visual weight” of a piece of furniture can really influence how big it feels in a room. It may technically fit, but it’ll seem huge if it’s a dark or bulky piece or if it’s too close to other furniture.


To visualize how a bigger piece of furniture will look, take the time to block out the length and width on the floor (I like to use painter’s tape), and also the height of the table. I usually stand on my tape corners with a tape measure, then try to fill in that space with furniture of a similar size (like a couple of chairs), and take a step back to see how it’ll feel. It also helps to have a friend stand there with the tape measure while you have a look.


If you’re tight on space, consider options like leaves that allow the table to extend. “These let you customize the table for different entertainment needs and party sizes,” said Meredith Mahoney, founder and design director of Birch Lane.

The one thing Mr. Pourny warned against was too many mechanisms or leaves that are attached or hidden within the table (versus stand-alone leaves). “If you buy things that are too complicated, it’s just more opportunity for something to fail,” he said.


Square and rectangular tables are the most common, so you’ll find the greater number of choices there with styles, sizes and extendable options. But a round or oval table can give you a little more space to move around since it cuts off the corners but still has a good surface area. “For tighter, rectangular spaces, the oval might be the best option,” Mr. Dyer explained.

“Round or oval tables can be great for parties and conversation because there’s no head of the table, too,” said Ms. Harris. In terms of squeezing people in, you’re only limited by the perimeter of the table — but you can lose a little space for serving pieces once you have all your place settings at a round or oval table.


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