How To Choose A Kitchen And Dining Table

The dining table - a gathering hub, a focal point and the heart of the home, it's crucial that you pick one that fits the space, enhances the aesthetics and suits your budget.  

Kitchen and dining tables have evolved into this protean, utilitarian surface that's burdened with a multitude of responsibilities these days. It is where your guests will gather, come an impromptu weekend do. It is where the kids will come together to finish their arts projects. It is also where you will sit, with family, often for hours, sharing laughs and contemplating about the days to come. 

If this is your first attempt at shopping for kitchen and dining tables, then it can be a tad overwhelming. Here's some help.

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How big a dining table should I get?

Irrespective of whether you have a formal dining room to place the table in, or you are just squeezing out some space between the living room and your open kitchen, measuring the space is the first step to ensure balance and harmony. 

  • The dining table needs to fit in the space without being too cramped or the other way round, too small. 
  • If it's too cramped, it will make the space look overwhelming. 
  • If it's too small, the space will look empty. Contrary to popular believe, no amount of carts will fill the void. 
  • Even if you are a family of three, go for a table for five or six people if you have the room.

How do you decide whether there's enough space? Here are some numbers to use as a reference point. 

  • Each person at the table needs at least 25-30" of room to eat comfortably without elbows bumping into each other.
  • In addition to this, you need at least 3 feet of wall/furniture clearance on all sides, so that you and your guests can get in and out of the chairs comfortably.  
  • Anything lesser than this and it would be too tight a fit for the available space.

What's the right shape for my dining table?

Square and rectangular tables

  • Square and rectangular tables are generally suited for large, long spaces. That doesn't mean that you cannot place a square table in a narrow space. It's just that it would make it very difficult to comfortably move around the table for serving. Ditto with rectangular tables which have demanding footprints. 
  • If you have your mind set on a square or rectangular table, a workaround is to use a bench instead of chairs. This way, you can tuck it under the table when it's not in use, saving space. 
  • You can also opt for** a drop leaf design** which can be folded when not in use.
  • The advantage od rectangular tables is that there is an abundance of styles to pick from, in both square and rectangular tables. 
  • A lot of home owners match the shape of the table to the room. Square tables for square rooms and rectangular ones for long, narrow rooms.
Square Extendable Butterfly Lea Dining Table
Solid Wood Square Dining Table
Washed Pine Rectangular Dining Table
Distressed Solid Wood Rectangular Dining Table
Manufactured Wood Extendable Rectangular Dining Table
Beech Solid Wood Square Dining Table

Round and oval tables

  • Round and oval tables are better suited for smaller spaces as they maximize the utility of every inch of available space.
  • There are no corners. 
  • Round and oval tables have smaller footprints, particularly pedestal-styled ones and can be placed just about anywhere without looking like a misfit. Be it a tiny nook or a large open-eating area, they blend right in. 
  • The caveat is that the larger the round table, the more difficult it will be to reach out and grab that bowl of mashed potatoes. Adding a lazy susan to the center will put things right within your reach.
Light Oak Solid Wood Round Dining Table
Dark Pewter Metal Round Dining Table
High Gloss Lacquer Round Dining Table
Oatmeal Extendable Oval Dining Table
Rubber Wood Oval Dining Table
Glass Solid Wood Oval Dining Table
Tempered Glass Extendable Oval Dining Table
Solid Wood Round Pedestal Extendable Dining Table

Pro tip: Analyze visually before deciding

If you aren't able to decide on a shape and size, here's a possible way to wrap your head around it. 

  • Mark the area that you have earmarked for the kitchen and dining table with painter's tape. To get an idea of the height, fill that area with similar-sized furniture pieces. Chairs, for example. 

  • Grab a bedsheet or two if need be and fold it to the size and shape of the table. This way you will know the exact amount of space it needs and also how it will look in the surroundings.

What are the advantages of different dining table materials?

Aesthetics and dimensions apart, the table needs to be as sturdy as a rock, easy to maintain and suited to the space around it. It's vital to pick the right material and texture.

Your options are manifold. 

Wood

Classic, infallible material available in almost every style of furnishing. Surprisingly low on maintenance, extremely durable and easy to fix if it does get damaged. Solid hardwood like Oak, Maple, Walnut and Mahogany are top of the line, followed by less expensive varieties like Mango, teak and Pine. If you have a limited budget, then you can consider wood veneer, which mimics the look of solid wood at a fraction of the cost.

Oak Solid Wood Dining Table
Mahogany Solid Wood Extendable Dining Table
Walnut Solid Wood Dining Table
Pine Solid Wood Dining Table
Pine Wood Veneer Dining Table
Natural Teak Wood Dining Table
Natural Solid Wood Dining Table
Mango Solid Wood Dining Table

Stone

Very durable material choice available in a wide and stunning range of colors and patterns. Marble, Granite, Limestone, travertine, soapstone, slate, onyx and quartzite are some of the natural stones used for making dining tables. But some of these can be very pricey options and also prone to staining.

Dark Gray Concrete Dining Table
Marble Solid Manufactured Wood Dining Table
White Carrera Marble Dining Table
White Concrete Wood Dining Table
Gray White Marble Dining Table
Beige Genuine Marble Dining Table
Metal Round Pedestal Stone Table
Gray Stone Concrete Dining Table

Glass

Perfect for small spaces as it creates a sense of openness. There's no dearth of options too with clear, tinted and frosted varieties. But glass can be prone to chipping, scratches and damage. Not to mention, a magnet for smudges and fingerprints. But some household cleaner and a wipe can go a long way in keeping it in prime condition. A well-maintained glass table can last for years.

Glass Solid Wood Dining Table
Gold Glass Metal Dining Table
Glass Steel Round Dining Table
Ant Mirror Glass Dining Table
Dark Sonoma Glass Dining Table
Silver Glass Solid Wood Dining Table
Clear Tempered Glass Dining Table
White Clear Glass Dining Table

Metal

Metals like copper, iron, brass and even silver are increasingly being used by designers to make kitchen and dining tables. Apart from being versatile enough to match any décor, metal tables are incredibly durable. If you get hit by a tornado, get under one of these. They can however, be prone to stains. Not to mention, extremely heavy. If you are looking for something that can be pushed around and readjusted, an all-metal table will not be a good option.

Antique White Metal Dining Table
Antique Rust Metal Dining Table
Metal Solid Wood Extendable Dining Table
Metal Fir Solid Wood Dining Table
Counter Height Metal Solid Wood Dining Table
Brushed Gold Metal Dining Table
Metal Stainless Steel Dining Table
Metal Solid Manufactured Wood Dining Table

Final word

Despite all the advice that we can give, selecting the right dining table is an intimate, personalized experience. Sit down and make a checklist of some of the best features that you'd like in a dining table.

  • Do you prefer a round, wooden table for candle lit, intimate dinners? 
  • Do you host a sizeable crowd on the weekend and would prefer an extended table? 
  • Maybe the room lacks natural light and a glass table can do wonders to enhance it. 

Keep ticking that checklist and you should be able to decide on the factors that matter the most to you. Happy shopping.