by Staff Writer
Selecting a dining table seems simple enough, but since it gets a great deal of use, you want to make sure you choose the right one. Your dining room table can serve as a daily meeting place for family, the place where loved ones gather to celebrate holidays and milestones, or a staging area for big projects; all that adds up to one significant piece of furniture. To find your ideal dining room table, consider these features: size, capacity, shape, and style.
Choose the right size for the room: Dining furniture comes in many sizes, so be sure that the table you choose is sized appropriately for your space. A bistro table is nice for a breakfast nook or a patio, but it tends to look too small in a large room. Before choosing any dining room furniture, measure your dining room. Remember that you'll need space around the table for walking and pulling out chairs. For maximum comfort, leave at least 48 inches between the edge of the table and the wall or closest piece of furniture.
Consider how many people you need to seat: If your entertaining style focuses on close friends and immediate family, then a small table works just fine. Seating four or five people around a large dining room table can feel impersonal and distant. If you're filling a large space with a large formal dining table but will typically have a limited number of guests, consider a drop-leaf table with extra leaves, so you can add or subtract space as needed. If every meal to be eaten at your dining table is a full family affair, then choose a large table and make it a permanent fixture. As a general rule of thumb, choose a table that affords each diner at least 24 inches of space.
Find a shape that works for you: Capacity, ambiance, and a table's ability to fill a space are all affected by shape. Round dining tables encourage conversations because no one is at the head of the table; they're great for creating a social atmosphere. Small, square dining tables are perfect for small groups. Oblong dining tables create a dramatic setting in a large room and can accommodate a large group or big family while rectangular tables add a sense of formality to any occasion.
Decide on the style: What tone do you want your dining room to set? For a room that reinforces the architecture of your home, choose dining room furniture that's true to the style. Pine dining tables, along with most lightly stained woods, will have a fairly casual feel to them. Darker woods, like cherry and mahogany, make wonderful formal dining tables. Metal and glass dining tables, even though they're more modern than wood, can be just as formal as an ornate mahogany dining table in the right room. Dark metals lend themselves toward more reserved occasions, whereas shiny steel and aluminum evoke a casual feel.