A dining table is one of the biggest, and most important, investments you’ll make for your home. Second to the place we sleep, where we eat is hugely important because it’s the place where we spend a lot of time. Today, our dining tables are also doubling up as home offices and school desks – and whatever investment we make, it needs to last.
So, yes – the best dining table is the right one for your budget. But your dining table also needs to be solidly made, to fit your space – and to be a style that you will love for years. This is not the place for trends – most tables will last 5-10 years, but it is not unusual for dining tables to stay in the family home for decades and some of the very best, durable designs will become true heirloom pieces.
We’re experts at dining tables and beautiful, durable design, so here is Extraordinary Tables’ guide to choosing a new table for your home.
Before you begin to consider your budget or the style you like, think about how you feel when you sit at a dining table. Sit at your own table now, think about how comfortable it is for long lunches, is it the place you also enjoy breakfast or morning coffee? Does it show signs of wear and tear and, if so, do these nicks and bumps add to the charm or are they so plentiful that you wish you had invested in a better quality table some years ago?
Rule 1: Measure Twice
Your dining table has to fit your dining area and this is the number one rule. But a dining table can be a deceptively large piece of furniture, you may want a table seating 6, but you need to think about the space around the table and the space you need between settings. If there are 6 of you seated together regularly, you will appreciate the extra space every day if your room can accommodate a table seating 8, or even 10, people.
Chairs need room to be pulled back, and even if you’re not providing a silver service for dinner – you will need to be able to move comfortably around it.
Allow for 3 feet on all sides and make sure you can walk easily all the way round. If you’re furnishing an empty room, position 4 chairs (or similar) at each corner of where the table’s measurements will sit. Be generous – allow a little extra space than undercut yourself. Stand in one corner of the room and visualise what the space will look like with a solid piece of heavy furniture in place.
2: What shape do you need?
Round tables are not so well suited to modern living arrangements as square or rectangular tables. There is a huge choice of styles, sizes and materials, so the shape you want really does come down to preference.
Rectangular tables have a timeless quality and if this is your preference, there is a lot to choose from.
3: Choose your supports carefully
The base and how it ‘works’ is not to be overlooked. You do not want leg space to be compromised with supports so you need to sit at it in person and see for yourself. Check if you have enough space for your knees, and if you can comfortably cross your legs underneath.
A table with thinner legs, or where the legs are at the corners, will make it easier to squeeze an extra chair in, but if you only require a few chairs, the base is more prominent so how this looks may be an important part of your decision.
4: Consider the materials
Choosing the material for a dining table is always difficult: you have to balance price, day to day care and cleaning. Your lifestyle is really important here as tables that a right for a young family have different considerations to dining tables for entertaining.
■ Wood: Solid wood is both classic, durable and easy to repair. Solid wood is making a come-back and consumers are seeking out sustainably sourced materials, but these are not mass produced so they do come at a price. Yes, there are budget options, often of unfinished wood and very cheap in price but a table that is built to last will come at a price. Wood expands and contracts with heat and humidity, but is fairly easy to repair and if the finish is durable, upkeep is minimal.
■ Veneer/Wood-Effect: Wood veneer is often a cheaper alternative to solid wood. A very thin layer of solid wood (or material printed to look like wood) is glued to a wooden core. Wood-effect and veneer tables are not made from sustainable sources and the particleboard may not have passed emissions tests. Always ask what a table is made of, and if you’re not given a straight answer, ask yourself why…
■ Glass: Glass tabletops are relatively inexpensive but it can chip, scratch or crack from heat. Glass also shows every fingerprint so it rarely looks as good at home as it does in the showroom! Something to consider if you have small people with busy, tiny hands at home!
■ Laminates or plastics: Man-made materials can last a long time, but they are rarely of the quality that you’re happy to have in your home, and to eat from day to day. Tables made of these materials will probably resist staining and be of a functional, smooth design.
5: You want sturdy, reliable construction
A good dining table is sturdy and well-made, with a finish that can stand up to daily use without showing obvious wear. The joinery is the term for the places where the base and tabletop fit together — and the more solid this is, the longer the table will last.
Wood joined directly with wood is very strong so, in general, simpler is better. And beware of really cheap tables: They could be held together just with glue and what looks like sturdy fixings is sometimes painted on or for decorative purposes only.