There are so many shapes and sizes of dining table out there to choose from, that the choice can sometimes become bewildering. Should you go for rectangular, circular, square or oval? Legs or a pedestal base? Metal, wood or plastic? So many choices! So let's simplify things, to start: forget about the look of the table for now, and think about the space it's going to sit in. Specifically, think about the size of your space. You want your table to be at least 91cm wide, to allow ample space for table settings and a centrepiece, but you'll need clearance around this so diners can move around the table comfortably. Read on for tips on choosing the right dining table, and the right sized dining table, for your home.
The first thing to do is to measure the space between the walls of your room. This will dictate the maximum length and width of your table. The table should fit in the room such that it leaves space on all sides for people to push out their seats. The size of this 'buffer zone' will depend on whether you just want diners to be able to sit down and stand up, using the zone only to enter or exit the dining space, or if you need a through space. If the former, a gap of 81 cm is comfortable. If the space behind the chairs will be trafficked through, then a gap of 97 cm is more appropriate.
The next thing to factor in a buffer zone between the table and any other furniture in the room. If you plan on retaining existing furniture, you'll need to measure this, and recalculate your maximum width and length accordingly. If your dining table is the first item you're buying for the room, you'll need to make a decision as to whether you'll want to add other furniture in the future, and allow extra space if you do. If visualisation isn't your strong suit, get a sheet, fold it to match the size of the table you want, and place it on the floor in the position your dining table will take up. It can be incredibly hard to visualise how an object will occupy space in an empty room, so this step is crucial if you don't want to end up with something that's either too big or too small.
Allow approximately 61cm space for each diner—though 70cm or more is more comfortable. If the number of diners at your table regularly fluctuates—for example if you frequently host large groups, then consider a drop leaf or extensible table. 'Pull out' extensible tables, like this one, have the advantage of concealing the extra available space for every-day.
Circular dining tables are great for small spaces, and pedestal bases allow for more people to be seated comfortably at the table, without knocking their knees into table legs. Round tables in small spaces also mean no sharp corners to bump into.
Bear in mind if investing in a larger circular table—for more than four people—that the bigger the table, the wider the diameter, meaning it will be difficult for diners to reach into the centre of the table for condiments or dishes. At a certain width you might consider accessorising with a Lazy Susan—a circular spinning platter that sits in the middle of the table, that will make it easier for guests to reach what they need.
If you want a larger table but don't quite have the clearance space for seating on either side of it, a bench is a great option. Make sure you choose a bench that can be stowed under the table when not in use.
Consider chair size if not buying a matching set. Standard seat width is between 51 and 61cm, but if you want wider chairs you'll obviously have to invest in a bigger table. If you like rounded edges but need extra space, an oval table is a good choice—for even more space opt for one with a pedestal base.
One exception to clearance rules is a bench set against a wall, where guests 'slide off' rather than 'push back' to exit the table.
Square, or square-ish tables, are a very contemporary choice, and create a pleasant intimacy, in that nobody is at the 'head' of the table, and everyone is side by side. As with circular tables, just be sure they're not so wide your guests can't reach into the centre of the dining space comfortably.