Today, Jennifer responds to a reader’s question about choosing the right table and accessories for her dining room:
Starting Over with a Blank Slate Is a Fun Place to Be
Thanks so much for writing to ask my opinions about home decor, I certainly do appreciate it! So, you’re moving into a different house, and it’s a place you’re hoping to put down some deep roots and stay for a long time. That’s so exciting! You really are in a fun situation right now. Each room of your new home is a blank slate where you now have full freedom to create, design, and personalize. I also appreciate how seriously you’re taking this opportunity, and how you want to get each room just right – including the dining room.
A Dining Room Is More Than Just a Place to Eat
Even though you’ve come to me because of my expertise as an interior designer and a curator of optimal living spaces, it’s apparent from your letter that I don’t need to preach to you about the significance of the dining room area. From a functional perspective, of course it’s a place for you to take your meals, but it’s really more than that. The dining room is also one of the real heart spaces of your home, because it’s meant to be a place where you can connect, laugh, and enjoy time with family and friends over a good meal. Sure, people gather in living rooms and dens, but there’s just a natural attraction to the dining room as a gathering spot. Food and fellowship just seem to naturally go hand-in-hand!
It All Starts with the Table
Ok, that’s enough philosophical perspective for now. Let’s roll up our sleeves and talk about what you need to do with the dining room. One aspect of a dining room’s beauty and charm is its pure simplicity. In terms of dining room furniture, the space is ultimately defined by the table and chairs. And just as the dining room is a focal point of your home, the table itself is the focal point of your dining room. Because that’s true, you really want to make sure you get the table right. Which brings us full-circle to your question – which dining room table is right for me? While there is no single answer that applies to everyone, some essential things to consider include choosing a table that’s well-constructed, has a style you love, meets your budget, and fits within your available room space.
Assess the Available Room Space
Before you go too far down the path of choosing a table style, you should start by assessing your available room space. Your table needs to allow for the number of people you want/need to seat comfortably, and there also still needs to be enough space left over for people to be able to get up and walk around with relative ease. So you want to start by getting out a tape measure and getting a good feel for the dimensions of the room itself; then you can play with mapping out the space and toying with different ideas for table placement.
I recommend going with a table that’s at least 3 feet wide, so you’ll have space for place settings, serving bowls, and some sort of centerpiece at a minimum. (We’ll come back to some ideas about place settings and centerpieces later in this blog.) Allow for around 2 feet of eating space for each person at the table; you don’t want to overcrowd your table. How much clearance do you need to plan for around the perimeter of your table? In a smaller dining room, I’d suggest you build in a buffer of at least 3.5 or 4 feet between the table and the wall. If your dining room is larger and includes other furniture, just make sure you maintain that same buffer between the table and any other nearby furniture.
What shape of table should you choose? Again, that depends somewhat on the space you have available. Round tables are perfect for smaller dining rooms and breakfast nooks. From a functional design perspective, some people appreciate the fact that round tables have no sharp corners to bump into or navigate around. A 4-foot-diameter table can comfortably seat four people, while a table that’s 6 feet in diameter can usually accommodate eight. Square tables can be made to fit into tighter spaces as well, if you prefer that style over a round table. There is one thing to keep in mind when considering a round or square table of a larger diameter, though. If the table is particularly deep, it can sometimes make it a little challenging to reach for food in the middle of the table.
If you have a larger dining room, a rectangular-shaped table is always a fine choice. With a rectangular design, you can really go as big as you need to in order to accommodate any desired number of people. Rectangular tables also work well in long, narrow rooms, and can be a perfect solution for combination kitchen/dining rooms that don’t have an abundance of width space to work with. Specific table manufacturers offer their own seating guidelines, but here are some general rules of thumb you can go by. A 4-foot-long table will seat four, a 7-foot-table will seat eight, and an 8- to 9-foot table should seat ten. And if you’re looking for a space-saving tip for seating, consider using a bench instead of chairs on one or both long sides of your table. Mixing benches and chairs is also a way to be more creative with the visual design aesthetic you want to create in your dining room.
Now that you have an idea about size and shape, it’s time to consider the right table material for you. Solid wood is a classic, timeless choice. It’s durable, sturdy, and fairly easy to repair – but it can also get quite pricy, depending on the type of wood and the particular manufacturer. Reclaimed wood in an eco-friendly option to consider that can fit in with many styles, and the marked, worn appearance of the wood adds some nice character, too.
There are also some nice-looking wood veneer models on today’s market that are a more affordable option. Still, some veneers are better than others, so make sure that what you’re getting is truly a good veneer. Look for tables with core interiors that are clearly labeled, like a kiln-dried hardwood. When it comes to wood veneers, I always like to ask the salesperson exactly what the table is made of. If they’re not sure or have no idea, I’d suggest moving on to something else.
There are many other table materials available besides wood and wood veneer, too. There are glass-top tables, metal-top tables, and even some higher-end plastics and laminates. If price is no object, then a stone-topped table is certainly worth considering as well. Stone tabletops include everything from granite to marble to quartz composite, and there are cast stone (like cement) models as well. Basically, when it comes to table material options, the only limits are your imagination, personal tastes, and budget!
Centerpieces and Place Settings
Now that we’ve talked a good bit about how to go about choosing the right dining room table, let’s finish the blog by looking at some good ways to accessorize your table. Just as the table is the focal point of the dining room, the right centerpiece and place settings can be great focal points for your table. What to use for the centerpiece? People commonly go with decorative vases, trays, bowls, baskets, or other types of serving ware. For the place settings, it’s always nice to have some sort of attractive base on which to arrange individual plates and silverware. And if you’re looking for something stylish with more of a global, artisan look, let me recommend the Conscious Commerce collection we now offer at Jennifer Adams. These hand-crafted pieces from Ghana, Uganda, and Rwanda are simply beautiful, and proceeds from their sale also go back to benefit the citizens of many poverty-stricken villages in Africa.
Have Fun with Your New Home!
I hope that you’ll find these tips for furnishing and decorating your new dining room to be helpful, and I wish you all the best in setting up your new home!