Seattle's Child

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Dining table 101

As you move indoors for the season, it's a good time to turn your attention to the centerpiece of family and holiday affairs: the dining room. Maybe you're hosting a big holiday to-do this year. Or maybe it's just time to update your dining room into space you truly love.

The holidays will be here before we know it (gulp…), so here are some table and seating tips to get you going!


Analyze Your Space

If you're shopping for a new table, the first thing you want to look at is the space where the table will go. This is obvious, but it's easy get caught up in the moment and fall in love with a table, or any piece of furniture, that isn't really right for your space. In the long run, a potentially expensive mistake.

You want a table that compliments the size and shape of the room and allows plenty of space for people to get in and out of their seats. Be sure to consider whether or not you need extra space for foot traffic to flow through any area of the room.

Rectangular or oval tables do better than round tables in long, narrow rooms.

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Oval tables create a softer look, plus there are no hard corners on which to bang little heads!


Round tables are great in square rooms, and allow you to seat more more people without sticking anyone in an awkward corner.

Round tables also work well in small spaces.

Hot Tip!

Keep in mind that your table doesn't necessarily have to go in the middle of the room. Many people place their dining table directly below the light fixture, which makes perfect sense but may also waste valuable space.

To gain more floor space and improve traffic flow, move your table off to one side or place it perpendicular to the wall. Most light fixtures can be easily adapted into a swag with a chain or wire.




Naturally, you also want to consider seating capacity of your table. There's a great chart on Pinterest to help visualize seating options for a variety of table dimensions.

During the holidays, you may have an especially packed table, and I think that's just fine within reason. It keeps things cozy and intimate! Generally speaking, most people need about two feet of dining space to be comfortable.

Hot Tip!

I always advise my clients to "design for the majority of the time, not the minority of the time." So if most of the time you're feeding a family of four, but twice a year you need to seat eight, opt for a table that feels great for four but that has an extra leaf or two for when you need to grow.

Style and Shape

When it comes to comfortable seating, the table base plays a big part. Every style has pros and cons.

  • Pedestal: Mounted in the center with a wide base for stability. This shape works especially well for fitting larger groups without bumping knees under the table.



  • Trestle: Usually two legs, one at each end of the table, with a stable base for longer, rectangular tables. Like the pedestal, the trestle tables afford ample leg room but can be a bit bulky in smaller rooms.


  • Four-legged: A standard table base with four legs. A nice, clean look but you lose seating and leg space around the corners.



Chair vs. Bench: Chairs are ideal for personal space, but benches are better for fitting extra bodies – especially kids. Chairs also tend to offer more style versatility and better back support. You can always mix and match, with a bench at one or both sides with chairs on the ends.


Set the heads apart : One of my personal favorites is to have host/hostess chairs, which tend to be a little larger and more distinguished, at the heads with dressed down chairs on either side.


Mix and Match: So your table is a bit more traditional but you've found a modern chair you love. Go for it! There is no hard and fast rule for what works. In fact, mixing and matching chair and table styles or even all of your chairs is a great way to add your signature style and make a statement in the dining room.


Making Do vs Buying New: Some of the coolest chairs I've seen are DIY custom creations. Maybe you have some decent chairs that just don't float your boat anymore. Is it the color? Paint ‘em! Need some pizazz? Replace or add a new cushion! If you're not up to the task yourself, check with your local upholstery shop. It just might be easier and more affordable than you think to get a new, completely original look you love.


Remember, there are no rules. Poke around Houzz and Pinterest for more great ideas and dress your dining room up, or down, in a way that feels good to you.

Sara Eizen is a Seattle-based interior designer and home organizer with a passion for helping busy families reclaim style and space in their homes on any budget. In a bi-weekly column for Seattle's Child, Sara shares creative, fun, affordable tips and tricks for clearing clutter, sprucing up rooms with minimal effort, creating systems that simplify family life, and much more.

About the Author

Sara Eizen