Table buying guide

The table was always a place where the family connected at mealtime, and now it’s so much more: This is where the family gathers to eat, work and learn from home, catch up on the news and learn new recipes. Looking for a new dining room table for your family home? Find everything you need to know here before you start shopping.

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1How to Find the Right Sized Table

Dining room table sizing

These are the most essential measurements you need to ensure your table will fit your space and lifestyle.

  • Table to room: Allow 36 inches or more from each wall and large piece of furniture to the edge of the table. This will ensure your table looks good in your space and allow enough room for diners to walk around it and comfortably get to their seats.
  • Chair to table: Allow 12 inches from the chair’s seat to the bottom edge of the tabletop (or 7 inches from the arms to the bottom edge of the tabletop) so that everyone’s legs will fit comfortably under the table, and chairs can be tucked in when not in use.
  • Space per person: Allow 24 inches per person across the tabletop to seat each diner comfortably. That way, each diner has enough space to eat (and talk) without feeling squished.
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Measuring Tip
“In the design world, we play around with floor plans and layouts,” says designer and stylist Morgan Lindsay. “You can do the same at home by taping out the size of the table on the ground. This helps you visualize the amount of space the piece will take up and show you how much room you have to move around it.”

2How to Find the Table Shape That Works for You

Oval-shaped dining table

Your table’s shape and its leg style or base structure influence how many people can comfortably sit around it. Learn more about the pros and cons of different table shapes here.

Rectangular: The most commonly available shape with lots of variety. It’s practical in most rooms and best for crowds of four or more. Pointy edges can pose a hazard in tight spaces.

Square: Cozy and intimate, square tables are suitable for square rooms, though not practical for groups larger than four. Again, pointy edges can pose a hazard.

Round: Another cozy and intimate option, round tables are suitable for small and square rooms. They’re not practical for groups larger than six (unless you have a very large, square room to fill).

Oval: Suitable for narrow spaces, oval shapes are great for inspiring cross-table conversations, though there’s less space for serving food.

Table Leg and Base Styles

“The location of the legs is important when factoring in dining chairs and how many people you want seated around the table,” says Lindsay. Here’s the lowdown on the most common table bases.

  • Legs: The most common table base, with endless styles available. Thin legs offer more space for seating, while thick ones offer more stability but reduce available legroom. Keep in mind that angled legs that stretch out beyond the tabletop can be a tripping hazard, and are difficult to navigate in tight spaces.
  • Pedestal: Offers the most legroom of any table base. Sturdy, well-constructed pedestals can be quite heavy; the larger the table, the less stable it will be.
  • Trestle: Sturdy and versatile—looks great on rustic farmhouse tables and industrial models alike. Trestles make it easy to squeeze extra diners along the sides, but take up a lot of visual space, and reduced legroom at table ends can make it harder to seat people there.

3How to Choose the Right Table Material and Style

Now for the fun part! Materials play a major role in the look of a table—whether it’s a classic farmhouse oak ten-seater or an industrial steel table for two—but there are functional considerations, too. Here’s what you need to know about the most common table materials.

Wood

Wooden dining table

With so many options available, there are few styles that don’t work with wooden tables. If you gravitate towards old-is-new design trends like farmhouse, shabby chic, cottage-core, rustic or mid-century modern, then wood is a particularly good choice. For the most sustainable options, look for suppliers that have been certified by Forest Stewardship Council.

Popular wood options:

  • Oak: This durable hardwood is naturally light and can be stained to almost any shade. A well-made oak table can last for decades—centuries, even—but they can be on the pricier side.
  • Pine: Pine tables are softer and more easily scratched than other varieties, but they’re also more affordable. DIY bonus: scratched pine tables are relatively easy to sand and stain or paint if you want to refresh yours.
  • Acacia: Extremely durable, acacia is popular choice for outdoor furniture since it lasts so long and can stand up to the weather. Unsealed acacia can grey with age and may require oiling to maintain its colour.
  • Walnut: Walnut is a tough, long-lasting hardwood that can have intricate grain patterns. Walnut tables are often pricier than other wood options.

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Wood Veneer

Wood veneer dining table

Wood veneer is a good choice if you like the look of wood, but don’t want to pay for it—and if you don’t mind sacrificing durability. With this option, a thin layer of wood or wood-look material is glued over an inexpensive core, often plywood. “Be careful about getting them wet as sometimes the veneer can start peeling along the edges,” says Lindsay.

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Glass

Glass dining table

Glass-top tables look nice in modern and industrial settings, but it takes an abundance of caution to keep them in top shape (they are glass, after all). They’re not ideal with families with small children, says Lindsay. “Remember that glass and fingerprints might drive you insane. You’ll also need to be wary of dragging anything across the tabletop to avoid scratches.”

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Metal

Metal dining table

Although a grey, industrial-chic table might be what springs to mind when you think ‘metal’ this material comes in a variety of colours, and can add retro cheer, too. Morgan notes that metal can scratch easily, but it’s also easy to clean.

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4How to Choose the Best Chairs for Your Table

Dining table and chairs

The easiest way to be certain your dining chairs fit with your table is to purchase a set. But if you prefer to mix and match—maybe you already have great chairs, or maybe you like an eclectic look—then you’ll want to ensure your chairs and table work together. Here’s what to look for.

  • Remember that the distance from the top of the chair’s seat to the bottom of the tabletop should be around 12 inches; if the chair has arms, allow around seven inches from the top of the arms to the bottom of the tabletop so you can tuck them away neatly when not in use.
  • If your table has an apron—a section of wood that connects the tabletop to the legs—be sure to factor it into your measurements, as it will affect how much space is available for chairs to slide under.

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Space-Saving Tip
Benches and banquettes (a.k.a. built-in benches) can seat multiple people with legroom to spare. For example, if you have three small kids, says Lindsay, they can sit on the bench on one side of the table and the adults can have a bit more space on the other side.

5Tips for Testing Tables

Testing a dining table

Tables, chairs and people vary a lot, so if your family is particularly tall (or short), you may want to test chairs and tables for fit and comfort before buying.

  • Sit at the table and see how it feels. Try a few positions to make sure your legs fit comfortably, crossing your legs or even sitting cross-legged if that’s what you would do at home. If you’re not buying a set, bring your chair measurements so you can estimate how the chairs and table will work together.
  • Read the product specs carefully, checking all measurements. Place a piece of masking tape on a wall where the bottom of the table would hit, then pull a chair nearby and sit on it to estimate legroom. Hold a ruler or book parallel to the piece of tape and test how your legs fit in different positions. Don’t forget to factor in chair measurements if you’re buying table and chairs separately.

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