How to choose the perfect dining table

Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

Choosing a dining table for your space can be trickier than you think. These are the most popular types of dining tables to help you choose the one best suited to your lifestyle.

Like the sofa, dining tables are typically a long-term furniture purchase; they tend not to be replaced as often as other items like rugs or soft furnishings, so the decision is a bigger commitment.

Dining tables also tend to be multi-functional, acting not only as a place for dining but also a place to work or study. Every household will have different requirements for their dining table, which is why it’s best to do your research and determine what factors are most important to you.

Below, Mia Lake, interior design director at Vic Lake Architects, talks us through the most popular types of dining tables, to help you choose the right style for your home.

Bench seating at a dining table can create a relaxed vibe. Picture: Freedom

Round dining tables

A circular table is ideal for those who love to socialise as the shape encourages conversation at every meal. “Round tables are great for entertainers or in a family home as everyone has the option to see each other and talk,” says Mia, adding: “No one is left isolated at the end of the table.”

While round tables are a favourable option in smaller homes because the actual surface area of the table tends to be smaller, they also promote a good flow to the space.

“A round table is great to sit in the middle of a room because it can act as a ’round-about’; the flow of transition just works better when there are no sharp corners.”

Great for conversationalists. Picture: Prudence Caroline

Dining tables with bench seating

Got a big family?

A dining table with bench seating may be for you. Mia says: “Bench-style seats are great for getting lots of bums-on-seats, plus they’re space-saving and appear less bulky in a room. The communal bench is great for people with young kids or people who regularly have people come over for dinner.”

But bench seats are not ideal for everyone. In fact, Mia says she has a love-hate relationship with them. “They are not great if you are the middle person wanting to get out. I also prefer back support from a chair.”

If you love the look of bench seats but worry about the cons, Mia suggests buying bench seating for one side only, and using dining chairs on the opposite side. “It gives the best of both worlds.”

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Bench seating is relaxed and ideal for frequent entertainers. Picture: Lisa Cohen

Kitchen bench top dining

Many new developments are built to exclude the dining room altogether, and more and more people are opting to include stools and quick dining areas as part of their kitchen designs. It’s the modern dining table that includes no table at all.

Mia says: “We don’t use dining tables the way we used to. Teenagers, singles, and families with young kids don’t use dining tables in the same ways we did.”

Kitchen bench top dining areas allow for people to come together and enjoy a meal, without the formalities.

A favourable option for inner-city dwellers. Styling: Lucy McCabe. Picture: Cantilever Interiors

Built-in seating

A structural commitment and far more permanent, built-in dining seats are reminiscent of cafe-style dining and are favoured by architects today.

“Built-in seating is excellent for people who use the dining table to do things other than just eat,” says Mia.

“As it is comfortable, built-in seating often becomes a space to sit and have a conversation with loved ones or read the paper in comfort. This layout also saves space, as you eliminate the ‘walking’ space behind the built-in seat.”

“I don’t recommend this option if you have young kids,” says Mia, adding that food will make its way into the fabric pretty quickly. Picture: Nest Seekers International

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The big statement table

You know them when you see them; the table that immediately catches the eye and demands compliments.

“Anyone who wants to make a statement is generally choosing a statement dining table for a tick of approval from their guest,” says Mia. “These types of tables are perfect for the entertainer, not necessarily just for dinner parties, but someone who wants their table to be seen.”

A statement table will usually be placed centre stage in a home. Picture: Negrosis Studio

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Tips for choosing dining table seating

Remember, you don’t have to purchase the chairs that are recommended to go with your dining table and often they’re marked up in price to be sold as a set. Have a look around for chairs that suit your aesthetic and your needs and don’t be persuaded to buy chairs from the same store you bought your table from.

When purchasing separate chairs you need to make sure they fit under your chosen table with a person sitting on them. Ensure fabric chairs are hard wearing and take long-term comfort into account.

Most chairs are comfortable for ten minutes but any longer is a different story, so try to imagine spending the whole evening in a chair before you purchase it.

Some stores don’t allow you to purchase just the dining room table without the matching chairs so make sure you enquire about this before you decide on a design.

Tips for nailing dining table placement

The recommended distance between the wall and a dining room table is about 115cm.

This gives enough room for someone to sit comfortably at the table in a chair and for other people to walk around the table with people seated at it. Don’t be tempted to push the boundaries.

Tips for choosing a dining table for your needs

If you have a family of four, a glass-topped modern table that no one is allowed to get fingerprints on is probably not the greatest dining table choice. Pick something practical that will work for your needs, not what you think you want.

If you live alone and you simply must have a high polished dining table that you lovingly tend to each week with wood conditioner, go for it. Just make sure you’re meeting the needs and behavioural expectations of the people who will be using the dining table.

Buy it for the house you have now. There’ s no point in buying a giant hardwood table for the huge house you’re going to buy one day. Although dining tables can be expensive, there’s no point in buying one that you can’t use until you’re in a house that’s big enough. Buy a table that suits your needs now.

Originally published as How to choose the perfect dining table by Carly Jacobs.

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