If you plan to buy a new dining room table—whether to equip your new home or to replace an old table that’s seen better days—be sure to do it right. Buying a new dining room table isn’t just a matter of picking out one from a catalog or website and hoping for the best. You need to take time to measure your space and review the data to see what size and shape fits best in your dining room. If you aren’t sure where to start, keep reading.
Here’s a guide on how to calculate the right dining table size for your space. Take notes so you’ll know what to look for while shopping for a new piece. Also be sure to calculate the right dimensions to give the craftsperson or woodworker if you’re commissioning a fine piece of handmade wooden furniture.
Read the Room
Before you get out your credit card or checkbook and prepare to shop for a dining room table, take a moment to assess the space it’ll occupy. Note the shape of the room, the position of the doors and windows (if any are present), and the general traffic pattern in and around the room. Pick up some graph paper and draw a simple sketch of the floor layout and any other furniture that’s present. Before you break out the tape measure, decide on the type and shape of table that will work best by doodling possibilities on the page. As a rule of thumb, longer rooms accommodate rectangular tables, while smaller rooms are better suited for square or round tables. Whatever you pick, it will prepare you for the next few steps.
Measure, Measure, Measure
Have your tape measure ready to go! Start with the most basic measurement of all: the perimeter. Specifically, measure the length and the width of the room. Use your graph paper representation to note the measurements, making each square represent inches or whatever works best for you and the project.
Run the Numbers
After writing down and mapping the measurements, take away six feet from the length and width, respectively. Do this to figure out the amount of clearance needed around the table. While you might be able to find a table that fits snugly into a room, it’s no good if your family and guests can’t maneuver the area around the table and while sitting down. When seated, they’ll need at least 24 inches of space around them so they can sit comfortably, reach for items, and get up and sit down without encroaching on others’ personal space. As for the area surrounding the chairs, permit 36 inches of space so people can walk by without jostling or being jostled, and the seated person can push in and away from the table without incident.
Interacting With the Surroundings
Keep the surrounding area and other furnishings in the room at the forefront of your mind. That maneuvering space can be easily thwarted by a breakfront or hutch. In fact, decide if some pieces should stay, go, or find a new location in your home. Elbow room is at a premium in your dining area! While it might make sense to have the China cabinet close to the dining room table, it may not be cozy for you and your guests in terms of getting around. Let the room breathe by removing clutter.
If you plan to have big parties on occasion but don’t have a big dining room by comparison, know that there are ways around such limitations. Find an adjustable dining room table with hidden leaves or other expansion features. Account for the size of the room by considering the table at full extension, of course. This might not allow as much space around the table as you’d like but being slightly cramped is tolerable when you have a wider dining space and surface. Leaves are especially good for smaller tables and rooms, turning your cozy little eating spot into a temporary banquet hall. Note that a small, round adjustable table can expand into a roomy oval, while a smallish square table can elongate into a cozy but roomier rectangle.
Few people like living on the edge, and even fewer like bumping into edges while walking around a dining room with hot plates and the like. The measurements of the perimeter of your dining room table might not be accurate all the way around. Certainly, a square or rectangular table is fixed in size, but a live edge slab dining table may have a more irregular and jagged edge. For lovely but unconventional furnishings like these, round up a bit when measuring to ensure there aren’t any surprises sticking out at one end or another. And don’t forget how the chairs you select will interact with the edge as well!
Look Out for Legs
When figuring out how to calculate the right dining table size for your space, don’t forget the legs! Whether they go straight up and down or stick out slightly, table legs can add another dimension and a potential obstacle or obstacles. Smaller rooms would be best served by a dining room table with a pedestal. This single point of support leaves the area around and under the table largely unimpeded. Round tables are also better for interaction and conversation, putting all those seated in an equal position and granting equal access to each other.
Break Away With a Bench or Stools
If space is at a premium and you don’t mind being a little unconventional, consider bench or stool seating for your dining room table. Whether movable or a permanent installation, benches provide a bit more seating than individual chairs and can also contain secret compartments for storing tablecloths, napkins, plates, silverware, and more, eliminating the need for storage cabinets and leaving more room to move. Stools also save space and can be as comfy as chairs. And when the meal it over, they slide easily under the table for later use.
While looks are important where decorating is concerned, dining room tables also require a practical approach to space and comfort. Keep these suggestions in mind when shopping for a more satisfactory and lovelier dining room table!