Sizing up Your Dining Room Table

Sizing up Your Dining Room Table

Dining room tables come in many shapes and sizes, and the right one for you will depend on several factors. These include how big your dining room is, how many people usually sit at the table and the maximum number of people you would like to seat.

Room Size

A dining table should have 36 inches of clearance on all sides between the table and the wall to allow people to walk around it and get into their seats. Therefore, to find the maximum size of dining table you can accommodate, measure your dining room, and subtract any existing furniture, such as a china cabinet, and an additional 6 feet from each dimension. In a pinch, you can reduce the clearance to 30 inches, which means you should only subtract 5 feet from each dimension.

Daily Dining Table Size

Each person sitting at the dining room table should have a space at least 24 inches wide and 14 inches deep. This leaves space for the full place setting and enough elbow room for most people. Of course, if possible, it is nice to leave a buffer of at least 6 inches between people so they don’t feel crowded. In addition, you want some remaining space in the center of the table so you can include centerpieces or serving dishes if you would like to serve the meal from the table. With a round table, give each person at least 30 inches of circumference. This keeps their knees from knocking together under the table.

When looking at a particular table, keep in mind that you cannot just add up the perimeter and divide by 24 inches to determine how many people it seats. The space near the corners belongs either to the person sitting on the side or the end of the table. The 14 inches of depth each person needs times four corners adds up to 54 inches of unusable edge space. To compensate for this, subtract 54 inches of overlap from the perimeter of a square or rectangular table to find your usable edge space. Divide this by 24 inches to estimate how many people the table can seat.

Expansion Options

A table just large enough for your family is not adequate if you want to have people over for dinner. Choose a table with space for guests, either by buying a table that is actually slightly larger than you need or by buying a table that you can expand to seat more people.

Round tables are great for expansion because you can sit farther apart when you are eating as a family and just move the chairs closer together if you need to seat more people. They also work well when your group has an odd number of people so you do not have to have an unbalanced seating arrangement.

The other strategy for expansion is to have a table with leaves you can put in the middle to make it longer. This works both with rectangular tables, which get longer, and with round tables, which become ovals. Most leaves are 24 inches, and tables often come with two or three leaves so you can add one leaf for each pair of people you need to seat beyond the table’s usual capacity.

If a rectangular table is at least 48 inches wide, you can actually fit two people on each end of the table in a pinch. However, keep in mind that this slightly reduces the number of people you can fit on each long edge or makes the people sitting along the edges more cramped. In addition, this strategy does not work well if the table’s legs are at the corners because it is difficult to fit two people comfortably between the legs on the end. If you want more flexibility with seating, choose a table that is supported by one or two pedestals in the center of the table. This allows you to seat people without worrying about fitting the chairs in between the legs.

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