Tips for Choosing the Right Dining Room Table

Oval or square, rustic or chic, wood or marble, there are many factors worth considering when selecting the perfect dining room table.


Dining room tables can make or break a room, so consider your options based on room size and how you plan to use the table.

Photo by Aaron Leitz Photography, courtesy of Sutro Architects and Laura Nelson Design

Most people give a lot of thought to a new sofa. They test it for comfort, debate its color, and think long and hard about which style is best. Yet dining tables rarely get such attention. Generally people go for something in wood, simple in shape, and call it a day. But that’s not only a missed opportunity; it’s often a mistake. Pick the wrong table, and you’ll find that it won’t look or function the way it should.

Don’t let this happen to you.

First, measure your dining room, and take note of the walkways within it. You want to make sure you have enough space to move around the room easily, and that goes for when the chairs are pulled out from the table. So add at least 36 inches of space to the perimeter of the table when figuring out the best option for your room and 48 inches if the chairs back onto a main thoroughfare.

Another note on size: Even if the room is on the small side, don’t go tiny with your table. It’s counterintuitive, but using furniture too petite in scale can make the whole room seem smaller than it is. Better to go a smidgen too large than much too small—as long as you can still move around the space with relative ease.

The proportions of the room will inform the table shape, too. Square and circular tables will work well in rooms that are square, and ovals and rectangles will generally work best in longer rooms. If you’re using a buffet, be sure to take that into consideration when mapping out your space. It may well shift the available floor area from a rectangular to a square or vice versa.

Next, consider how many people you want to accommodate. Maybe you want the flexibility of extra seating for holiday dinners. If so, but space is tight, try a pedestal table. With no legs to work around, you can often squeeze in another place or two.

Once you have the table’s shape and size in place, it’s time to think finishes. Wood is the most popular, of course, and with good reason. It’s attractive, inexpensive, and provides a lovely, organic warmth. Not all wood is created equal, though. Stick to one with a rough-hewn surface if you’ve got kids in the house; any dings they provide will only add to its charm. If it’s only adults chez vous, you can go for something more refined. A smooth surface will not only look sleek, but also be really easy to clean.

Although not as ubiquitous as wood, marble is also a great choice for a dining table. It may lack wood’s warmth, but it has its own organic appeal that works particularly well in modern settings. If marble is out of budget, try glass. It has a lot of stone’s same qualities for a fraction of the price.

Dining tables may be the unsung heroes of the decor world, but they can absolutely make or break a room. So go forth and choose wisely. With so many options available, you’re sure to find one that suits.