After the pool table, ping-pong table, foosball table, poker table, and air hockey table, the dining table is the most exciting table there is.
That’s because it’s likely to be a part of your home for the next 25+ years. With that kind of a long-lasting impact, you’ll want to choose the right one the first time around.
We’ve created this handy guide to help you with your search.
What Can You Use Them For?
Kitchen and dining tables are used for many activities around the home, some of which include:
- Sitting down for a meal.
- Hosting guests or holiday events.
- Playing board games, putting together puzzles or making crafts.
- Decorating and adding a focal point to a room.
Some of the less common uses are:
- Playing that intense knife-fingers game from Aliens
- Hiding the fact that you aren’t wearing pants.
- Soccer goalposts.
- Trying out that righteous table cloth trick.
No single dining table is inherently better than any other. Each has features and benefits to appeal to a specific shopper.
What do you need your dining table to do for you? This is the question you should keep top of mind as you shop.
How Do Dining Tables Differ?
Once you know how you’ll be using your dining area, then the right table will become more obvious.
Four major elements that distinguish tables are:
- Surface Material
Dining tables typically come in one of the following three shapes. Each has its own advantages.
This is the most common table shape. Rectangular tables are the most efficient at accommodating multiple people. They also provide two places of distinction at either head of the table for the hosts or special guests. Rectangular tables have the greatest number of base configurations, including trestle, storage, pedestal and the classic four-post design.
Think of a wedding reception. A round table is perhaps the most intimate of all, where everyone gets an equal seat. (King Arthur and the knights of Camelot knew the significance of this.) These tables can hold many people if needed, or just a few. And they look the best with a tablecloth.
Larger round tables might be more difficult to fit in certain room layouts, while small ones are the perfect choice for any cozy space. Some can be extended into an oval shape by adding a leaf.
Less common overall, square tables are more common in smaller sizes and are ideal for smaller rooms. Many are even extendable. At most, a square dining table can hold up to eight people; after that, the use of space becomes less efficient. And unlike round or rectangular tables, square tables can be rotated 45 degrees in contrast to your surrounding decor, creating a bold look with which lovers of Diamond Shreddies are already familiar.
In Japan, it’s customary to eat at a table that is not much higher than a foot off the floor. But in Canada, we’re more likely to sit at a table with one of the following two heights:
Standard Height – 30″
This is the height of a typical table. In a standard-height dining chair, (most) people have their feet firmly planted on the floor, instead of dangling below or propped on a footrest bar. Many find it easier to maintain good posture when sitting at a lower height, so keep your personal preferences in mind before you buy – you’ll likely be sitting at this table for many years to come.
Counter Height – 36″
Taller people might prefer sitting at a counter-height table, where it’s easier to stretch your legs. And whoever is doing the sweeping or vacuuming might prefer the greater ease of access. At six inches above the standard-height table, these pieces stand out in a room better than their 30″ counterparts. However, it is more difficult for people with reduced mobility to climb into these seats, so keep in mind who you’ll be hosting most often before you decide to choose one for your home.
When you are expecting company or need a larger flat surface to work on, it’s nice to be able to make a quick adjustment and suddenly have the table you need. Similarly, when you don’t need all that extra space, it’s just as nice to be able to collapse the table and open up some extra room.
Some tables, like the Savannah, adjust in height. But most tables adjust only in surface area.
There are three common types of adjustable-length dining tables.
You are probably most familiar with the removable-leaf setup. These are the ones that can be pulled out and stored away until they are needed. The leaves sit atop the table frame rails, providing an all-around sturdy surface anywhere across the table.
The leaves in drop-leaf tables hang along the edges like an apron. Just lift them up, fasten the support, and your table is ready to go. These tables are perfect for smaller rooms or apartments where storage is a luxury; simply collapse the leaves and move the table up against the wall until the next time you need the extra surface space. However, due to their cantilevered design, the leaves in drop-leaf tables can bear the least amount of weight. So be sure to keep heavy casseroles over the central support.
Think of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Once the far edges of the table are pulled apart, two leaves hidden below the middle of the table rise up and fold out to fill in the extra space. Not only do butterfly-leaf tables save you from storing your extra panels elsewhere, but these intricately designed contraptions provide as sturdy a surface as removable-leaf tables.
The composition of your table surface will depend on your tastes and how you most likely plan on using it. Here are the four most common ones you’ll see.
For many people, a solid wood table is the ideal. You can tell if a table is made of solid wood if the grain patterns along the top of the table extend down along the side edges. If not, chances are you are looking at a convincing veneer.
Solid wood tables are made either with hardwood or softwood. Don’t let those names fool you; they refer to the types of trees they come from, not the durability of the wood itself (hardwood from deciduous trees, or trees with leaves or flowers; softwood from coniferous trees, or trees with cones). In fact, many softwood varieties are more durable than some hardwoods. Mahogany, maple, walnut and oak are always safe bets when you’re looking for sturdy, long-lasting material.
The one downside to solid wood tables is they have the potential to crack or split over time from changes in humidity. This doesn’t have to happen, though. Find out how to keep your wood in one piece.
If you want a kitchen or dining room table that best balances practicality with beautiful looks, a table with a wood veneer is the way to go.
Veneers are created by cutting a thin layer of wood and laying it on top of construction-grade material, like plywood, medium density fiberboard (MDF) or other engineered woods. Veneers provide an attractive wood texture and finish to furniture. Most importantly, they won’t warp, crack or split over time.
By using other wood alternatives underneath the veneer surface, these tables not only hold up to spills and scratches better than their solid wood counterparts, but they are also much lighter and easier to afford.
A glass table is an easy way to add a touch of elegance to any room. Glass not only lightens up the room and makes a space feel bigger, but it complements almost any other type of decor.
Today’s glass tables are not only sturdy and more resistant to heat or scratch damage, but they are also made with tempered safety glass. That means that not only are they more difficult to shatter, but they won’t cut you, even if they do.
Marble, or Faux Marble
Polished marble provides a beautiful look that never seems to go out of style. The colour blends and gorgeous swirls add the instant distinction you may desire in an heirloom piece.
Marble is the heaviest and most expensive of common table surfaces, which is why some buyers will prefer a faux marble alternative. Faux marble is lighter, more affordable and less of a headache to keep in great shape. If you’re the kind of person to stress about every little chip, crack or heat mark, you’ll worry less the next time someone tosses their keys on the table when you have a resilient (and less expensive) engineered surface. Provided the legs are well manufactured and the surface is cared for, many faux marble tables are not only attractive, but very convincing.
Real marble also requires more upkeep than other surfaces. (But don’t let that scare you away; caring for a marble surface is quite straightforward.)
Other Things to Consider
Those are the basic things to know before you buy a dining table. But here are a few other things to keep in the back of your mind as you shop:
- It’s a long-term investment: Compared to other furniture in your home, dining tables are the ones that are replaced the least often. You might have your next one for over 30 years. So be sure to spend a little extra time than you would otherwise in finding the perfect fit for you and your home. Buy nice, or buy twice!
- Do you plan on moving anytime soon? If so, you might want to consider how easy it will be to take apart and transport your current table without harming it in the process.
- Do you mind if the table gets distressed or damaged? If your plan was to keep an immaculate table without any scratches, but you tend to be a bit clumsy or have kids or pets who might be a little less mindful around the furniture, you’re better of selecting a table with the surface material and sturdiness for your needs.
- What shape is the room? Smaller rooms are generally best for square or round tables, while rectangular tables fit best in long, narrow spaces. Counter-height breakfast tables often look best placed right next to a raised kitchen counter.
- Will it fit? Measure before you buy. Even better, replicate the measurement in the space you plan on putting the table. (Each table in The Brick’s online catalogue has its dimensions listed just underneath the product title or further down the page in the description.) To allow for chairs and room to maneuver, it’s best to leave at least between two-and-a-half to three feet of space between the table and the nearest wall or object.
- Would you like a side of chairs with that? Most tables have a set of matching side chairs to go with the package. Some even have benches, servers and china hutches. Don’t feel obligated to choose the recommended chairs; sometimes mixing and matching with other furniture is the best part.
- Will you be combining two tables to accommodate larger parties? If so, be sure to double-check the width and height of each. If not, you might end up with an unsightly step under the tablecloth, making your beautiful spread look more like a blanket fort than a dining table.
Start Your Search Today!
Now that you know the basics of dining table design, you should begin to get a picture of the shapes and styles that will work best for you. Browse through The Brick’s online catalogue for more ideas and inspiration.