lighting buying guide

Lighting Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Choosing Lighting for Your Space

We’re big believers in layered lighting here at Modsy. When you have more than one light source in a room, it gives you more control over how your space feels. You might want to throw open your blinds in the morning and let in all the natural light. But if you’re working from home, you may also need a task light by your desk. As the day turns into evening and the sunlight fades, it’s helpful to be able to turn on an overhead light if you’re working on a project or opt for floor and table lamps if you want a softer, moodier glow.

Essentially, the right lighting helps you set the mood and tone you want. That’s why lighting is essential in all of our room checklists and interior design buying guides. You might find yourself feeling a little grumpy if your bedroom only has one bright overhead light. While this is a great lighting option during the day, it will seem harsh when you’re trying to cozy up in bed with a book. That’s when you want a bedside lamp or sconce, for a softer and more directional lighting option. (Plus, when you have a lamp by your bed, you don’t have to get out of bed to turn off the light!)

What we’re saying is: good, layered lighting makes all the difference when it comes to setting a vibe in your home. And, as we enter winter and the days grow shorter (AKA it gets darker earlier) it’s so important to have the best lamps and be able to make your lighting work for you. No one wants to just have an overhead light on all through a long winter evening!

So, to help you get your lighting right in your home, we’ve put together a lighting buying guide full of everything you need to know about choosing lighting for your home.

lighting buying guide

Types of Lighting

There are five main types of lighting that all work together to create a well-lit home. You certainly don’t have to use all five in each room of your home—but having a couple different light sources in each space will allow you to layer your lighting and change light sources throughout the day.

lighting buying guide

Natural Lighting

Natural lighting is all the—you guessed it—natural light that comes in through your windows. Good natural lighting might mean you can skip other light sources during peak sunlight hours. You can use curtains to soften and diffuse natural light, and you can use mirrors to reflect natural light and brighten up a room or make it seem larger. Some benefits of natural lighting? It shows the truest colors in your interior and can boost your mood, making your environment feel more appealing.

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lighting buying guide

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting, is the overhead lighting in a room. It’s the perfect option for when you need an entire room to be lit—like when you’re cooking in the kitchen, doing chores around the house, or working on a craft. But ambient lighting can feel intense at night. Adding a dimmer switch is a great way to have the option of softening overhead lighting.

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lighting buying guide

Task Lighting

Task lighting, or reading lighting, creates a focused area of light in a room. Typically, this type of lamp will have a swivel head with more of a spotlight-type shade which allows for smaller, more concentrated light. (AKA, the light doesn’t disperse in all directions but is pointedly focused where you need it.) It’s just the thing for studying, working, reading, or when working on smaller crafts or hobbies.

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lighting buying guide

Accent Lighting

As the name suggests, accent lighting accents something. These are more concentrated lights that draw your eye to a certain focal point. Usually a table lamp or a sconce, it can be used to highlight a piece of furniture, object, or art piece—or simply to add an extra decorative element to a space. Accent lighting is best used on console tables, buffets, or side tables in a living room, dining room, entryway, or sometimes even in a hallway.

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lighting buying guide

Decorative Lighting

Decorative lights are light sources that are simply used as decor rather than for function. Think: bulb or twinkle lights, or small lamps or candles on a mantel, bar cart, or floating shelf. Decorative lighting is often just used to make a small statement, fill a space, or set a mood.

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lighting buying guide

Types of Light Fixtures

Beyond the types of lighting, there are also different types of light fixtures that will help you achieve your desired lighting layers and mood of your space. Below are the main types of light fixtures.

bedroom lighting

Table Lamps

Table lamps are smaller lights that tend to be anywhere from 14 to 30 inches in height. They offer subtle, dispersed light. These aren’t necessarily a task light—but they certainly can be. When brainstorming table lamp design ideas, remember that it will take a few table lamps to fill a whole room with light.

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Where to Use It

You can use table lamps on side tables, accent tables, consoles, nightstands, sideboards, and credenzas, or countertops. Table lamps are best for lighting a specific area of a space, like the corner of a sofa or one side of a bed.

Important Things to Consider

Consider the size and scale of the lamp in relation to where you’ll want to put it. Your table lamp should sit comfortably on a side table. So, veer away from anything that feels too top-heavy. A good rule of thumb? Aim to achieve a set-up where you can place your lamp comfortably on its side table, with room for at least two other objects on that table. If you can’t fit any objects on the table other than the lamp, generally the table is too small or the lamp is too big, and the whole set-up will look too crowded and will potentially even be wobbly and unsafe.

Ensure the shade supports your intended use. Shades impact the design style of a lamp and also impact the lighting diffusion. So, a darker shade will emit less light than a lighter shade. And a sloped shade will spread light out into a space more than a cylinder shape shade (which will cast light more up and down).

Make sure your lamp is at the right height. When you’re sitting on your sofa or bed, or at your desk, you want the bottom of your table lamp’s shade roughly at eye level. This protects your eyes from the glaring light of an exposed lightbulb. At this height, it will also properly illuminate the pages of a book or your workspace.

green room color schemes

Floor Lamps

A floor lamp is a lamp that sits directly on the floor. They’re typically 40+ inches tall, with the average being 58 to 64 inches tall. Floor lamps can project light throughout space and act as ambient lighting or be a focused task light depending on the shade and shape.

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Where to Use It

Use a floor lamp in a space where you need a lot of light and don’t want to place a lamp on the surface. The best floor lamps can offer focused lighting to about half of a room. So, one floor lamp won’t light up a whole room by itself—but they work well when accented by a table lamp or a second floor lamp. When it comes to floor lamp ideas, we love using floor lamps over an accent chair, next to a sofa, or even to light up a dark corner of a room.

Important Things to Consider

Build in enough space around the floor lamp. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of space to walk around the floor lamp, so you aren’t bumping into it every time you walk past the lamp. Since there will be a chord snaking on the floor, you also want to consider where you’ll plug it in to ensure the chord doesn’t present a tripping hazard.

Consider the height of the lamp in relation to where you’ll be placing it. If you’re placing a floor lamp next to a sofa or side chair, you’ll want the height of that floor lamp to feel appropriate to the sofa or chair. If it’s too tall it will make your seat look tiny and disproportionate. Too low and it will make the room feel small. Ultimately, you should be able to sit comfortably in said sofa or chair and not bump your head on the shade of the floor lamp.

lighting buying guide

Ceiling Lights

Ceiling lights come in many forms: pendants, chandeliers, flush-mount lights. Essentially, this is any light that hangs from the ceiling. Ceiling lights offer ambient, overhead light and can also make a stylistic statement in your space.

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Where to Use It

You’ll find ceiling lights throughout your home, and switching out the standard fixtures that come with your home is a simple but impactful way to drive home the style of your space. Dining rooms and living rooms are great places for pendants or chandeliers, where you want to create a focal point in your space. Meanwhile, in a bedroom and kitchen, you might want a flush-mount light. You could also opt for track lighting or recessed lights for more directional light control.

Important Things to Consider

Ceiling lights require a level of commitment. While you can always switch them out, the size of light fixtures and the involvement in installing them probably means you want them to be fairly permanent. This is especially true if you have high ceilings and have to rent scaffolding or large ladders to install the light fixtures.

The style of your light fixture can help set the tone for your whole space. Ceiling lights are a great way to help establish or drive home the overall style of your room. (In fact, this is a great way to try out the industrial lighting trend.) So, while they can be more of an investment, they’re one that will pay off stylistically and help your home feel more custom and thoughtful.

lighting buying guide


A sconce is a type of light fixture that is fixed to a wall. It typically provides light that is directed upwards or outward.

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Where to Use It

Sconces are great for narrow spaces, like hallways and bathrooms, where there isn’t room for a floor or table lamp but you still want a layered lighting option. Looking for some wall sconce design ideas? We love using them flanking either side of a fireplace or as a way to highlight a painting. They’re also great in small bedrooms, as an alternative to a bedside lamp, so you don’t have to take up surface space on a small nightstand!

Important Things to Consider

Sconces are more permanent than a lamp or floor lamp. They have to be mounted on a wall and often need to be hardwired in—so you want to make sure you feel confident with the placement and style before committing to installing a sconce! Though, there are plug-in styles which is a great option for rentals!

How to Pick the Right Light for Your Space

Considering all the different types of lighting and light fixtures, it might feel overwhelming to land on the right lighting for your space. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a couple other things to keep in mind when picking the right types of lighting and specific fixtures for your space.

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Think of Your Room’s Needs

Simply think through how you use your space and make lighting choices accordingly. Need some help knowing which kind of lights to use in each room of your home? Check out our room-by-room lighting checklist.

Create a Budget

Of course, all these different light sources might seem like quite the investment if you’re starting from scratch! So, make sure you create a budget for what you want to spend on each piece. Here are some general pricing guidelines, though prices will vary depending on size, quality, materials, and brand.

  • Table lamps: $50-$250
  • Floor lamps: $100-$500+
  • Sconces: $50-$250
  • Pendants and Chandeliers: $100-$1,000+

Pick Your Materials

Light fixtures can be made in a variety of materials, but there are a couple popular materials for each type of fixture. Most table lamps are ceramic, metal, or acrylic—and sometimes wood. Floor lamps are usually made of wood, metal, or acrylic, though you can also find mixed materials and even some marble or other stone for both lamp types. Sconces and pendants are usually made of metal, with some glass or acrylic details. Overall, lighting fixture materials can really run the gamut! It all depends on the look and style you’re going for, as well as your price point.

Consider Size and Scale

As we mentioned earlier in the post, the size and scale of various lighting fixtures are also very important. So, when picking lighting, consider the overall size of the room as well as the pieces of furniture on which accent lighting will be placed to make sure everything looks balanced.

If you’re not sure what types of lighting or style of light fixtures are best in your space after reading this lighting guide, we can help! With our style quiz and online interior design packages, we can help guide you to your preferred interior design style and help design your room with furniture, lighting, and decor that goes with your style.

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Shape, Size, and Materials: The Only Dining Table Guide You’ll Ever Need

A dining table is one of the most crucial pieces of furniture in your home. As the focal point of your dining room, a great table means you have a place to enjoy meals, laughter, shared stories, and memories with family and friends. But today, it’s more than that, too. Our dining rooms are also taking on the roles of homeschooling hub, home office, craft central, and so much more. With so many uses in one space, the right dining table is more important than ever!

So, how do you choose a dining table for your needs? There are many factors to consider. But most importantly, you want to make sure you land on a table that’s practical—one that it fits your space and offers adequate seating—but also that it aligns with your personal style. If you’re ready to invest in a new table, this dining table guide will walk you through everything you need to consider—from size and shape to material—to make sure you furnish your dining room with functionality and style.

dining roomConsider Your Dining Table Shape

When choosing a dining table, one of the first things to consider is the shape. This helps to narrow your search a bit, too. You can choose from a shape based on your personal taste, but there are also some general guidelines to follow when it comes to the shape of a dining table. And it usually boils down to the size and shape of your dining room.

Want to try on round and rectangular dining tables in your room? Start your Modsy design project and see how 100s of real tables will look and fit in your exact room.

rectangle dining tableRectangle/Square Dining Tables

Square and rectangular tables are the most common shape. This is largely because these shapes work best in rectangular rooms and most dining rooms are—you guessed it—rectangular! A rectangular table is a good shape to seat more than four people, so keep this in mind if you have a big family or love entertaining. But it’s not great for really large gatherings, since there’s not as much room on the tabletop to fit serving dishes in addition to place settings—so things could get crowded.

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oval dining table

Round/Oval Dining Tables

Round tables are great because they can accommodate the most people. It’s easy to squeeze in an extra table setting or two where there aren’t any corners! They’re better for small rooms or rooms that aren’t square, as their rounded edges help create easy flow through the room. Circular tables are perfect for small gatherings and make an intimate and cozy setting for conversation. Oval tables help fill out longer, more narrow rooms.

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dining roomFind the Right Dining Table Length

The size of your dining room table will depend on the size of your room and how many people you want to accommodate.

In order to make sure each diner has enough elbow room while chatting, follow these standard seats to size ratios:

  • A 48” long table seats 4 people
  • A 60” long table seats 6 people
  • A 72” long table seats 8 people

Of course, if you don’t mind a more intimate setting or have little ones at the table with you, you might be able to squeeze in an extra seat.

Expandable dining tables are also a great option! If you don’t need as much table space on the day-to-day but want to have the flexibility for an occasional dinner party or holiday gathering, consider a table with leaves that can be dropped or inserted at the center of the table.

tall chairsGo For The Right Dining Table Height

Dining tables generally come in three height variations. Most standard dining tables fall between 28 and 30 inches to allow for comfortable legroom underneath. Counter-height tables are closer to 36 inches high. And pub-style tables are the tallest, falling in the range of 40-42 inches.

If you’re not married to the idea of a traditional dining table, counter-height and pub tables are worth considering! They’re convenient because they can double as a place to serve food during a party or offer extra space for food prep. These heights work especially well in small spaces with open kitchens. However, if you have a dining room office, you may want to go with a traditional height, unless you want a table that functions as a standing desk!

Pick Your Dining Table Material

Dining tables come in a wide range of materials. So when exploring dining room design ideas, this factor mainly boils down to your own personal aesthetics and how much wear and tear your dining table will need to withstand. Below are some of the most popular material options for dining tables.

wood dining tableWood

Wood is the most common choice for dining tables because it’s super durable and can stand up to anything life throws at it! It’s also easy to maintain or refinish with paint or stain as needed.

Natural wood offers a beautiful color and texture in a dining space and there are plenty of different types and finishes of wood to choose from. Weathered or reclaimed wood looks great in a variety of styles and can also hide nicks or scratches—which is great for families with children! Solid wood is more expensive and can be damaged more easily, so it’s more of an investment.

There are also veneer or laminate options, which can mimic the look of wood but are usually a much more affordable alternative. These are non-porous materials so they’re easy to clean and hold up to stains better than many other materials. However, if veneer chips, stains, or get scratched, it can’t be refinished like solid wood.

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lacquer dining tableLacquer

Lacquer is a glossy, resinous material that is applied as a coat to the outside of other materials (most often wood or particleboard). This is a great material for chic designs and small spaces as it’s glossy texture reflects light, which is great for rooms in need of some extra shine.

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art deco interior designGlass

Glass dining tables provide a sleek look for modern or contemporary spaces. They’re great for small dining areas because they make the space seem larger as don’t add any clunky visual weight to a room.

Glass is also super low maintenance and easy to clean. However, these tables might not be very family-friendly as they easily show finger smudges and their sharp edges can pose a threat to rambunctious little ones!

Explore more glass dining table ideas.

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1980s interior designMarble

Many people consider marble to be one of the best dining table materials. It’s luxurious and sophisticated and puts the natural beauty of the stone on full display. However, marble is a porous material—meaning it can stain easily and quickly. While it’s great for elegant, traditional settings, it might not be the best choice if you have a family with young kids or if you like to entertain often, as spills are inevitable in both scenarios!

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dining room furnitureMetal

A metal dining table can add a cool, industrial feel to any room. It’s also super durable and easy to clean up. Some metals can be prone to corrosion, however, so make sure to use cleaning products that won’t damage it.

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Explore Dining Table Styles

Finally, choosing the best dining table means finding the right style for your space. There are so many styles to consider—from modern to rustic, contemporary to traditional—and each style has plenty of variation within it! In addition to being functional, you want your dining table to reflect your personal style and complement the decor in the rest of your home.

Take our style quiz or check out our dining table style guide to learn all about the pros and cons of different dining tables!

Need help with more than the table? If you’re furnishing a dining room from scratch, check out our dining room checklist. It has a round-up of everything you need for a functional dining area, while working with your personal needs and budget!

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The Ultimate Guide to Dining Table Styles

In the strangeness of 2020, the dining room has truly become the new center of the home. For many households, this (newly) multipurpose room has taken on the roles of home office, homeschooling zone, and arts and crafts space, as well as hosting all our family meals. So, this space now needs to be functional for far more than dining! On top of all that, our typical plans for holiday hosting have probably gone out the window. Basically, our dining rooms have been turned on their heads!

But, even as things look different this year, we’re taking any chance we can get to make this space feel extra special. And the best way to do this is with a dining table that you really love. It sets the tone for your space, bringing in unique style and functionality.

But here’s the thing: there are so many dining table styles to choose from, you’re probably wondering where to begin. A dining table can be a big investment, so you want to make sure you pick one that fits your style and meets all your daily needs. So, whether you’re doing some holiday entertaining prep for a small group, figuring out how to make a dining room office work, or simply just dreaming up some dining room design ideas to give this workhorse space a refresh, we’re here to guide to our favorite dining tables for 2020 and beyond.

There are so many dining table styles to choose from, you’re probably wondering where to begin. A dining table can be a big investment, so you want to make sure you pick one that fits your style and meets all your hosting needs. To help, we’re breaking down the different dining table styles here so you can find the one that works best for you.

dining tableFarmhouse Dining Table Style

A farmhouse dining table design is generally an expansive, warm, and welcoming option. This style is great for complementing rustic styles and makes for an extra cozy vibe. It adds a rugged, vintage-inspired touch to your dining room that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an old country farmhouse, even if you live in a high-rise apartment. And, since farmhouse tables are usually made of rough, solid wood, they tend to be very sturdy.

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The Perks: This is a versatile dining table style. You can pair a farmhouse table with a dining bench for a more family-friendly style or turn up the sophistication with upholstered chairs.

The Vibe: Solid, sturdy, and timeless—this is the workhouse of dining tables. And its rustic style makes your dining room feel extra cozy and inviting.

See More Farmhouse Style Dining Tables:

Farmhouse style dining table

Classic Formal Farmhouse Style

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farmhouse dining room table

Rustic Gatherings

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Countryside Farmhouse Charms

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dining tablePedestal Dining Table Style

Pedestal dining tables are generally composed of a wide (usually round) table top sitting on a single solid leg in the middle. (Though some more contemporary options sit on two legs instead of one supporting pedestal.) They are stylish, architectural, and just plain useful in a dining room. They come in a variety of styles and can blend in with an assortment of dining room designs.

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The Perks: Despite their more streamlined design, pedestal tables have plenty of surface space. And round or oval styles can seat more people than a square or rectangular table, since you can squeeze more chairs around the table in a pinch!

The Vibe: Smart, symmetrical, and stylish. These tables can put the fun in functional in any dining room design.

See More Pedestal Dining Tables:

Minimal Marble Pedestal Table

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Modern Dual Pedestal Table

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pedestal dining table style

Cozy Pedestal Dining Vibes

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dining tableParsons Dining Table Style

A Parsons dining table is the perfect table for a super streamlined and contemporary style. There are a myriad of incarnations of its simple, balanced form, but this modernist style is always distinguished by clean angles and straight lines with absolutely no frills or ornamentation.

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The Perks: The pared-down aesthetic makes this table incredibly versatile and timeless.

The Vibe: Dress it up for an elegant and dramatic look. Dress it down for a simple, laid-back style.

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Modern Rustic Style

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Traditional Take on Parsons Style

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parsons style dining table

Sleek and Streamlined

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dining tableTrestle Dining Table Style

Trestle dining tables have a tabletop that sits upon two trestle supports. This timeless style was very popular in the Middle Ages and the simple look is a natural fit in many dining rooms today. This style was built to be portable and flexible; back in the Middle Ages, people didn’t have dedicated dining rooms, so dining tables had to be easy to take apart, transport, and reassemble. Trestle tables remain popular today because they’re sturdy, attractive, and great for hosting large groups.

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The Perks: Trestle tables come in so many styles that you can find one that will work with your aesthetic no matter what.

The Vibe: This is the kind of table that makes you think of gathering friends and family for a jovial night of eating, drinking, and merrymaking.

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Modern Style Trestle

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trestle style dining table

Cozy Rustic Dining

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dining roomMid-Century Modern Dining Table Style

Mid-Century Modern seems to be the forever favorite aesthetic—after all, the trend is still going strong after 60+ years! You can usually spot a mid-century modern style dining table by its warm natural wood construction and slender, tapered legs. The sleek silhouette and medium-to-light woods of the era feel both polished and fresh and bridge the gap between comfortable living and aesthetic delight.

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The Perks: A style of furniture designed during an era when American families were moving into more urban, smaller spaces, mid-century modern furniture is great for smaller dining rooms.

The Vibe: Clean lines, geometric shapes, and sleek simplicity give these tables a timeless appeal.

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Mid-Century With a Chic Twist

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mid-century modern dining table

Scandi Modern Vibes

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dining roomTraditional Dining Table Style

A traditional dining table is usually made of sturdy wood with a darker finish. You’ll often find these tables with more ornamentation and carved features on the legs. You can keep with the traditional vibe by pairing it with traditional dining chairs, go more farmhouse with upholstered options, or even play up an eclectic vibe trying on the mismatched dining chair trend.

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The Perks: These tables are large and in charge, with plenty of room for guests. They make a lovely centerpiece and are substantial enough to call for a big, beautiful chandelier to illuminate the dining area.

The Vibe: Traditional dining tables are elegant, super-versatile and never go out of style.

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Bold Traditions

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traditional dining tables

Parisian Dining Nook

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Need some extra guidance? Check out our guide on how to choose a dining table, our dining table shape and size guide, and our dining room layout guide to get your space looking good and working for your life!

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