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how to choose a dining table

Buying Guide: How to Choose a Dining Table for Your Needs

When shopping for a dining room table, there are many things to consider—from dining table styles to dining table shapes and sizes. But sometimes, before you can consider those things, you first need to assess how you use your dining room to begin with.

how to choose a dining table

Before You Shop for a Dining Table

When thinking about dining room design ideas, a couple different factors can help you make design, style, and layout decisions based on your own personal use cases. First, consider how much space you have to work with and how your dining room flows and connects with the rest of your home. The size of your dining room will have a lot of bearing on what goes inside of it—so this is a good place to start when choosing the right dining table for your home.

You also want to think about how you use the space and even who in your home uses it the most. Does your dining room double as a home office or homeschooling zone? Do you entertain a lot or have pets? Who uses the dining room table, how it’s used, and even how often you host dinner guests are all big factors that will influence what you need in a dining table.

Wondering how to choose a dining table for your needs? Keep reading for our complete buying guide on choosing the right dining table for the size and layout of your space, as well as your lifestyle needs. This guide will help you find the perfect dining table for your home!

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how to choose a dining table

If You Have a Small Dining Room

Look for a smaller or expandable table: In a small dining room, you want to choose a table that is proportional to the size of your space. As a result, you’ll obviously want to go for a smaller-sized table in a small dining room. If you like entertaining, consider an expandable table that can be at its smallest size day-to-day but expand when needed to accommodate extra seats.

Get creative in extra-small spaces: For an extra small dining room—or if you only have a breakfast nook, or no dining space at all—you can still create a dining area. You could put a small cafe table and two chairs in the corner of your living room, or even use a console table with stools against a longer wall. We also love the idea of having a desk that can double as a dining table.

Eliminate sharp corners: Oval or round tablesare best in small dining rooms. They don’t have sharp corners you could bump into when navigating between chairs and the wall, which makes them easier to move around in a small space. They’re also better for squeezing more people around in a pinch, since there are no corners that limit the number of people you can fit.

Reduce tripping hazards: In a small dining room, you’ll also want to make sure your chairs can comfortably slide under your table. If they don’t, they’ll stick out into the room and create less walking space and can easily become a tripping hazard. So, choose a table style that allows you to push your chairs in.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Want to Fill Out a Large Space

Choose a table table that commands the space: In a large dining room, you can go for a standard-size dining table, or even a large, oversized table. Like in a small dining room, you still want your table to be in proportion to the space. So, if you have a particularly large space, opt for a table that has some heft and visually commands the space, like a farmhouse-style table. You could also opt for an extra-long table for a communal eating feel. Regardless, with a large dining room, you have the space to have a large dining table set up year-round rather than needing to expand a table or set up extra eating spaces when hosting guests.

Try a rectangular table: Rectangular tables are the most common dining table shape, and they work well in large dining rooms. They’re best for formal dining, where you want someone to sit at the head of the table, and they’re also great for filling out a dining room. However, there are some larger oval-shaped tables that can give your dining room a softer, more organic look.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Have an Open Living Room/Dining Room

When your dining room is open or connected to your living room, you not only want to consider the size, but also how the elements within each room interact with each other. So, consider proportion to properly fill out (but not overfill) the space, and choose furniture that mixes well with the style and proportion of your living room furniture. Rectangular tables are best for open living room/dining rooms, as you can use the table to help partition the two rooms and create a sense of organization within the open space.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Have Young Kids

Pick the right material: When you have young children, a big thing to consider is the material of your dining table. Glass tables are hard to keep clean and are easier to break—so avoid that if you have kids. Instead, choose something more durable, like a solid or composite wood. Veneer can also be good, but it chips and scratches more easily. Another super durable option? Sealed stone, like ceramic or concrete. However, avoid marble in lighter shades, as it can easily stain. Rustic surfaces like weathered wood or metal are best for rambunctious kids. They develop a natural patina, so nicks and scuffs easily blend in. Darker finishes help hide accidents, like spills and stains, but they can sometimes show more scratches.

Avoid sharp edges: We also recommend avoiding sharp edges. While some rectangular tables have more rounded corners, certain styles and materials have very sharp corners, so we’d veer away from those. Sometimes tables with metal legs have decorative elements that could also pose a risk to small children.

Consider the base of the table: You’ll also want to think about the leg style of a dining room table—specifically, if you want a table with four legs or more of a pedestal style. Both can work with kids, but it’s good to consider if you can fit a high-chair and dining chair side-by-side between the legs of a table, or even how the base of the table will affect clipping a child’s seat to the table.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Live Alone

If you live alone or just don’t eat much at your table, go for a smaller table and fill out the rest of your dining space for accent furniture. It’s nice to have the option to use a dining table if you have people over, but you can get something smaller so you don’t have a large table going unused when it’s just you. This also allows you to choose a table that can work for the size of your space if you’re in a smaller apartment.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Need to Seat a Lot of People

Large dining tables can seat 6-8 people, so they’re great for larger families, allowing your whole family to sit around it at once. Sometimes you can seat even more with large tables that are extendable. This is not only great for large families but also for those who entertain a lot.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Have Pets

If you have pets who like to chew on your furniture legs, consider a table with a pedestal base or with metal legs. This way they won’t be able to get their mouths around the base to gnaw on it. If you like the look of a table with slender legs, simply consider metal legs rather than wooden ones, which your pet won’t want to chew on.

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how to choose a dining table

If You Love to Host

If you host often, you’ll want to consider that when choosing a dining room table. Like we mentioned earlier, if you have a large dining room, you can have a large dining table set up year-round.

Try an extendable table for extra seating options: But in a more average-sized dining room, extendable tables are great for hosting. For everyday use, you can keep the table smaller and fit just your family around the table. But when you have guests over, you can add a leaf or two to increase the number of people you can fit around the table.

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how to choose a dining table

Go for a drop-leaf table in small spaces: If you love to host but only have a small dining room, you could consider a drop-leaf table. This allows the table to get pretty compact, and you can push it up against the wall when not in use. But, when having friends over for dinner, you can pull it out from the wall, put up the leaves, and fit a few extra people around the table.

Squeeze in more people with a round or oval pedestal table: When hosting, do you tend to try to squeeze a lot of people around your table? You may want to opt for a pedestal table rather than one with four legs so extra chairs can squeeze in without interference. You could also go for a round or oval table rather than a rectangular one, as a rectangular table will limit the number of people you’re able to seat around it due to the corners.

how to choose a dining table

If Your Dining Room Doubles As Your Home Office

If your dining room doubles as your home office, and you use your dining table as a desk, make sure your table is large enough for your work supplies and at a comfortable height for you to work at. If you’re going to sit somewhere for eight hours, you want to make sure it’s ergonomic! In a small space, consider a bar-height table, which can double as a standing desk and gives you room to sneak in some storage underneath.

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dining room furniture

Buying Guide: Ultimate Dining Room Furniture Checklist

Have you ever wondered, when designing a room, what pieces are essential and which things are simply nice to have if you have the space or budget for them? Well, wonder no longer! With our buying guides, we’ll walk you through the essential pieces for your space, the nice-to-haves, and the little touches that make a space shine.

At Modsy, we’ve helped countless people design their dining rooms—which means that we have a pretty good handle on what pieces no dining room should be without and which pieces you can wait on, save up for, or skip altogether. And we want to pass that wisdom along to you!

Today, we’re going to give you a checklist of what dining room furniture you should definitely include in your dining room (like a table and chairs) and what furniture helps add a feeling of intentionality and ease to your space. Because, ultimately, you want your dining room to work for you and meet the needs of your space. So, we’ll walk you through everything from the essentials to the little things that will make your space sing. And, since everyone has a different budget, we’ll also include a general price range for each piece of furniture.

Early Considerations

Before we get into the checklist, we want to talk through some early decision-making filters you should think through—things that will help you narrow down your search early on, so you don’t waste your time hunting and shopping for furniture you don’t actually need for your own space.

First, consider the size of your dining area. This will not only influence the size of the pieces you include but it will also help determine how many pieces of furniture you include and what they look like.

You should also consider your lifestyle needs. How does your dining room need to function? Does your dining room double as your home office? Do you have young children or pets? Do you host frequently? All of these variables will influence your personal needs for your dining room and will help guide the choices around what kind of furniture and materials to include.

Now, on to our dining room furniture checklist!

dining room furniture

The Dining Room Essentials

These are the pieces of furniture that you absolutely need for your dining room to function properly.

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Dining Table

You can’t properly dine without a table! In fact, this is piece number one for dining room essentials. Without a dining table, you really don’t have a dining room! However, there are so many different table sizes, shapes, and styles to choose from when choosing the right dining table for your needs.

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When it comes to size, consider how you use the space (and how much space you actually have). If you always host during the holidays but only have small family meals day-to-day, you might want to consider an expandable dining table that can size up or down depending on how many seats you need.

If you don’t have a ton of space, you could simply do a bistro table to keep the footprint small—or you could go for a counter or bar-height table. In terms of shape, you can go for a more traditional rectangular table, or an oval, square, or round table. Along with the size and shape of a dining table, you’ll also want to consider style, to give your dining room and home a unique point of view. A dining table is a big investment, so make sure you choose one that you love!

Price Range: $400-$3,000+

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dining room furniture

Chairs

A dining room table on its own doesn’t do much good—so chairs are another dining room essential. You need something to sit on, after all! There are so many different styles and types of dining room chairs, and we recommend choosing chairs that coordinate with the style of your table. You can also incorporate benches or even stools in a small space. When choosing dining room chairs, consider your needs—like comfort level, durability, and materials. If you have kids, you’ll probably want chairs that are easy to clean and can endure some wear and tear. And something worth remembering: some chairs come in pairs or in sets of 4-6, which can help save money when outfitting full dining room sets!

Price Range: $75-$600+ (for a single chair)

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Nice-to-Haves

These furniture and decor pieces won’t render your space unusable if you don’t have them. But including them in your design and budget but can greatly increase the functionality or your dining room. Consider these items a bit lower on the “must buy” list.

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A Credenza or Buffet

Credenzas and buffets are great multipurpose pieces of dining room storage furniture that are really nice to have. On top, you can display decorative objects, create a drink station, or place a lamp for layering lighting in your dining room. But they also offer a ton of storage space—often featuring a mix of cabinets and drawers. You can use the concealed storage to stash dinnerware, linens, serving platters, and special-occasion dishes while still having easy access to them. While credenzas or buffets are pricier and more of an investment piece, they really do add a finishing touch to a dining room.

Price Range: $600-$3,000

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Ambient Overhead Lighting

Good lighting can make or break a room. That’s why we love ambient overhead lighting in a dining room design. And you don’t have to settle for what’s in your dining room when you move into your home! Swapping out lighting can make a huge difference for a reasonable price. They’re one of those great pieces that can help pull the style of the room together and make it look complete—and they’ll give you just the right ambient lighting that’s nice for dinner.

Price Range: $150 – $2,000

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dining room furniture

Bar Storage

When possible, it’s nice to put drinks and mixology tools in a separate area. This can be accomplished through the use of a bar cart or bar cabinet. A bar cabinet is great if you prefer concealed storage and want a really sleek and clean look. A bar cart is perfect for entertaining, as your drink mixing essentials are out in the open, and the cart itself can easily be moved to wherever you need it most! Either option adds a polished element to your space.

Stylist Tip: Style your bar cart with a mix of practical and decorative items to really make it pop.

Bar Cart Price Range: $150 – $1,000

Bar Cabinet Price Range: $500-$2,000

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An Area Rug

An area rug helps your dining room feel more styled and pulled together; it anchors the table, especially in a large dining space or open living space. Rugs also add some pattern, texture, and color to your space. Since there are so many different styles of rugs, it’s an opportunity to further drive home the interior design style and color scheme of your dining room.

Stylist Tip: Get a rug that is easy to clean in case of any food or beverage spills during your next dinner party! (Also an absolute necessity for parents of toddlers!)

Price Range: $250-$2,000+

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Window Coverings

While you may not need blinds or curtains in your dining room for privacy in the same way you do in other rooms of your home, window coverings are still nice to have. But it’s nice to be able to close them if you’re enjoying a late dinner, and it adds an aesthetic touch to the space. Whether you choose blinds, curtains, or Roman shades simply depends on the look you’d like to achieve. However, between the options, curtains have the ability to add the most personality to a space. Like an area rug, curtains are a great way to infuse a little pattern or color to your space. The material you choose can impact the vibe of your room; whereas a linen curtain would add a sense of airiness to your space, velvet curtains would bring in a sense of drama. And a solid-colored curtain is a great way to add a sense of formality to your space.

Stylist Tip: Go for curtains with a pattern if your dining room is mostly solids to add a punch of pattern to the space.

Price Range: $120-$800

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dining room furniture

The Little Things

These little things are the finishing touches that make your room feel complete—styled, considered, and intentional. They’ll take you from a merely functional space to one that really sings!

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Candles

Candles are a great way to add ambient lighting for romantic or cozy dinners—or to simply make each evening feel a little bit more special! Even if you have overhead lighting, it’s nice to have candles as an option for additional layered lighting. And, whether you’re using pillar candles or tapers in candlesticks, they become simple decor on your table.

Stylist Tip: Don’t want real flames? Try battery-operated candles for a fire-safe option that you can leave on all the time. You can even get ones that flicker like a real flame!

Price Range: $5-$100

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A Centerpiece

A centerpiece can be anything from a vase of flowers or a small plant to a bowl of lemons or a trio of candles—and so much more! They can be small and simple or large and elaborate depending on how you use your table and your personal preference. Whatever it is, having something decorative in the middle of the table can make a room feel well thought out and visually serve as a finishing touch in your dining room. A tablescape is also a great way to bring in seasonal elements, as it’s something simple that you can switch out each season—if not more often.

Price Range: $50-$500

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dining room furniture

Wall Art

Whether it’s sculptural art, a painting, a woven tapestry, or a family photo gallery wall, art will add a personal touch to your dining room. It’s also a great way to further define the style of the space. You can use wall art to pull in colors that are used elsewhere in the space to help it feel more cohesive.

Price Range: $100-$2,000

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