Buying Guides
Apr 15, 2009

Buying guide: Dining tables

By: Yuki Hayashi

Buying guide: Dining tables Author: Style At Home

Buying Guides
Apr 15, 2009

Buying guide: Dining tables

By: Yuki Hayashi

Dining tables are scene-stealers in any home. Taking pride of place in what’s usually the most formal room of the house, or grounding the scene in an open-plan living/dining space, the dining table is more than just a place to eat. It represents friendship, love and welcome. Finding the right one comes down to asking yourself the right questions to narrow the field.

Here are five key questions to ask yourself before you head to the store.

1 Am I in my style groove?

Dining tables run the gamut from dirt cheap (i.e. less than the cost of dinner for two) to investment pieces running into the thousands of dollars.
If you’re confident in your decor taste, buy an investment piece that you want to have around for decades to come. If you’re not really sure yet what your style is, look for a more affordable piece that’s neutral enough to pass muster as you try out different decorating styles.

Regardless of whether you buy high or low, opt for a good quality table that will remain in fair enough condition to be resold, donated or otherwise handed down if you no longer have use for it. Avoid low-quality “disposable” (breakable, poorly constructed) furniture as a matter of eco principle.
At the showroom, don’t be afraid to handle the display tables. Lift them, pull at the legs, push down on the table corners and check out the joints. If anything is loose, the wood seems to be boring away at the joints, or the table feels otherwise un-sturdy, don’t buy it.

2 What tactile element would please me?

Say what? What we mean is, what would you like to feel when you’re at your dining table, eating, doing paperwork or playing poker? The cool of glass or marble or the warmth of wood? And if wood, would you prefer the smooth finish of a perfectly polished veneer or the patina and imperfections of a naturally worn solid wood?

When choosing, let your sense of touch guide you as much as the more obvious visual sense. After all, this is a piece of furniture you’ll be using frequently.

3 What styles do I like?
Flip through magazines, design books and online to get a sense of dining table styles. Flag what you like. Most likely, you’ll notice threads uniting your choices, whether it’s the type of material that the table is constructed from, or the shape and the dimensions. Often times, you may find that the chairs are as much a selling point as the table itself.
Jot down your preferences.

For example:
•    Pedestal base
•    Circular
•    White finish
•    Matches modern chairs

Or maybe:
•    Dark wood
•    Long and narrow
•    Simple
•    Magazine styled it with mismatched flea market chairs

That gives you a start. Use your tear sheets and list to describe what you’re looking for when window-shopping in stores, or as search phrases when browsing online.

Image courtesy of Crate & Barrel

4 How many people do I need to seat?
What are your seating needs? They’re often dictated by life stage. When you’re younger, space might be at a minimum in your home, and further, you’re more likely to be going “home” to Thanksgiving dinner, say, than hosting it yourself.

For many singletons, a tiny square table may be all you’ll need for eating alone or hosting a couple of pals for the odd night in. For example, IKEA’s mini Ingo table, at 75 cm x 75 cm is a classic in first-apartment decor and can seat up to four.

For families and couples who entertain, a dining table with a minimum of 125 cm of length by 75 cm of width will be required. That will snag you room for four on the sides, plus two heads of the table, but things will be on the close side. For added elbowroom, or added seats, consider a table that comes with a leaf, so it can expand as needed for big get-togethers.

5 How much care can I commit to?
Low maintenance

If you can’t commit to anything beyond wiping the table down when it needs it, look for waterproof, stain-resistant finishes like laminate or glass.

Medium maintenance

Hardy and patina-friendly woods like maple, teak and oak will require basic maintenance. Wipe spills and condensation immediately and apply a light spray-on wood conditioner every few weeks. Seasonal wax applications will help keep wood from drying and cracking during the dryer months.

Higher maintenance
Wood veneers can be delicate, so vigilantly follow your dealer’s care recommendations, including those for waxing. Furniture pads may be a smart choice under tablecloths to further protect the table surface from the heat and bangs that can accompany big festive meals.

Image courtesy of Crate & Barrel
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Buying guide: Dining tables