Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to choose the right dining room furniture: the table

Buying furniture for a dining room – or main eating area, if it’s not a room per se – can be an expensive proposition, especially if you want it to look well-designed.

Every designer will tell you that the worst thing you can do is to go to a ‘box’ store and buy an entire “set” – table, chairs, buffet.  You may get quality furniture at a great price that gives you good functionality, but it will leave your space looking outdated as soon as it’s arrived.

Worse, it will create a feeling of ‘sterility’ which is not conducive to the enjoyment of food and spirit with family and friends ... It would take a LOT of dressing up to make this area inviting, no?  Yes!!
Example of what not to do
Example of what not to do

Buying the right furniture for your dining room/eating area is an expansive topic ... so much so that I’m going to break it down into separate posts; this one is going to focus on the table element.

You want to choose a table that is able to morph many looks.  While most of them can by nature, think about the “lines” that would be most associated with the type of looks you are attracted to. 

For example, if you like French country, French provincial and shabby chic looks, you wouldn’t choose a table with very rectilinear lines / hard edges; you’d want something softer, with at least some curvilinear lines.

And conversely, if you like a more modern feel – whether industrial, masculine, minimal, organic, or a bold and funky look, rectilinear lines would fit the bill.

Next think about size and scale: while functionality is paramount (ie. how many people will be eating around the table regularly), the space will look poorly designed if the size and scale are not proportionate.

If your space is smaller and you need to maximize the amount of people you can seat, you may want to opt for a round table.  With either movable chairs ...

... and/or fixed bench seating, round and oval tables can keep a small space feeling open while maximizing functionality.

To determine how large your table can be (using just movable chairs), leave 3' to 4.5’ of space around every angle of the table for chairs and traffic.  Whether your space is open or has walls, and the table/chair placement in relation to other furniture can change the required breathing space needed around the table. 

TIP:  empty the space and put masking tape on the floor to ‘draw out’ the potential size of a table. It will give you a good feel for how large a table the space can take before it feels out of proportion.  Place chairs around the imaginary table to further visualize.

Once you know the size and general lines of the table you’re after, you can start looking.  Here you will want to rule out tables that aren’t a fit with either, and also ones that don’t fit your scale.  Remember that “size” is the physical dimensions and “scale” (fm a decorating perspective) is the relative size as it relates to the size and scale of other objects and fixed elements in a room.

For example, you might love the above table and think it would look great in your 8x10 dining room as long as it’s (custom) made to fit – but the scale of this table begs for a taller ceiling, a bigger room or open space, an expansive window, etc. -- to not just look really great, but to look right.

TIP: if considering a table with the above type of ‘bench pedestal’ legs, watch where the legs are going to 'land' re: the placement of chairs around the table. Notice in the above picture how the chair on the left has to straddle the table leg. If you wanted to place a standard 6 chairs around this table, you would not be able to without the side chairs sitting very unwell!

Last but not least is colour.  The 2 biggest mistakes I see is people who buy their dining room table in the same wood colour as their floors and/or kitchen cabinetry.  Remember -- we want contrast for interest.

Or they go too far the other way and buy in a colour that doesn’t relate to anything at all.  While the best designed spaces have colour values in the light, medium and dark ranges, all colours in the space need to work well together.

The material with which the table is made is another important element.  Whether solid wood, wood veneer, glass-topped, etc. ...

But all of the above that I've outlined – in my opinion – trump the material.  Do your research on the material in relation to your targeted price point so that you will know good value when you see it, but if you get the lines and shape, size and scale, and colour all right, you will have chosen a strong foundation for creating a dining area that will beckon family and friends for years to come.

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- if you want a great-looking space that's right for you and embibes the feel you'll love living in, contact Liz to help make it happen!



houseandhome.com (sarah callanan)


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