How to Choose a New Dining Room Table

by Alden Miller | December 11, 2013 | Design Lab, Kitchens and Baths


The holidays always provide a chance to sit down and break bread with those we hold nearest and dearest. However much we might adore one another, like many things in life, providing a proper distance between family and friends is usually the key to a happy and comfortable setting. When you and yours find yourselves around the dining room table to celebrate this holiday season, these seven tips may help you choose the perfect dining table.

 Seven Tips on Choosing Dining Tables

1) For the width of your table, you want to try and allow for 24” per person with a 6” “buffer” on each end of the table. So if you want 3 people to sit along each side of the table, the length should be at least 7 feet.

2) Maintaining at least 36” of circulation space around your table is a safe measure for everyone’s mobility and ensuring there’s enough room to untuck your chair and rise comfortably. You can probably get by with a 31–32” of space between the table and other furniture in the room or a wall, but if you have a narrower space in your home be sure to try and select a table that will allow for your space guidelines.

Key dimensions for a well suited Dining Table.

Key dimensions for a well suited Dining Table.

3) Don’t forget room for the chairs! Think about the space the chairs will need below the table when tucked in, not just how much of area is needed around the perimeter. Nothing worse than a chair that won’t fit under the table. If you want seating at the ends of the table it needs to either be at least 42” wide or you need to allow 13-16” on the ends (instead of the 6” in other seating).

4) Circular tables are especially important to factor in “tucking in space” when figuring out how many you can comfortably seat. The ideal spacing is generally about 4–6” on either side of each chair.   A 36″-48” round table can seat 4 people, but a 60” round table is much better, especially if you want to add chairs and seat 6 people. A 72” round table is best for seating groups ranging from 6-8 people, but that gets kind of big. For that need, I would opt for a round table that expands to become an oval instead.

5) All dining room chairs are not equal. A common size for a dining chair is 20” wide which works great with the 24” per-person allowance guideline. But if you select wider/larger chairs with a 24” width you’ll need to allow for more space around the table per person. Try and make your table and chair selections collectively, not independently of each other for a cohesive look and comfortable spacing. 

6) Trestle tables are a design gem! Maximizing seating and flexibility, trestle tables allow for a clean and modern look while still giving the fully functional advantages of adding more seats during the Holidays. Oval tables also fit this bill with a more casual and softer look than a rectangular trestle table shape.

7) Warning: For you leg crossers out there, be wary of aprons. Aprons are the pieces of wood that hang under the edges of some tables to provide support or hide hardware. With seat heights typically the standard 18”, and dining surfaces falling around the 30” mark (factoring in also the thickness of the table, typically between 1-1 ½ “), you are left with little more than 10” for your legs. If you like a table that has an apron, you’ll want to be extra sure there is enough space to comfortably sit and even cross your legs.

Would you like to see some dining table inspiration? Check out this post which includes a collage of dining tables that I love.