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Choosing the Right Table for Your Dining Space

Decorating needs differ for informal (casual) dining and formal (dressy) dining. Informal dining can take place on almost any surface, from coffee tables to TV trays. The formal dining room, on the other hand, features a table (often a large one) and chairs that are especially for family rituals, formal meal service, and holidays.

Although you want family and friends to admire your beautifully set table, you also care that they’re comfortably seated when they gather around your table. If you’re not sure how much space you need for each place setting or how many guests your table can seat, take a look at the following guidelines:

  • Plan a minimum of 24 inches for each place setting. If you have the room, 30 inches is ideal and much more comfortable.

  • Make sure the table doesn’t have a low apron. A low apron (the wood panel below the tabletop) may prevent your guests from crossing their legs. If you have a low apron, find chairs that seat at a comfortable height.

  • If you use a sofa (or bench) for seating at a long table, choose one with a high enough seat. Add casters to sofa legs if you need to raise the seat height.

  • Be sure that the chairs arms are low enough to slide beneath, and not bump into, the table. Too-low tables can be raised with casters or devices that elevate (which are available at home stores).

  • Provide at least 24 inches of space behind each chair when someone is sitting in it. This is the minimum space needed for people to pass by when serving or leaving the table.

    You’re better off setting up an additional table in another room than crowding a dining room with a too-big table and too much furniture.

If you’re in the market for a new dining room table, or you’re just not sure how many people the table you have can comfortably seat, check out the table here for the lowdown on table shapes, sizes, and seating capacity.

Table Sizes and Seating Capacities
Shape Dimensions Seating Capacity
Round 36-inch diameter Four for drinks, two for dining
Round 40-inch diameter Four
Round 56-inch diameter Eight
Square 38-inch square Four
Rectangular 60 x 36 inches Six
Rectangular 72 x 36 inches Six to eight
Rectangular 84 x 36 inches Six to eight
Rectangular 96 x 48 inches Eight to ten
Rectangular 132 x 48 inches Twelve
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