Maybe you need a table that can host the family every night after work and school. Maybe you need a table that can host even the most discerning dinner guests. Either way, choosing the right dining table for the job is no small task.
If you’re still trying to make sense of dining table sizes and shapes, we’ve got your back. Here’s a complete guide to choosing the perfect dining table for your house, round, square, and everything in between.
Making Sense of Dining Table Shapes
Dining tables usually come in four main shapes:
Most tables use standard sizing for their particular table shape. If you’ve never given much thought to what shape dining table would suit you, it helps to look at your dining room.
Here’s a guide to help you get started.
Rectangular Dining Table
Rectangular dining tables are wildly popular for one simple reason: most dining rooms are also rectangular.
As such, rectangular dining tables are often the best fit for a dining room, but not always.
There’s also the fact that rectangular dining tables are easy to expand with a table leaf, which makes it easy to seat more than four people if you find yourself hosting guests.
The key to finding a good rectangular dining table is to find a table that’s long enough and wide enough to seat people on all sides. You’ll have trouble fitting a place setting if you go narrower than 36 inches on the short side.
However, if your dining room is too narrow to accommodate that wide, plan ahead and purchase a sideboard or buffet table. Otherwise, guests may have trouble fitting place settings and food.
Square Dining Table
Square tables work best if you have a square room–a table that’s too long will look oddly proportioned relative to the rest of the room.
Keep in mind, however, that square tables generally can’t fit as many people as rectangular tables, as a rectangular table can usually squeeze more place settings on the long sides.
That said, square tables have the benefit of seating guests equidistant, which makes it easier to create an intimate setting.
In fact, a square dining table is ideal if you tend to host small groups. A long table for just two or three people can make the room seem quite cold and the guests distant from one another (think of the ever-lengthening dining room table in Citizen Kane, a symbol of a marriage slowly drifting apart).
Round Dining Table
Of course, a square dining table isn’t the only solution to a small room.
In fact, you can sidestep space and seating with a round dining table. This allows everyone at the table to clearly see and engage with everyone else–and have easy access to the food on the table.
That said, a round table is really only ideal for small groups. A large round dining table can seat a lot of people and everyone can see each other, but each guest will seem so distant from those across from them that it’s a moot point.
In addition, most dining rooms aren’t big enough to accommodate a large round table.
If you love the idea of a round table but know that you’ll need to seat large groups from time to time, one way to get around this is to get a round table with an extension leaf. That way, your day-to-day dining will still feel intimate, but you can still seat more people as needed.
Oval Dining Table
An oval table has almost all of the same attributes and benefits of a rectangular table. It’s long enough to seat several people on the sides but wide enough for a place setting on each end.
The key difference is that an oval table appears to take up less space because of the rounded edges. Technically, it does take up less space–the rounded edges mean that the table has less overall surface area than a rectangular table.
If you have a narrow room, an oval table is one way to make the room appear larger. You will need to account for the decreased surface area, though, and make up for it with a sideboard or side tables that can hold food during meals.
Dining Table Sizes & Seating
The size of the room relative to the size of the dining table is always a critical consideration when you’re looking for a table.
Most dining tables use standard sizing, though this varies between shapes. The height, however, is always consistent–most dining tables are between 28 and 30 inches from the floor to the table surface. Counter Height tables often average between 34”-36” inches. Bar Height tables, also known as Pub Height tables, measure between 40”-42” inches tall. For the most comfortable dining experience, look for a counter-height dining table.
From there, look at standard measurements based on the size and shape of your dining room. One easy approach is to look at the number of people you’ll seat on a regular basis.
To seat four people:
- Rectangle: 36 inches wide x 48 inches long
- Square: 33 to 36-inch square
- Round: 36 to 44-inch diameter
- Oval: 36-inch diameter x 44 inches long
To seat four to six people:
- Rectangle: 36 inches wide x 60 inches long
- Square: 48 to 52-inch square
- Round: 44 to 54-inch diameter
- Oval: 36-inch diameter x 56 inches long
To seat six to eight people:
- Rectangle: 36 inches wide x 78 inches long
- Square: 52 to 54-inch square
- Round: 54 to 72-inch diameter
- Oval: 36-inch diameter x 72 inches long
Keep in mind that a square table can seat more than four people, but you’ll need to look for one that extends into a rectangle. Also, you can get away with purchasing a shorter table that extends to fit more people with a table leaf.
How to Choose a Dining Table
Once you’ve got a handle on the basics, let’s take a closer look at how you can find the perfect table for your dining room.
It’s not enough to know what you like–you have to know what table will be best suited to your dining room.
Here are a few tips to help you find the perfect table (and know what you’re looking for before you visit a single site or break out a tape measure in the middle of a store).
Sizing Your Space
First, you have to size your space.
Start by measuring the dimensions of the room. If it already has furniture inside, measure how deep that furniture is.
As a rule, there should be about three feet of clearance between the walls and the edges of your dining table. This will give diners enough space to pull out their seats and move around.
At a minimum, there should be 36 inches of clearance around the table, but ideally, aim for around 42 to 48 inches. If the table is located in a thoroughfare (i.e. a high-traffic area) shoot for 48 inches of clearance–the last thing you need is a traffic jam during a dinner party.
Sizing Your Table
From there, you can size your table based on the number of people you expect to seat on a regular basis.
Each individual diner should have about two feet of space around them in order to eat comfortably. If you’re unsure of the width, think about what you’re trying to accomplish.
If all you want is to seat people with place settings, you can get away with a width of no less than 28 to 30 inches, but aim for the wider side so that someone can sit at each end of the table.
If you plan to fit place settings and serving pieces, look for a table around 36 inches wide. If you want people to be able to pass dishes across the table comfortably, avoid tables wider than 48 inches.
If you don’t have a dining table yet, one trick is to take a bedsheet, place it where the dining table will go, and fold it to match the dimensions of the potential table. This allows you to measure clearance and visualize space before you spring for a table.
Another way to approach the problem is to think about how many people you have to seat relative to the amount of space available.
Many dining tables include the number of people that can be seated in the product description, though there is usually a few inches of wiggle room. When in doubt, try to allow 24 inches (two feet) of space for each individual person.
That said, you can get creative depending on where your table is located and what kind of seating you plan to use. Benches allow you to fit people closer together than you would otherwise.
Don’t Forget the Legs!
Also, don’t forget to account for the table legs.
Table legs at each corner of the table place a hard limit on the amount of space available to each person–no one wants to have to jam their knees into the table leg for the whole meal.
One way to get around this is to look for a table that has a central stand instead of individual legs. This works best with a round table, but there are some rectangular or square tables that allow you to get creative and fit people close to the edge of the table.
Dining Room Space
The single best way to choose a dining table is to assess the room it will occupy.
This is true of the dimensions of the room, but it also applies to aesthetic considerations as well.
Is your dining room formal, or informal? Or, put another way, do you have a distinct dining room, or is your dining room part of an open plan?
Once upon a time, houses were built with layers of intimacy in mind. The kitchen eating area and the dining room were separate because they served two different purposes. These days, the two have blurred a bit, but basically, you’re thinking about what your table is going to accomplish as part of the house.
Will it be a kitchen table or a dining table?
A kitchen table implies the daily chaos of life–bills to be paid, homework to be finished, meals to be prepped and eaten. A dining table, as originally conceived, is a more formal space designed to host guests.
If your dining room is more casual, look for a casual dining table (or a table that can be dressed down or up to meet the occasion). If your dining room is formal, you’ll be better served by a formal dining table.
For everyday use, look for a table that’s low maintenance but still stylish, the kind of table that can stand up to a daily routine of meals, chores, and crafts. If you’re looking for a table to host guests, look for a high-style table that will age gracefully.
Find Your Style
Finally, spend some serious time thinking about what style of table suits you best.
Do you want a cozy, down-home type of table? Do you want a table that starts a conversation during a party? Do you want a table that can handle parties and homework in equal measure?
There are tons of design styles to choose from. If in doubt, look at the furniture you already have and look for a table that meshes well.
Looking for a Dining Table?
If you’ve sorted through the many dining table sizes and shapes and you’re ready to start shopping in earnest, you’ve come to the right place.
We offer all sorts of options for stylish homeowners like you, whether you need a comfortable breakfast nook table or a dining table built for parties.
And if you’ve still got questions, we’ve got answers. Don’t hesitate to let us know what you’re looking for–we’re here to help you find the perfect table for the whole family.