Pick The Best Dining Table For Your Space - 27 East


Residence / 1836989

Pick The Best Dining Table For Your Space

Number of images 3 Photos
Formality fit for today in a transitional historic home. CHRISTIAN HARDER

Formality fit for today in a transitional historic home. CHRISTIAN HARDER

A sleek extra long glass dining table in situ in East Hampton. CHRISTIAN HARDER

A sleek extra long glass dining table in situ in East Hampton. CHRISTIAN HARDER

A contemporary pill-shaped table by Isle Crawford for De La Espada. CHRISTIAN HARDER

A contemporary pill-shaped table by Isle Crawford for De La Espada. CHRISTIAN HARDER


Interior Report

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Nov 19, 2021
  • Columnist: Andrew Bowen

Thanksgiving — or, the unofficial start of the holiday season — is finally upon us. Hopefully, this year things will look very different from last year for many of us, as we can finally gather again safely.

For those with both informal and formal dining rooms, this particular holiday can often mark a significant moment in time when the frequently overlooked formal dining experience finally retakes center stage. Gone are the days of flippantly cobbling together a rushed supper at the breakfast table, pushing aside newspapers and other ephemera to make way for the placemats that will play host to your mid-week meals for two to four. Consider the ante upped.

Whether you are enhancing an existing table that you have had for ages, or you are reignited in your hunt for the perfect piece to host upcoming dinners for out-of-town family and friends visiting the East End, there is plenty to consider when choosing the right dining experience: scale, shape, material and more all play a role in the Thanksgiving feast.

Firstly, it is important to consider the size of your table.

Obviously, the dimensions of the room will dictate the dimensions of the table itself. For good measure (literally), it is wise to allow for at least 36 to 42 inches between the edges of the table itself and the walls surrounding the room. This will ensure that guests can navigate freely around the space while their companions are still seated. Nobody wants to incessantly scoot in and out each time a neighboring diner needs to pass.

That said, many tables come with well-camouflaged leaves that can extend the surface area for greater capacity and be stored when not in use. Consider this if you are one to prefer more intimate gatherings or more open space in between major holidays; and — importantly — have a place to also neatly store the excess chairs that can take advantage of the added linear feet.

As for shape, the choice is fully yours and best guided by personal preference.

Rectangular tables can be quite handsome in a properly sized, formal dining room with clear boundaries and a somewhat traditional air. (They also work perfectly well in wide-open floor plans.) They convey a sense of power: the hosts can hold court at either end. They are familiar: Virtually everyone has made memories at one. And they are orderly: Place settings can be neatly arranged and evenly spaced.

Let’s be frank. For better or worse, they are the grand dames of formal dining. Furthermore, this shape is also most conducive to the various extension options that exist, which can be added or subtracted to suit your headcount.

Square tables, on the other hand, are a rare but interesting breed. Scaled appropriately, these typically service up to eight guests, blurring the lines of dominance and bringing people perhaps a bit closer together than they would prefer at the edges. Generally, though, they work best in informal settings or irregularly scaled rooms.

Meanwhile, oval tables tug at the mid-century heartstrings a bit, perhaps overshadowed by the now (and likely forever) ubiquitous pedestal table by Eero Saarinen. Be warned, though, of their limitations: these tables typically only comfortably seat six, even at the larger end. For those without enormous guest lists, though, a beautiful oval table is a sensible and somewhat unique dining table option for Thanksgiving.

Round tables, as you might have guessed, are an unusual strategy for formal dining. Hierarchy is utterly dismantled, conversation is free flowing, and there’s a freedom of movement for objects and ideas. That said, as with square and oval tables, there is a natural limit to their scale, and these typically cannot entertain as many guests as our dear friend the rectangle.

With all of this in mind, this year, consider one more interesting option for a somewhat contemporary take on dining that sacrifices neither form nor function: the pill. This shape is marked by long, parallel sides, with options aplenty for extension and ends that are rounded into semicircles. Decades of purist formality disintegrate before the eye. Voila.

As for material, the four most popular options are arguably wood, glass, metal and marble.

Wood is enjoying its heyday. There are countless species and finishes to consider — far too much for this (extremely) brief analysis. In short: wood is versatile, warm, and full of character … most of the time. However, it can be prone to staining and scratching, depending on the specific application. Tread carefully.

Glass, on the other hand, is perhaps the hardiest material when used normally. There is very little that a mild cleaning solution and a swift wipe with a soft cloth cannot solve. (Though, counterintuitively, glass can also crack easily with too much force, so use coasters liberally). Aesthetically speaking, glass is favored for its lightness and transparent appearance. For added interest, opt for a vintage 1970s smoked glass top table à la Milo Baughman. Some versions are even extendable.

Regarding metal, steel is a contemporary force to be reckoned with that adds a dose of heft and gravitas. While not appropriate for every space, it fits right into historically rooted yet recently updated homes quite well, as well as ambitious new glass boxes. Maintenance can be a veritable nightmare, though, with improper cleaning rapidly leading to rust and decay. Zinc, separately, can be quite nice, though one must be prepared for — and delight in — the natural spotting that occurs. After all, it is a reactive metal.

Lastly, marble. Luxurious and unique, marble dining tables have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. That said, unless the dining table in question is a truly bespoke item worth tens of thousands and composed entirely of stone (base and top), marble tops are often best suited for counters rather than standalone tables.

Finally, for those who are working with an existing table this year, whether for budgetary or supply chain reasons or otherwise, who are also yearning for something different, I leave you with one final secret weapon: the table cloth. The options are limitless, and the lead times are relatively short. Spilled the Beaujolais? Wash it. Ordered the wrong size? Hem it. Want a pattern? Block print it.

All things considered, it is important to remember that a formal dining table is ultimately a stage upon which lasting, shared memories of ceremony and connection are created. Set it wisely.

AutorMore Posts from Andrew Bowen

Design Exterior Living Spaces To Enjoy The Last Vestiges Of Summer

Labor Day weekend is finally upon us. Despite the title of this column, squarely centering ... 31 Aug 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Make A Statement

When it comes to interiors, so much time and energy today is spent on deciding ... 28 Jun 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Curved Sofas Are Back And Taking New Forms

Wherever you’re looking lately, it seems clear that there’s a growing penchant for sumptuous, curved ... 22 May 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Add Personality To A Brand New Home

It’s a tale as old as the real estate industry: historic, or contemporary? Do you ... 5 Mar 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Design Your Family Room To Enjoy The Indoors In The Cooler Months Ahead

With fall now in full swing out east, the cool air has invariably pushed many ... 20 Nov 2020 by Andrew Bowen

Create A Home Office That Suits Your Needs

During this turbulent year, it’s utterly impossible to calculate the sheer number of times that ... 2 Oct 2020 by Andrew Bowen

Dining Chairs: How To Choose The Best Fit For Your Home

Chairs are, without a question, a favorite of decorators and collectors alike. They often present ... 14 Sep 2020 by Andrew Bowen

Corridors, Foyers And Mudrooms Are Laboratories For Design Risk-Taking

Think about it: You arrive at home after a strenuous drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic on ... 14 Feb 2020 by Andrew Bowen

Bedding, Where Comfort And Style Meet

Bedding is an unavoidable necessity in virtually all homes, but it is arguably one of ... 30 Nov 2019 by Andrew Bowen

Reflections On Mirrors

Mirrors are by far one of the most versatile items in every interior decorator’s arsenal. ... 25 Sep 2019 by Staff Writer

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported
Send this to a friend