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How to Select a Dining Table

People often gather around the dining room table to talk, eat, and play games. This is why this piece of furniture is more than just a base and a tabletop: it’s where memories are made. Whether it’s a weeknight dinner or holiday party, your dining room furniture should reflect your taste and lifestyle. 

While buying a new table is certainly a great idea, selecting a used or consignment dining table is a great way to acquire an excellent product at a fraction of the market price. While searching online for dining tables can take you in many directions, it is a simpler process when you browse Sotheby’s Home. 

Our vintage offerings cover a wide variety of styles, such as mid-century modern tables. If you know a designer or style you like, you can search for them directly on our site. We also sell our modern showroom samples. While many of these tables have little to no wear and tear, pay attention to the product details listed on each page and look through every image. 

However, looking at a picture isn’t enough to decide which used high end dining table is going to complement your home. Here is a short guide on selecting the right one for you.

Step 1: Identify Your Wants and Needs

First, make a wish list. Maybe you have moved into a new home and are furnishing empty rooms. Or you may be upgrading from a starter set of furniture and know exactly what you’d change about your current setup. 

If your current dining room table wobbles because the tabletop is too big for the pedestal base, choosing a table with four legs can solve your problem. Regardless of your current situation, identifying your main needs is the first step towards finding the product that fulfills all your wishes. 

Step 2: Find Your Table Size

No matter how great the table is, if it will cramp your dining area, then it isn’t going to make your home feel comfortable. Here’s how to calculate your maximum table size.

  1. Measure the length and width of the room. Subtract 6 feet from those measurements. This is the maximum length and width of the dining table.
  2. Allow at least 3 feet of space between each side of the table and the wall or any other furniture in the dining room. For example, if you decide to put in a bar cart or sideboard, you must also allow at least 3 feet of clearance between the table’s end and other objects so that a person can pass through comfortably.

Your party size is also an important factor in determining the table's minimum size. Here are the table dimensions and the number of people that they accommodate.

  • 1 to 2 people         30” - 36”  (any shape)
  • 3 to 4 people         36” - 48” (any shape)
  • 5 to 6 people         60” round or square, 72” rectangular or oval
  • 7 to 8 people         72” round or square, 96” rectangular or oval 
  • 9 to 10 people       We advise against round or square, 120” oval or rectangular

Step 3: Flatter Your Dining Area

Dining tables must suit your room’s dimensions and complement your home’s interior design. Generally, small dining areas look better with round tables and dining nooks. Glass also makes a small space look larger.

You must also consider the table’s overall visual impact. A dining room table with a thicker frame is going to take up more physical space than one with a thinner frame. Also, round or square dining tables complement a square room, while rectangular or oval tables suit a rectangular room. If you have a large dining area to fill, it may look too empty with just a dining table. Adding extra dining room furniture can help fill the void and make your room look complete.

Step 4: Factor in Your Lifestyle

Your dining table should be in harmony with your lifestyle and serve your current needs. It would be frustrating to buy a beautiful stone table and get frustrated if your child spills grape juice on it. Since stone stains more easily than other materials, it is usually not a good choice for young families. Instead, a laminate topped table can take some abuse and be easy to clean.

Or, you may love the idea of glass, but not be in line for frequent spot cleaning. Distressed wood or granite tabletops could be better choices for you, as these materials can hide flaws and fingerprints better. 

Step 5: Consider the Table’s Function

Having an attractive table is desirable, but don’t forget how it functions. A kitchen or dining table’s structure plays a large role in its comfort and practicality. How your table is supported plays a surprisingly large role in its ability to be enjoyed. There are four general types of table supports:

  • Legs: Four supporting beams that are attached to equally opposing ends under the tabletop. 
  • Pedestal: A cylindrical base that supports the tabletop from the center. 
  • Trestle: Two opposing bases linked by a horizontal beam. This is common with rectangular, farm-style tables. 
  • Legs and Trestle: Very large tables usually need a leg and trestle combination for maximum support.

Take a “test sit” at tables with these different support styles to find out which model is comfortable for you. If you’re accustomed to scooting in an extra chair or two for game night, you may consider a larger table or one with a pedestal base to create extra legroom. Trestles make it difficult to place chairs at the head of each table. Factors like this should be considered in your final decision.

Browse beautiful vintage and showroom sample dining room furniture sets today at Sotheby's Home.