How to Choose a Dining Table for Your Home

How to Choose a Dining Table for Your Home

Of all the furniture you may own in your life, the dining table may be the one that carries the most significance.

From a personal style perspective, your dining table can signal your sense of taste and act as a foundation for your aesthetic.

And as life unfolds, your dining table is a support system: It’s a gathering place for celebrations big and small. A place for board games, late-night epiphanies, and big life decisions. High-quality dining tables are built to last through it all and more.

With all of that in mind, it makes sense that choosing a dining table can become a big decision. There’s much to consider: size, aesthetics, functionality, and durability for the long haul.

We’re here to help streamline that process. In this buying guide, we’ll walk through every aspect of choosing the right dining table for your home—something long-lasting, timeless, and suitable for your lifestyle.

Understanding Your Space

The first step in choosing a dining table is considering the space it will occupy. You don’t need a formal dining room to have a proper dining table.2 In most homes, the dining table serves as a multi-purpose piece.

Think about where the dining room table makes the most sense in your home. Is it in the kitchen, right next to where food is prepared? Is it in the living room, where it may serve as an additional gathering space? If your home does have a “formal” dining room, what kind of room is it: transitional, between the living room and kitchen, or separate?

You’ll also want to consider how you’ll use your dining table.3 Do you enjoy hosting large gatherings? Does your family eat meals at home every day? Will it serve other purposes, like a homework station or home office? Understanding a dining table’s cross-functionality will help you pick the best one for your needs.

Measure Your Dining Area

Before you start shopping, you’ll need to measure your space. Here are a few areas to take the measuring tape to:

  • Seating space – Think that the everyday diner will want between 22–24 inches of space for their table setting so that they aren’t bumping into their neighbor whenever they lift their fork.3 Learn more about seating for round dining tables.
  • Serving space – Elbow room isn’t the only space to consider. You’ll also want to consider the space on the table for serving dishes or tablescapes. Ideally, a table should be about three feet wide to accommodate table settings, decor, and food for serving.4
  • Expandability – If you love throwing dinner parties or game nights but only seat two to four at the table regularly, you’ll want a table that can grow to accommodate your guest list. Expandable tables are excellent options for this scenario. Just ensure your space can accommodate an extendable dining table at its full size.
  • Other obstructions – It’s helpful to consider other objects in your dining space, such as doors, walkways, windows, light fixtures, and other pieces of furniture that might impede movement around the table. Some things, like light fixtures or furniture like china cabinets, buffets, and sideboards, can be moved around to accommodate the table of your dreams. Doorways, on the other hand, cannot.

Accounting for Walking and Seating Space

Like white space on a page, the negative space around your dining table is just as important to consider. You want plenty of space for diners to come and go from the table without bumping chair legs into walls. A minimum of three feet on each side of the table allows for easy movement in, out, and around the table.3

Identifying Your Style

Size and shape aren’t the only elements to consider. You’ll also want to think about how your dining table reflects your personal sense of style.

Modern vs. Traditional: Finding Your Aesthetic

Interior design is a vast field with lots of variation. For simplicity, let’s look at the two broadest categories5:

  • Traditional – If you like dark, natural woods and ornate details like clawfoot table legs and carved or inlaid accents, you may have a thing for traditional aesthetics. Since this type of design comes from the end of the Victorian era, these styles are more formal and classic.
  • Modern – If you’re drawn to lighter wood tones and minimal, clean lines, you may prefer modern dining table styles. Modern furniture refers explicitly to designs from the late 19th century through today (mid-century modern being the most recognizable of these styles). This design style differs from “contemporary,” which means whatever is currently in vogue.

Additionally, choosing the right dining chairs can make or break the look of your dining set. For those interested in creating a unique blend of styles, learn more about how to mix and match dining room chairs.

Choosing the Right Size and Shape

Once you’ve measured out the space for your dining area and chosen your aesthetic, it’s time to consider the size and shape of your future table. Certain shapes may be better depending on how many people use the table regularly.6

Round Tables for Intimate Settings

You may do best with a round table if:

  • Your dining room is perfectly square
  • The space is small and multi-purpose
  • You only use the table for meals or prefer not to cook all that much
  • You tend to host only a few people at a time
  • You prefer intimate, quiet conversations

Shop our wide selection of round dining tables at James+James to suit every unique style and aesthetic.

Rectangular Tables for Larger Gatherings

A rectangular dining table may be for you if:

  • You enjoy hosting large gatherings
  • You’re furnishing a “formal” dining room
  • The dining room is long and narrow

If you’re leaning toward a rectangular dining table, shop our elegant collection at James+James.

Consider an oval dining table if getting a rectangular table into the room is too challenging. It can also host large groups and fit in a narrow space, but it softens the edges and creates more closeness in the seating arrangements.

Square Tables for Versatile Arrangements

Adding a square table to your dining area is ideal if:

  • You have a perfectly square room to put it in
  • You like intimate gatherings but want a bit more space between people
  • Your dining table serves more than one purpose—you work at it, for example
  • You host big groups only occasionally

At James+James, our collection of square tables has something to suit everyone—shoppers and diners alike.

Selecting the Material

The material of the dining table matters for durability and style. You’ll also want to choose a material based on its maintenance requirements.7

The Warmth of Wood

Wooden dining tables are some of the most versatile, durable, and timeless. Different species of hardwoods offer unique colors and patterns of wood grain that can be incorporated easily into most decor styles. No matter the species you choose, wood adds a sense of homeness to any space.

Hardwood tables are some of the sturdiest when it comes to longevity. They tend to handle everyday wear and tear better than other materials (though it’s important to note that some species of hardwood scratch more easily than others).7

The Modern Touch of Metal

Metal tables, or tables with metal accents, fit perfectly in an industrial or contemporary home aesthetic.8 The style gives off a cool, chic feel. Like a wood table, most metals will complement any style it’s paired with, including other metals. 4

Dining table

Functionality and Features

What do you need your dining table to do? Let’s look at different functionality options for your new dining table.

Extendable Tables for Flexible Dining

Maybe you’re a family of four, but you regularly host groups of eight or more. Then you’ll want an extendable table. These tables usually have an additional piece or two that can be added to the table, called a “leaf.”

We have several extendable table options for various room and group sizes at James+James ready for you to envision in your home.

Storage Features and Accessibility

A table with built-in storage works well for a small dining space. You can find tables with built-in drawers or shelving to store cutlery, serving dishes, or linens.

Customize Your Table with James+James

If you’re struggling to find a standard dining table that will fit your space, a custom table may be the way to go. Our custom table collection makes it easy for you to adjust your order to suit your needs, from the height and width of the table to the color. Explore our custom wood tables at James+James to find yours.

Making the Purchase

Now comes the exciting part: buying your new table. Before you pull out your wallet, here are a few things to consider when investing in a quality piece, including the cost and the maintenance requirements.

Setting a Budget

A high-quality dining table could cost upwards of $10,000, depending on the materials, functionality, size, and style. Setting a budget and researching dining tables within your price range is helpful so you aren’t tempted to overspend.

Considering Custom Options

While a custom table is an excellent option if you’re struggling to fit a standard table in your space or simply want a say in the final product, custom furniture tends to cost more and take longer to create, so keep that in mind when budgeting.

Warranty and Return Policies

Before purchasing, carefully research a brand’s warranty. This should cover returns or replacement items that are damaged during shipment.

Dining table

Final Thoughts and Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance is one of the best ways to keep your table looking amazing and functioning as it should.

Protecting Your Investment

Every table is unique, and so are its maintenance requirements. It’s best to thoroughly research the proper way to maintain your dining table based on the material it’s made from so you don’t accidentally damage it. (When in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer for help.)

Here are a few easy maintenance tips to help keep your table looking its best:

  • Be mindful of heat and humidity
  • Only use gentle cleaning products or products designated for specific materials
  • Protect your table with placemats, tablecloths, and coasters

The Long-term Value of a Quality Dining Table

Buying a high-quality dining table is an investment that will end up paying for itself. A sturdy dining table can last years and may eventually become a family heirloom.

Find Your Next Dining Table at James+James

There’s much to consider when choosing a dining table for your home. You have to factor in your style, the material you like best, the size of your potential dining area, and how flexible you need your dining table to be.

At James+James, we design timeless, high-quality dining tables in multiple styles that will last through life’s ups, downs, and in-betweens. Made in the USA from ultra-durable materials, our tables are made to last. Shop our wide selection today and discover the table that completes your space.


  1. Poetry Foundation. “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”
  2. Martha Stewart. 10 Small Dining Room Ideas to Help You Make the Most of This Space.
  3. New York Times. How to Choose the Right Dining Table for Your Home.
  4. Lumens. How to Choose a Dining Table–Shapes, Sizes, and More.
  5. 21Oak. Modern vs. Traditional Furniture.
  6. The Spruce. Dining Tables: Which Shape Is Right for You?
  7. Livinator. The Ultimate Guide to Dining Table Materials: Exploring Styles, Shapes, and Selection.
  8. Epic Home Ideas. A Guide on Dining Room Table Materials, Shapes and Styles.

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