Everyone uses their dining room a little differently. For some, a dining room is a large, separate room where you gather your extended family and friends for large holiday meals. For others, it’s a small space where you and the people you live with share a quiet, intimate meal. But having a separate dining room isn’t a given, and working with a small, joined space or an odd-shaped greatroom can be a whole lot more challenging. So where do you put a dining table if you don’t have a place for one? Simple: you redefine your dining area to fit the space you have.
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The first and most important consideration is how the space is going to be used. A table should have enough room for all the people who live in your home to be able to use it at the same time. The kind of meals and who you’re serving also matters. If you regularly have spaghetti night with the kids, you’re going to want easier to clean and harder to stain surfaces on your table and chairs. If you don’t want your guests to overstay their welcome after dinner, you can have a more aesthetic and less comfortable dining set to sit in.
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The second most important consideration for your dining set is how much space you actually have for your table and chairs. A long, narrow table may work in some homes for multiple guests, while others require splitting the group into two or more separate tables between the kitchen and living room. To save space, you can push your dining table against a wall when it is not being used or when only a few people are using it, as you wouldn’t need the other side to be accessible. Consider closet storage for the extra seating or chairs that can be easily stacked on top of each other if you can’t push them under your table after a meal.
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If you have a dining table too small for both the guests’ dishes and the serving dishes, a buffet cabinet may be what you need. You can place the dishes on its surface and have only the food currently being eaten on the table so that nothing is in the way. When not being used for a meal, buffets act as storage and display for fragile or sensitive dishware, along with spare silverware, tablecloths and mats, napkin rings, and other dining room decor.
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Something you may notice while browsing dining furniture is the shape options as well as size. Should you go with a circular or oval-shaped dining table versus a square or rectangular one? This is a matter of personal preference, though functionally rectangular shapes give you more surface area for the amount of space they take up. My own personal bias says if you don’t mind “cutting a few corners,” rounder tables are better. You’re less likely to dig your hip into the side of your table while walking by or to it, and I am a very clumsy person, so I need all the help I can get.
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If you’re not satisfied with your current options, it might be time to think outside your dining room – both metaphorically and literally. You can depart from traditional dining seating with outside dining sets for more space and more open air. Weather permitting, these tables and chairs are built to stay outside all the time, so there’s no need to pull them in and out every time it rains. That means you can eat outside when the sun is shining, or even move the dining set inside or onto a covered porch as needed. The biggest downside to this option is that it works much better in warmer climates – and not so well in areas that see six months of snow a year. It’s also a lot harder to be picky about style with indoor/outdoor furniture. For example, a Victorian-style dining table could never survive the elements of even the mildest climate for very long.