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Searching for a new table

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We are looking for a new table. However, we are having a difficult time choosing size, shape or manufacture (I actually don't care all that much who made it but my wife would like a very nice looking table and a buffet that matches).

Our current situation:

99% of the family meals are in the kitchen eat-in area where we have a table just right for the family.

However, for when we have company (2 or more people), we have to move to he dining room as the kitchen table does not accomodate. In the dining room, we have a table that we've bought about 15 years ago (and about 5 move ago). It is a nice table (and chairs) made by lane but it has a number of scars from some very happy meals and some very hard moves. With all it leaves in, the table is abour 8 ft long and 3.5 foot wide and accomodate 8 to 10 people very comfortably. However, with the long shape, I have a problem that if you are sitting in one end of the table you are pretty much precluded from the conversation at the other end. So at dinners you have these different pockets of conversation. So, I've been thinking about a round table (I also like the thought of a lazy susan since all meals are served family style). Wife likes the long table because she thinks we'll have the same issue with the round table and you can sit more people at a long table.

Our requirements are pretty simple. We have a 13 by 13 dining room. We'd like to sit comfortably 10 people but would like option for 12. However, we usually have total number of 8 for dinner (about 70% = 8 people, 20 % = 10 people, 10% is >= 12).

Would you do a long table or a round table? What size and characteristics would you look for? Any specific recommendations?

Any insights would be appreciated.


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A few thoughts here.

First, I don't know that it's realistic to expect a group of 10 or 12 to engage in a single, real-time conversation. At that group size, if it's one conversation, you're really talking about people taking turns at public speaking. While that may happen at business meetings, it's not really the way people interact in an unregulated, casual setting. So, I don't think your table shape is necessarily to blame for the pockets of conversation. I think that's going to happen at any table, no matter what shape, when you have a large group.

Second, while I love round tables, the bigger they get the less efficient they are. A round table that seats 6 or 8 is very efficient. One that seats 10 or 12 has a lot of dead space in the center that nobody can comfortably reach from a seated position, and the people across the table from one another are nearly as far away as they'd be at a rectangular table seating the same number of people.

Third, I'm a fan of the lazy Susan and think it deserves wider adoption, however it's definitely a commitment. It's not something you're going to take on and off the table. Also, I find that too many people size their lazy Susans unintelligently. You need enough space between the edge of the lazy Susan and the edge of the table to accommodate large plates surrounded by wine glasses, otherwise as the stuff spins around on the lazy Susan it knocks into people's glasses.

Finally, one table configuration I like a lot is the wide rectangle -- wide enough to accommodate 2 chairs on each end. That way, to seat 12 people, it only needs to be long enough to accommodate 4 chairs on each of the long sides. And that shape gives a nice amount of space in the middle for platters, pitchers, etc., but any given item is still within reach of several people. Way back when, in Vermont, we had a square table that would seat 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 and it had two leaves that would lengthen it into a rectangle that would seat either 2 + 3 + 3 +2 with one leaf or 2 + 4 + 4 + 2. Given that you have a square dining room, this might be a good design, if you can find one or have one made.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm also looking for a new table. My constraint is space -- I have a tiny dining nook which is already taken up with a small table and my bar. That means that a dining table has to go in the living room, which isn't that big. I was hoping to find a drop-leaf table that I can keep against a wall until I need to pull it out. The problem is that I can't seem to find any drop-leaf tables that are big enough. I'm looking for something that will seat 6-8 people -- am I looking for the impossible?

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I agree with fat guy. I'd either go for a rectangle or a wide oval. We had our table made for us about 15 years ago and I still love it. It is a wide oval with a removable leaf. Removing the leaf turns it into a circle. It is a smaller table that seats 6-8. If you can find a local woodworker you can commission a table of your own design. The guy we worked with loved the challenge and the general design I provided and I let him take over from there. I loved his work and trusted him completely. JAZ, I also think a woodworker could create something made to measure for your space. Maybe a gateleg table or something with an extra long hinge called a piano hinge.

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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My mom's dining table is circular without the leaves. As a circular table, it seats 6. It also has two leaves which, when added, elongates it into an oval that can seat 10.

The most frustrating part about the table for my mom is trying to find oval tablecloths that have a decent fit. With most, there's very little to almost no overhang on the edges.


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


Tim Oliver

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