Eating is one of the great pleasures in life, so kit out a dining area to tempt the family back to the table. But what do you need to know when buying a dining tables and chairs? Find out here…By Caroline Rodrigues
1. What’s your style?
Elegant painted designs with curvy carved legs? Seriously chunky solid wood? Or space-enhancing glass tops? Then there are monkish refectory styles, Victorian pedestals, and practical gate-leg tables.
2. How will its look affect the room?
Dark wood furniture has a rich, inviting appeal but can seem to close in the space, while glass or high-gloss white are the only options for a designer or small room. Instead of buying your dining chairs to match the table, pick an eclectic mix for a relaxed look.
3. How will it be used?
Consider where you’ll place the table and how you’ll use it. For example, an open plan kitchen diner needs furniture that will co-ordinate with kitchen units, and it’ll be used for everyday family meals so choose a table top that’s hardwearing.
4. What size do I need?
You’ll need at least 61cm between the table and the wall, or ideally 90cm. To work out how many people you can fit around the table, allow at least 53cm, or a more generous 60cm per place setting; for a round table, allow around 75cm, or alternatively, measure the diameter in inches, then divide by eight.
5. Make extra space
At Christmas or for dinner parties, extra places are often needed, so consider tables with drop-leaf, drawer-leaf or centre and end leaves – and allow for these when you’re measuring the space in the room.
6. Which material should I choose?
A solid wood top is the most practical choice because if it gets damaged, it can be sanded and refinished, and a few knocks and scratches often add to its charm and character. Many tables are made from a combination of materials, other than real wood. Wood veneers are fine slivers or real wood, bonded onto a cheaper material. Synthetic veneers (made from paper or pvc foils, printed to look like wood), MDF and particle board are also used to keep costs down. If a veneered top gets chipped or damaged revealing the surface beneath, you can’t easily repair it.
7. Which finish should I go for?
French polish gives a table that old-fashioned boardroom gleam but repairs will be expensive. If you have a busy household, go for a lacquered finish, just needing a light dusting with a soft cloth. However, if the finish gets damaged, you can’t repair it yourself. Wax and oil finishes, although less resistant to marking, have the advantage that you can re-wax them, filling in minor scratches.
8. How can I choose chairs?
For pure comfort, upholstered chairs are first choice. Wood chairs are practical, but can feel hard after a while, while cane and rush contain a natural padding. For a relaxing sit, look for a chair that’s at least 52 to 56cm wide, with a seat height of around 46cm.
9. What should I look for in-store?
Table heights can vary so if you’re buying dining chairs separately, try out various chairs in the showroom, to get the correct height. Check that the extension leaves are easy to use, that any runners glide smoothly, and that any hinges are strong and supportive.
10. What should I ask?
Check whether your furniture will be supplied fully assembled and if so, make sure that it will fit through any narrow corridors or awkward doorways. In some cases, a table may have detachable legs for easier access. Ask about guarantees, delivery times and charges.
For more dining room style advice and shopping guides visit Channel4 / 4homes.
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