Lindsey M. Roberts, Special to The Washington Post
Before buying a new dining table, measure - and then measure again. "The first rule of design is scale," says Young Huh, of Young Huh Interior Design in New York.
Measure the dining room, and then measure the tables you are looking at. Ideally, there will be three feet of space between each side of the table and the wall, advises Amanda Reynal, of Amanda Reynal Interiors in Des Moines. Use painter's tape on the floor to get the best sense of how the size will feel. For two people, Huh recommends a three-foot round table; for four people, a three-foot to four-foot square table; for six to eight people, "it's best to get a table that has leaves so you can add." Look at a table that gets as large as five to seven feet for six people, Reynal says, and six to eight feet for eight people, depending on chair size.
Usability is next: "You want to make sure that this is what you need for your family," Huh says. Does the table need to be metal or marble top to stand up to kids doing homework? If it's solid wood, will you mind the patina that will come over time? Many dining tables today serve as separation between dining areas and living rooms. In that case, measure for both the sofa and the table and note that a darker table will help ground that larger space. Measure again, and then feast on our experts' picks for the best tables in five sizes.
For two people and a small space, Andrew Gath of Seattle's Gath Interior Design likes a bistro table - but with interest. The 36-inch-round Bistro Table by Bend Goods uses durable powder-coated wire metal instead of standard wood for the base, in white, black, pink or blue ($800-$940, bendgoods.com). The size allows ample room for dinnerware and even a centrepiece, Gath says. The table can be inside or outside, but the optional white or black marble tops are for indoor use only. Round tables such as this are ideal for square rooms and also for squeezing extra chairs around because there are no legs.
The most user-friendly rectangular and round tables have a pedestal or a trestle base so there aren't four legs to bump into. Reynal recommends the 44-inch Silhouette Pedestal Round Dining Table in white marble and brushed nickel ($999, westelm.com). Lighter finishes give the illusion of more space in a small apartment or home, Reynal says.
"People have this romantic idea of hosting a 12-person dinner," says Kaitlyn Payne, founding principal of Basicspace in Brooklyn. But her clients in New York City, especially those without a dining room, generally end up with a table that seats "six to eight people, max." A fan of Ikea, Payne likes the Ekedalen extendible table for seating six ($299, ikea.com). Storing the leaf inside the table means it doesn't have to be squished into a coat closet.
"For a rectangle, you could do a six-foot table or something that expands to a 10-foot table with two leaves," Huh says. The dark stone of the 72-inch-wide Parsons Black Marble Top/Dark Steel Base Dining Table means it won't stain as easily from spills or kids' art projects, she says ($1,559, crateandbarrel.com). The narrower depth of 42 inches means it can work in narrower dining rooms.
The 84-inch Panavista Drop Leaf Dining Table can comfortably seat eight when not expanded and 10 when extended to 107.75 inches ($1,745, perigold.com). A pick of Martha Blair FitzGerald, of FitzGerald Interiors in Maryland, the Panavista by Stanley Furniture has a solid wood base and a top made of solid wood and a veneer pattern. Measure the height of any chairs you might use, too, so there's enough clearance for chair arms and guests' legs.