How to Buy a Dining Table - The Essential Guide
Posted on February 8, 2012 by Astrid
Part 1: Size and style
The English novelist Virginia Woolf once wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
A dining table is one of those essential pieces of furniture which makes life that little bit better. Harking back in history, the dining table has always held great importance. In the Middle Ages, the dining table was used as a central part of the Great Hall, a large and heavily decorated room where the upper echelons of society would dine in castles or large manor houses. Modern life may be very different from the days of great royal banquets, but the dining table has remained an essential part of domestic life. That is why we are here to help guide you through the process of picking the best table to suit you and your lifestyle. Finding the perfect dining table may seem a little daunting at first, but it needn't be.
The first question to ask yourself is – how many people do you want to seat? As a rough guide, our 160cm tables seat around six people comfortably, usually distributed with two on each side and one at each end. A 180cm table will take three adults comfortably on each side. The same pattern applies to 200cm and 220cm tables for eight adults. We can make large dining tables right up to five metres long and the larger the dining table the more flexible the seating can become, but as a general rule you should allow for at least 40cm – 50cm per person.
One unexpected consequence of this is that a shorter table doesn't always give you more space! If length is restricted it can sometimes be better to go for a 180cm or 220cm over a 160cm or 200cm, to keep the ends of the table clear.
Of course the total number you can accommodate is also affected by your style of dining. For informal dining with family or friends who you are happy to rub shoulders with, an extra two places can often be squeezed onto a 180cm or 220cm dining table. If you are keen to get as many people as possible sat around a smaller table, then a wooden dining bench is a great option as this will fit more people on one side than chairs. This works particularly well for children. Stools can also be used to accommodate extra people at a pinch.
Once you have decided on the size and type of dining table, it is now time to consider the type of wood. Arguably, softwood and veneer are not as suitable for today's wear and tear. If veneer table tops are damaged, a lot more work is involved in hiding the damage as they can't be sanded to remove the marks and scratches. With this in mind, we specialise in solid hardwoods: teak, oak and walnut, which all wear extremely well. Solid hardwoods can also be sanded and re-oiled or waxed, meaning that you can care for and maintain your furniture over the years. In terms of colour, oak is the lightest of the woods, teak is slightly darker with more of a reddy-brown tone, and walnut is the darkest. Of course, the choice of wood is a very personal decision, and in more cases than not, comes down to an aesthetic preference. The look of the wood is largely affected by the type of finish you choose. Read part 2 of our guide to find out more about finish and aftercare..
Part 2: Finish and aftercare
"Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity." - Frank Lloyd Wright
Choosing the finish of the wood is as important as choosing the wood itself. We offer a number of different finishes on our oak dining tables. The best selling finish for our oak tables is the natural oiled finish, which is arguably the most 'user friendly'. The brilliant thing about this finish is that if it gets marked it can be sanded and re-oiled. We also offer a white oiled finish which gives a cleaner and more contemporary look to the table. If however, you are looking for something extra unique, then it's definitely worth considering some of our special finishes, like the white wash or white lime.
Our teak dining tables are great if you're looking for something fuss free, as they come unfinished. Teak has a high level of natural oil in the wood, and so has great built-in natural protection. Our teak dining tables are glass polished and have no finishing product applied to them. As our teak dining tables mature, the wood becomes a gorgeous warm, rich, auburn colour.
If you like the wood to have a more matured look, we also sell smoked or steamed tables. Smoking the wood involves a process of putting smoke into the kiln, where the wood is dried. Here, the ammonia in the smoke reacts with the tannin in the wood, darkening it and giving a similar result to wood that has been matured for 50-100 years. You simply can't get this effect with any other finish, so it is a great short cut to an aged piece of wood if you don't have decades to wait for a table!
Whatever type of wood and finish you decide to go for, all of our dining tables and chairs are made out of 100% solid hardwood. The beauty of this is that two tables are never identical. It is to be expected that the wood will show natural grain patterns, blemishes and knots, all of which are natural and unique features.
By this stage, you should be very pleased with your choice of style, wood and finish of dining table, so all that's left is delivery and assembly. A solid wood table is very heavy, so we advise you use our delivery company who have specialised teams. All of our table legs are dismantled for transport and our specialist delivery teams will be more than happy to assemble the table in the room of your choice.