3 things to look for in a dining table for entertaining at home

Best features in dining tables

There is more than style when it comes to selecting the perfect dining table for entertaining. As a strong believer of Louis Sullivan‘s architecture principle Form ever follows function, I always look for products with superior functionality and style.

I compiled the main features to look for before you buy a dining room table for entertaining. To keep it simple, I will not talk about the size or the shape of the room.

Rectangular shaped dining table

If you like to entertain more than 10 guests at a time, I suggest you aim for a rectangular shape. The Refectory table with its communal spirit is ideal for entertaining.

A round table must have 6 feet of diameter to fit 8 to 10 persons. That is why a rectangular dining table is the norm in a home environment if you need to sit down more people.

Furniture makers in North American produce dining tables between 36 to 40 inches width. If you are short of space, think about having a custom made 32 inch width table and use the extra inches to move around. The distressed wood table by Marchetti shows a clever mix between rustic and refined look. This is typical of Italian family events.

When I travelled in the Netherlands with their narrow houses, I discovered the beauty and the practicality of less wide dining tables. There is a coziness to them that seduced me. My current table is an extendable boat shape table with a maximum width of 38 inches (33 at the lowest). I would have preferred a slightly narrower table.

I am not keen of placing large serving plates at the center of the table. I prefer setting a food serving station. A butler tray or a side table works fine for this task. This way the table is not overcrowded. If your table fits twelve and you entertain only eight guests, you can divide everything in two and spread the serving plates at both ends. The goal is to make easy for the guests to serve themselves.

Integrated leaves

A long and narrow dining table is very cute but there are several good reasons why you want to shrink your table for your daily usage. Some people feel uncomfortable eating everyday on a big table if they are only two persons at the table. If this is your case, I suggest you get an extendable table. Most tables extend up to 10 or 12 people. Rarer models comfortably house up to 16 guests. You aim for the longest table you can fit in when it is extended.

Panels are bulky and they are may be tricky to store. The most practical dining tables hide the panels inside the table. Unfortunately, they are not the most popular designs in North America. Many types of mechanisms for integrated panels have been developed. Some work better than others. So try it in the store to see if you like the way it works. If you extend the ends, make sure the ends feel strong when open.

Most extendable tables are made of wood but some brands designed extendable glass top tables. The Fregoli dining table designed by C. Carli is the perfect example in modern style.


A table with low side drawers is practical to keep your flatware and a sample of your linen. Casual entertainers will appreciate the style of the Menos table designed by Peter Maly for Behr International. I see this table in a loft or a dining table integrated in a kitchen. The superbly wood crafted Menos will look at its best in a modern summer house or in a dining room that opens to the outdoor. There is a Scandinavian mood out of the maple Menos dining table.

Before you buy a dining table with drawers, sit down and check if you have enough rooms for your legs. Ideally, sit on the chairs you will use. If you can, bring a few friends of different body shapes than you and ask for their opinions.

Whatever style, materials and features you opt for, your table must feel comfortable when eating. Stay tuned for upcoming posts this fall about the choice of materials and seating options.

For Australians: Italian manufacturer Marchetti dining collections available at Domo Collections
Learn more: Fregoli dining table designed by C. Carli for Marchetti Casa – a different Marchetti
Buy online: Extendable table designed by Rolf Benz available at House of European Design store
Buy online: Menos Table designed by Peter Maly for Behr International available at House of European Design store