The first decision you need to make about dining room furniture is whether you need it for style or functionality. Is it more important that the pieces you choose look good, or that they fit in with the requirements of your family’s lifestyle? Furniture buyers often make mistakes by not thinking through the process clearly.
OVERALL HOUSE STYLE
The way you choose to furnish your dining room will largely depend on the overall style of your house or apartment, and whether you have a separate dedicated dining room. Many homes do not have a formal dining area because the owner has chosen to use the space as a more flexible living area, available not just for meals but for other purposes as well. The L-shaped combined family sitting and dining area has been a popular option for many years, for the very good reason that it makes the best use of the area existing in the house.
FURNITURE FOR A SEPARATE DINING ROOM
If you do have home with a dedicated dining room, the chances are this will not be a room used every day. It’s also likely this will not be a first home, but a house or upscale apartment worked for after many years in the real estate market.
It would not be a good idea to spoil the effect with a cheap dining setting.
Think about hardwood (Oak is very popular) with fabric or leather upholstery for the traditional home, or glass and steel for a chic modern apartment. Genuine antiques will work well in both settings, or if you can afford furniture by a contemporary recognized designer, consider buying a dining setting which will become a future family heirloom, the antique of tomorrow.
Genuine antiques will work well
If you are lucky you will be able to find components such as a sideboard, buffet or chiffonier to complement your table and chairs. Plan for this furniture to see you through many years, perhaps until you downsize on retirement. Spend as much as you can afford because irregular use will allow you to care for it properly rather than worrying about scratches and spills. It’s an investment, not just furniture.
MULTI-PURPOSE FURNITURE FOR THE YOUNG FAMILY
At the other end of the scale, a busy young family with an open-plan living and dining area will have different needs and priorities. The dining table may have to endure three or even four meals every day, as well as providing a surface for homework, craft projects, family games and paying bills. This hardworking table is at the epicenter of family life. It’s going to suffer.
This is not the place for a cherished antique or expensive modern design. Choose something easy to care for with no fancy trims that will attract dust. Dark wood not only shows dust but every little scratch as well, so if your furniture must be wooden, go for a light color. Country-style furniture comes in chunky, solid, light-colored wood. It’s cheap and cheerful but surprisingly stylish and almost indestructible. You can even buy it with a ‘pre-distressed’ finish, so that the stains and scratches inflicted by your family only add to the rustic patina.
CHOICE OF MATERIALS
Of course, timber is not the only choice. Another sturdy option is a chrome or metal-framed table with a ceramic top and chairs upholstered in vinyl. Glass table tops might suit a childless couple but are not recommended for a family situation.
Before you make your final decision, here are a few more points to consider. How many times will the dining chairs be dragged away from and towards the table, scraping across the floor surface of your dining area? Metal chair legs, chair legs capped with metal studs, or even unadorned timber legs, will scratch wooden floors or wear a track in your carpet. If this is a problem for you, choose a style of chair that will slide easily across the floor, or put a large cheap rug under your dining table.
Are your family members particularly tall or short?
Some dining settings come in a variety of chair and table heights, but be aware that what suits you may not be comfortable for your guests.
How many people do you need to seat on a regular basis?
If you have guests only occasionally, consider buying an adjustable table which can be extended when required by inserting or folding out an extra panel. This will mean you do not need to forfeit extra living space just to provide for those infrequent visitors.
Can the furniture get into your home?
Finally, never buy a dining table, or any other furniture except the flat-pack variety, before checking or measuring every dimension and making sure that it will pass through all necessary doorways on its way to your dining area. Al fresco dining is fine in the summer months, but failure to check measurements could result in an expensive mistake and year-round meals out on the patio. Make every dollar count, consider every angle, and settle on a choice of dining room furniture you will not regret.