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Buying guide: Dining tables

Five key questions to ask yourself before you head to the store in search of the perfect dining table.

Dining tables are scene-stealers in any home. Taking pride of place in what’s usually the most formal room of the house, or grounding the scene in an open-plan living/dining space, the dining table is more than just a place to eat. It represents friendship, love and welcome. Finding the right one comes down to asking yourself the right questions to narrow the field.

Here are five key questions to ask yourself before you head to the store.

1 Am I in my style groove?

Dining tables run the gamut from dirt cheap (i.e. less than the cost of dinner for two) to investment pieces running into the thousands of dollars.
If you’re confident in your decor taste, buy an investment piece that you want to have around for decades to come. If you’re not really sure yet what your style is, look for a more affordable piece that’s neutral enough to pass muster as you try out different decorating styles.

Regardless of whether you buy high or low, opt for a good quality table that will remain in fair enough condition to be resold, donated or otherwise handed down if you no longer have use for it. Avoid low-quality “disposable” (breakable, poorly constructed) furniture as a matter of eco principle.
At the showroom, don’t be afraid to handle the display tables. Lift them, pull at the legs, push down on the table corners and check out the joints. If anything is loose, the wood seems to be boring away at the joints, or the table feels otherwise un-sturdy, don’t buy it.

2 What tactile element would please me?

Say what? What we mean is, what would you like to feel when you’re at your dining table, eating, doing paperwork or playing poker? The cool of glass or marble or the warmth of wood? And if wood, would you prefer the smooth finish of a perfectly polished veneer or the patina and imperfections of a naturally worn solid wood?

When choosing, let your sense of touch guide you as much as the more obvious visual sense. After all, this is a piece of furniture you’ll be using frequently.

3 What styles do I like?
Flip through magazines, design books and online to get a sense of dining table styles. Flag what you like. Most likely, you’ll notice threads uniting your choices, whether it’s the type of material that the table is constructed from, or the shape and the dimensions. Often times, you may find that the chairs are as much a selling point as the table itself.
Jot down your preferences.

For example:
•    Pedestal base
•    Circular
•    White finish
•    Matches modern chairs


Or maybe:
•    Dark wood
•    Long and narrow
•    Simple
•    Magazine styled it with mismatched flea market chairs


That gives you a start. Use your tear sheets and list to describe what you’re looking for when window-shopping in stores, or as search phrases when browsing online.

Image courtesy of Crate & Barrel

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