Your Guide to Dining Tables

After the pool table, ping-pong table, foosball table and air hockey table, the dining table is the most exciting table there is.

Does all that repetition make the word table seem suddenly strange and unfamiliar?

Good! Now that you're in a state of "beginner's mind," we're going to look closer at a furniture item that many people take for granted.

Let's get started.

What Can You Use Them For?

Kitchen and dining tables have many uses around the home, some of which include:

  • Sitting down for a meal
  • Hosting guests or holiday events
  • Playing board games, making puzzles or enjoying other activities
  • Adding style to a room

Some of the less common uses include:

  • Playing that intense knife-fingers game from Aliens
  • Hiding the fact that you aren’t wearing pants.
  • Soccer goalposts.
  • Trying out that righteous table cloth trick.

No single dining table is inherently better than any other. Each has features and benefits to appeal to a specific shopper.

What do you need your dining table to do for you? This is the question you should keep top of mind as you shop.

How Do Dining Tables Differ?

Once you know how you’ll be using your dining area, then the right table will become more obvious.

Four major elements that distinguish tables are:

  • Shape
  • Height
  • Adjustability
  • Surface Material


Dining tables typically come in one of the following three shapes. Each has its own advantages.


This is the most common table shape. Rectangular tables are the most efficient at accommodating multiple people. They also provide two places of distinction at either head of the table for the hosts or special guests. Rectangular tables have the greatest number of base configurations, including trestle, storage, pedestal and the classic four-post design.


Think of being at a wedding reception. A round table is perhaps the most intimate of all, where everyone gets an equal seat. (King Arthur and the knights of Camelot knew the significance of this.) These tables can hold many people if needed, or just a few. And they look the best with a tablecloth.

Larger round tables might be a bit more difficult to fit in certain rooms, while small ones are the perfect choice for any cozy space. Some can be extended into an oval shape through a removable leaf.


Square tables are more common in smaller sizes, ideal for smaller rooms, but less common overall. Some are extendable. At most, a square dining table can hold up to eight people; after that, the use of space becomes less efficient. And unlike round or rectangular tables, square tables can be rotated 45 degrees in contrast to your surrounding decor, creating a bold look that lovers of Diamond Shreddies are already familiar with.


In Japan, it's customary to eat at a table that is not much higher than a foot off the floor. But in North America, we're more likely to sit at a table with one of the following two heights:

30" – Standard Height

This is the height of the typical table. In a standard-height dining chair, (most) people have their feet firmly planted on the floor, instead of dangling below or propped on a footrest bar. Many people find that it is easier to maintain good posture when sitting at a lower height, so keep in mind your personal preferences before you buy—you might be sitting at this table for many years to come.

36" – Counter Height

Taller people might prefer sitting at a counter-height table, where it's easier to stretch your legs. And whoever is doing the sweeping or vacuuming might prefer the greater ease of access, too. At six inches above the standard-height table, these pieces stand out in a room better than their 30" counterparts. However, it is more difficult for people with reduced mobility to climb into these seats, so keep in mind who you'll be hosting most often before you decide to pick one up for your home.


When you are expecting company or need a larger flat surface to work on, it's nice to be able to make a quick adjustment and suddenly have the table you need. Similarly, when you don't need all that extra space, it's just as nice to be able to collapse the table and open up some extra room.

There are three common types of adjustable-length dining tables.

Removable Leaf

You are probably most familiar with the removable leaf setup. These are the ones that can be pulled out and stored away until they are needed. The leaves sit atop the rails that make up the table frame, providing an all-around sturdy surface anywhere across the table.


The leaves in drop-leaf tables hang along the edges like an apron. Just lift them up, fasten the support, and your table is ready to go. These tables are perfect for smaller rooms or apartments where storage is a luxury; simply collapse the leaves and move the table up against the wall until the next time you need it. However, due to their cantilevered design, the leaves in drop-leaf tables can bear the least amount of weight. So be sure to keep heavy casseroles over the central support.


Think of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Once the far edges of the table are pulled apart, two leaves hidden below the middle of the table rise up and fold out to fill in the extra space. Not only do butterly-leaf tables save you from having to store your extra leaves elsewhere, but these intricately designed contraptions provide as sturdy a surface as removable-leaf tables.

Surface Materials

The composition of your table surface will depend on your tastes and how you most likely plan on using it. Here are the four most common ones you'll see.

Solid Wood

For many people, the solid wood table is the ideal. You can tell if a table is made of solid wood if the grain patterns along the top of the table extend down along the side edges. If not, chances are you are dealing with a convincing veneer.

Solid wood tables are made either with hardwood or softwood. Don't let those names fool you; they refer to the types of trees they come from (hardwood from deciduous, trees with leaves or flowers: softwood from coniferous, trees with cones), not the durability of the wood itself. In fact, many softwood varieties are more durable than some hardwoods. Mahogany, maple, walnut and oak are always safe bets when you're looking for sturdy stuff.

The one downside to solid wood tables is that they are more likely to crack or split with changes in humidity.


If you want a kitchen or dining room table that best balances practicality and beautiful looks, a table with a wood veneer is the way to go.

Veneers are created by cutting a thin layer of wood and laying it on top of construction-grade material, like plywood, MDF or other engineered woods. Veneers provide that attractive wood texture and finish to furniture. Most importantly, they won’t warp, crack or split over time.

By using other wood alternatives underneath the veneer surface, these tables not only hold up to spills and scratches better than their solid wood counterparts, but they are also much lighter and easier to afford.


A glass table is an easy way to add a touch of elegance to any room. Glass not only lightens up the room and makes a space feel bigger, but it complements almost any other type of decor.

Today's glass tables are not only sturdy and better resistant to heat or scratch damage, but they are also made with tempered safety glass. That means that not only are they more difficult to shatter, but they won't cut you, even if they do.

Some Other Things to Consider

Those are the basic things to know before you buy a dining table. But here are a few other things to keep in the back of your mind as you shop:

  • It's a long-term investment: Compared to other furniture in your home, dining tables are the ones that are replaced the least often. You might have your next one for over 20 years. So be sure to spend a little extra time that you would otherwise in finding the perfect fit for you and your home.
  • Do you plan on moving anytime soon? If so, you might want to consider how easy it will be to take apart and transport your current table without harming it in the process.
  • Do you mind if the table gets distressed or damaged? If your plan was to keep an immaculate table without any scratches, but you tend to be a bit clumsy or have kids or pets who might be a little less mindful around the furniture, you're better of selecting a table with the surface material and sturdiness for your needs.
  • What shape is the room? Smaller rooms are generally best for square or round tables, while rectangular tables fit best in long, narrow spaces. Counter-height breakfast tables often look best placed right next to a raised kitchen counter.
  • Will it fit? Measure before you buy. Even better, replicate the measurement in the space you plan on placing the table. (Each table in the Brick Online Catalogue has its dimensions listed just underneath the product title.) It's best to leave at least between two-and-a-half to three feet of space between the table and the nearest wall or object.
  • Would you like a side of chairs with that? Most tables will have a set of matching side chairs that go with the package. Some even have benches, servers and china hutches. Don't feel obligated to choose the recommended chairs; sometimes mixing and matching with other furniture is the best part!
  • Will you be combining two tables to accommodate larger parties? If so, be sure to double-check the width and height of each. If not, you might end up with an unsightly step under the tablecloth, making your beautiful spread look more like a blanket fort than a dining table.

Start Your Search Today!

Now that you know the basics of dining table design, you should begin to get a picture of the shapes and styles that will work best for you. Browse through The Brick’s online catalogue for more ideas and inspiration.