When you are thinking about ordering any dining table, it helps to consider all these issues that I’m going to talk about below. If you're having it custom made, you may as well have everything just the way you want it. I walk through all these points with my clients to help them decide what works best for them.
The table, and the room and home it’s placed in:
We have become an informal society. No longer are eating, cooking, working, reading and so forth done in certain rooms built and furnished for the purpose, but instead we have multipurpose rooms where lots of different activities happen all at once. We no longer have servants to do the cooking in steaming sculleries behind closed doors; instead everyone in the house shares the work and rooms are becoming more open and blended with each other. Here are some multipurpose, eat-in kitchen ideas:
Do you have a formal dining room or an eat-in kitchen or both? What activities happen in your eating area, besides dining? Do kids sit there to do homework? Do you spread out papers for your taxes, or work there on a laptop? Does your 6 foot 6 inch husband knock his knees against the apron and curse the world? How does traffic flow in the room? How will people move through space as they are filling their plates, eating, and cleaning up? Do you have a formal room for dining, or is the table to be placed in the middle of a busy kitchen, or in a nook off to the side? Do you squeeze yourself and all your activities into a 300 square foot apartment in Manhattan? Or do you load up your plate and toddle off to your desk, to sit in front of your laptop?
Our current dining room is the center of the household, and it's the second busiest room in the house besides the kitchen. The room is just inside the front door, and has to accommodate all the foot traffic coming through the house to any other room. Winter coats are taken off and stored there, and the room contains a large wardrobe that we use as a food pantry, and a small firewood storage area. There is a wood burning stove in that room, which heats our whole house in the winter. This means that the dining table is THE place to be during winter months for almost every activity.
Do you have a separate place to put food, such as on a buffet, or simply on the stovetop? How many eaters do you have for everyday or on special occasions?
In our house, we are lucky to have a nice generously sized pass-through area from the dining room to the kitchen which allows us to pass food and plates through that opening, and allows people to talk back and forth between the two rooms. Our dining situation is always informal, and we have a large buffet in the kitchen on the other side of the pass through which is a nice serving spot for larger gatherings. We've had potlucks here with maybe 20 or 30 people at most, and at that point, there are people eating in random places all over our modest sized house and garden. If you have no table yet and want to figure out the right size and shape for your room, place dining chairs in your room at the imaginary edge of the table, all around, imagining that there are people in the chairs, eating, and that the chairs are pulled out from the table a normal amount for dining. Give yourself a comfortable but minimal amount of space to get around the outside of this perimeter of chairs, keeping in mind what path someone eating there would need to take in order to get up for seconds or refill a drink. The space in the middle of all the chairs will be the maximum size that a dining table can be in that space. You can use masking tape, and mark out the edge of the table on the floor. The dining table will roughly follow the shape given by the front of the chair seats, because when people are sitting eating, the front of the chairs usually lines up with the edge of the table all around. Now, you can put some plates and settings out, on your new "floor table". See what feels and looks comfortable, trying for an even and regular placement of plates and glasses, so as not to either crowd anyone or isolate anybody. At this point you will know how many seats you're going to want between each leg (if you're going for a four legged table), and where ideally the legs should be placed, relative to the overhang of the table, or if a trestle style could work, or a pedestal base. You can also measure your room and draw out a simple, to-scale plan, if you like to work that way. I would suggest that in either case, a physical mockup to confirm what you've drawn on paper, is always be a great idea, and large pieces of cardboard on saw horses can work very well to suggest a table top.
Farmhouse tables and authentic looking dimensions:
Generally a traditional looking farmhouse table with four legs looks best at a certain width to length ratio. Old style tables look nice longer and narrower. Very long and narrow tables are often called refectory tables, and these were originally where monks in monasteries would take their humble meals, often while listening to someone standing on a pulpit and reading from sacred texts.
Carol Burks at Justin and Burks in Portland believes that the ideal size for a table with an antique look, for beauty and function today is 36 w X 96 l. At these dimensions (depending on the leg placement of course), you can use generous sized plush modern chairs and get three between legs at the sides, or use petite old fashioned chairs and squeeze a fourth chair on each side. As a general rule when diagramming this on graph paper I like to allow This picture below shows a very narrow table at 30.5 w X 92 l. We designed and made this one. As such, it looks graceful and sexy. But there’s not a lot of room for dishes in the middle.
Peoples’ dining habits in modern times are different than they might have been in the old days when these tables were built. Are you the family who fills plates at the stove or the ones who put the serving dishes in the middle of the table? Fill-it-at-the-stove people need less room in the middle of the table, and can get away with a long and narrow style; but more room might be needed around the perimeter for the extra traffic that results from getting up for seconds. If your dishwasher and sink is far away, your family might carry trays to the dining room and back, or have a rolling cart for serving and cleanup, making it efficient. A rolling cart with drinks, napkins, food and handy extras would be quite helpful also for a banquette style situation, where there will be diners locked into the middle of the seating, with no way out. Refectory style – long and narrow – was built for cafeteria style eating. You have less room in the middle for food, but you are closer and more intimate with your family members on the other side of the table. You can play a game across it – it’s the perfect size for chess or sharing newspaper stories. If you opt for this style, people will be getting up for seconds. You must be sure traffic flows around the table nicely with chairs pulled out. Or, spreading out your chairs and putting more space between each chair on the sides would allow more serving dish area on the top and make getting in and out of chairs less of a hassle.
Pile-it-in-the-middle people generally favor 38 to 46 inch widths. At a length of 9 or 10 feet, a 42 inch width will still look terrific. But a 40 X 80 inch table in a classic farmhouse table style will look funny. Going with a trestle style end, or at least an end where there is a stretcher between the legs, will make more visual sense on a wider table; however, keep in mind that an end stretcher will limit how far you can scoot in your end chairs. Some end stretchers are curved inward toward the center of the table to allow an empty end chair to be scooted farther in.
Floor to apron distance -- the most critical measurement on a dining table.
People living today are quite a bit taller than those who lived a hundred years ago. Knee room is often a problem on a genuine antique, and this is the reason many of our customers come to us. We have a lot of tall families wanting an aged look but unable to be physically comfortable with an older piece because the apron is simply too low. The simple answer that immediately leaps to mind is to simply raise it up by placing its feet on small blocks. This may or may not help, because the overall height of the table will get taller as well, so it's only a solution for a table with a very short overall height. 30 inches overall is standard height. 30 1/2 inches will still feel fairly comfortable for tall folks, but 31 inches gets uncomfortable for almost everyone -- especially those who use laptops at the table. If you are of short or average build, or if it is your habit to type for long periods on a laptop, consider a 29 or 29 1/2 inch overall height. Your shoulders will drop a little, and your back will feel much better. Find a table that's comfortable to sit at, in your favorite chairs. Once you've worked out the overall height, then measure from the floor to the bottom edge of the apron – 24 inches is about the bare minimum comfortable measurement for proper knee room. 25 inches feels better for moderate sized people, and tall people will possibly need more. Now, many of the old farmhouse tables were built with wide aprons, and this is one of the things that makes them look authentic. Shrinking the apron width to provide more generous knee room will impact the look of the piece, and we will work this out individually with each client.
A mockup of a new design with a very comfortable end.
If you are having us build something for you we will talk about the floor to apron measurement. I will ask you to mock this up. Get your tallest man and have him sit in his favorite dining chair, cross his legs, and measure to the top of his knee. He will be much happier and will probably not need high blood pressure pills later on in life...
Here is a table being built right now in which we have chosen a trestle end with an end stretcher and a center stretcher. Here is our mockup of the end, and we recruited one of our tall friends to sit and feel this out.
As you see, with his feet on the stretcher, his knees completely bypassed the end apron, which is what we wanted. Due to the large end overhang, the setup is comfortable. This one is going in a small dining room in which the owners like the pile-it-in-the-middle style of eating. We are providing a generous overhang for arm chairs and this one will expand with leaves. It’s going to be very rustic and will go to a client in New Jersey. We are very excited about this style.
And, this is the result. A table that is very comfortable to sit at.
Here is a variation on that style, in white oak. This table was built to go outdoors.
Here it sits in its northern California home.
The farmhouse extension table with leaves:
Tables with straight tapered legs look great with the end overhang rather large. The ideal dimension depends on the overall dimensions of the table and thickness of the top, but allow at least 6 inches. Cabriole leg tables need a shorter end overhang.
If you will have leaves, the situation with a farmhouse table is usually that the leaves go at each end of the table. There are so-called company board leaves in which the supporting arms are attached to the leaf, and these will fit into holes in the end apron. For stability and strength, these supporting arms will bear weight, and should be quite long. Consider where you might store these, and that you will need to have extra room in your dining room at each end of the table, to swing those long arms around and put them in place. We don’t favor this type of construction because of this issue. We only build them this way if our customer threatens to bite us.We prefer that leaf arms remain inside the table and use a pullout breadboard end.
Here’s a pullout breadboard example: In this case, on one end there is a drawer too. We made this one and have used it as a dining table for a couple years. You will be adding people at each end of the table, and keep in mind that your end occupants will not want to straddle a leg. If you can, include a generous length beyond the outer edge of the table leg for two diners, one on each side, and then another diner at the end. On a narrow table, the leaf will have to be longer to accommodate three extra diners, because the closer the plates of the side-sitting diners are, the more the end-sitting diner gets pushed outward. Again, mock it up, set plates and glasses out — you can use your floor for this, tape out your size and set your plates and glasses on the floor.
Great base that allows easy sliding in and out of the banquette seat - but is the top big enough? Here's a nice table for a banquette. Much like a booth in a restaurant, it can feel cozy and sheltered and intimate. We build a lot of dining tables because the dining experience is one of the most important that we as humans experience, and the physical characteristics of the table so very strongly impact this experience. If you're having a dining table made, it is always worth the extra design time to be sure it's just right. A physical mockup can be one of the best ways to know if something feels and looks right, and toward that end, if you're considering a banquette arrangement for your room, I would suggest visiting some restaurants to get a sense of how it feels to sit in your favorite booths.
via Apartment Therapy. Overhangs MUST be very generous so that feet and knees do not wreck into the table understructure.
While you're sitting at your favorite booth, take note of comfortable seat depths, and whether or not you prefer the back slanted or straight up and down. Many banquettes are a very simple seat with some pillows, maybe, at the back. Here are some built-in backs that truly cradle the body and give the back of the head a nice place to fit into.
http://www.kellybehun.com/CENTRAL-PARK-WEST-APARTMENT Kelly Behun Studio
Source unknown. I love the jet black with cranberry, and the very weathered old table surface.
indulgy.com restaurant banquette
Banquette seating can be straight or curved: here are some that make a graceful arc.
Atlanta Homes Mag
In any case, the best table shape is one with a VERY generous overhang. These Saarinen bases, with smooth, narrow pedestals and low profile foot plates, are perfect.
Source unknown. Saarinen pedestal base.
Other great styles that allow excellent ergonomics for sliding into banquette seats:
Below is a beautiful room with a very nice banquette - however, the shape of the table is not ideal - there is no overhang; instead the feet protrude quite far beyond the table's edge, making a hindrance to sliding feet. This room may be setup so that this area functions as reading nook rather than a dining surface, in which case, books, light snacks and coffee are the main things that would go on the table. As long as the table is small, it may work.
Other banquettes with small tables and / or coffee tables:
Below is a style that provides maximum leg room. If one end of the table can be attached to one wall, like a peninsula, then one thin leg will do to hold up the other end.
I would suggest that once you find a comfortable booth, measure the distance from the table's edge to the front edge of the seat and take note of what is comfortable for you. Same with the height of the seat -- notice what seat height feels good to your knees and feet, and whether or not there is a pad on the seat, and what density and thickness the pad should be. People are going to have to slide in, and cushions should ideally be securely fastened, yet in the casual everyday dining situation, the pads should be able to be cleaned often, or have slipcovers that remove and get thrown in the washer. Since some of your diners are going to be "trapped" in the middle, getting up for seconds will be out of the question. A rolling cart containing drinks, napkins, food, and other "extras" can be a big help if parked right beside the table. In summary, if a banquette style is being considered, it's going to be a pretty inviting space where people will be drawn to hang out. Make sure the seating design is as comfortable to the body and as practical as possible. Tables should have very large overhangs and ideally, narrow aprons or no aprons at all, and I would suggest an indestructible finish on the table top such as a living finish. Consider whether any paperwork will be done here: and whether a smooth top is desired, or if a rustic plank texture would be ok.