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Alternative Dining Table Options (For When You Don’t Have A Dedicated Dining Room)

Everyone uses their dining room a little differently. For some, a dining room is a large, separate room where you gather your extended family and friends for large holiday meals. For others, it’s a small space where you and the people you live with share a quiet, intimate meal. But having a separate dining room isn’t a given, and working with a small, joined space or an odd-shaped greatroom can be a whole lot more challenging. So where do you put a dining table if you don’t have a place for one? Simple: you redefine your dining area to fit the space you have.

Think About What You Want Your Dining Room To Do

The first question you need to ask yourself is: how are you going to use your dining space? A table should have enough room for all the people who live in your home to be able to use it at the same time. But the kind of meals and who you’re serving also matters. If you regularly have spaghetti night with the kids, you’re going to want easier to clean and harder to stain surfaces on your table and chairs. If you don’t want your guests to overstay their welcome after dinner, you can have a more aesthetic and less comfortable dining set to sit in.

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Work Within The Limits Of Your Space

Next, be realistic about how much space you have for your table and chairs. A long, narrow table may work in some homes, but they aren’t the only option. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other shapes or layouts. You can get away with a smaller dining table by supplementing with island seating, or even creative use of a sofa table. If you really want to seat everyone around the same table but don’t have the space for it, look for extendable dining tables. These stretch out to seat a crowd, but fold down so they don’t take up too much space on a day-to-day basis. Pair them with nice-looking stackable dining chairs that you can stow away when you aren’t entertaining.

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Supplement Your Surface Space

Worried that a smaller dining table will leave you and your guests feeling cramped? Remember that not everything has to fit on the table itself. Supplementing your table with a buffet cabinet is a good way to make up the difference. A nearby buffet table makes a great landing pad for serving dishes (whether you move them out of the way once you’ve passed the plates around, or have everyone serve themselves before sitting). Their slim profile means they can occupy the space right against the wall – a big no-no for the dining table itself. And as an added bonus, buffet cabinets are great for storing fragile or sensitive dishware, spare silverware, tablecloths and mats, napkin rings, and other dining room decor.

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Don’t Be Afraid To Cut Corners

Something you may notice while browsing dining furniture is the shape options as well as size. Should you go with a circular or oval-shaped dining table versus a square or rectangular one? This is partly a matter of personal preference. Functionally, rectangular shapes give you more surface area for the amount of space they take up, but rounded tables take up a lot less space for the amount of tabletop they lose. My own personal bias says if you don’t mind “cutting a few corners,” round tables are better, especially for smaller spaces. You’re less likely to dig your hip into the side of your table while walking by or to it, and I am a very clumsy person, so I need all the help I can get.

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…Or Eat Outside The Box

Not satisfied with your current options? It might be time to think outside your dining room – both metaphorically and literally. If you just can’t find the space you need for the dining set you want, try adding your porch, deck, patio, or sunroom to the calculations. Merging indoor and outdoor spaces is a perennial favorite among homeowners. Even if your climate isn’t warm and sunny year round, an outdoor dining set will give you more flexibility when entertaining without taking up any space inside. And don’t think outdoor dining sets are limited to park-style picnic tables. You can find durable, weather-resistant furniture in a huge range of styles and colors that’s happy to live outside year-round, regardless of your climate.

The idea of trying to fit a big, traditional dining table into a smaller home can be more than a little daunting. But rather than shopping for what you think a dining table is supposed to be, try to find a set that will actually serve the needs of you, your family, and the space you want to put it in!

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