If you live in a small space, entertaining a group of any size can be a challenge, to say nothing of trying to host a crowd. Being a little shy on square footage presents a particular problem in the dining room. In other areas of the home you can more or less get away with squeezing people in. But if you don’t have a big enough dining set, there’s really no good way to host a big dinner party. That said, even if the space you have to dedicate to a dining table is small, there are a few ways to sneak in a little extra seating…without making you or your guest feel like sardines.
Swap Dining Chairs For Bench Seating
One of my favorite ways to do scaleable seating is a classic that’s started to come back into vogue: the dining bench. Simply put, you replace the chairs on one long side of your dining table with a bench that matches the length of the table. On a normal day, the swap is more or less one-to-one, a little bit of stylish asymmetry that takes up the same amount of space as the chairs. But when you’re entertaining, having bench seating allows you to fit more people on that side of the table than you would with chairs. It might be a little squished, but it will get all your guests at the table. Hint: if you’re worried about back support (or want to avoid that classic picnic table look), you should consider a high-backed, upholstered bench instead.
Booth Seating Isn’t Just For Breakfast Nooks
In that same vein, booth style and banquette seating is also making a comeback, and for a similar reason. By pushing the table against a wall or into a corner, banquettes not only save you floor space, but also put bench seating on two sides of the table rather than just one, further maximizing the number of people you can host (relatively) comfortably at once. Personally, I think banquettes work best with square or rectangular tables with chairs on both of the two exposed sides (if you have the space!). While rounded tables work great elsewhere (see below), in a banquette you want as much table space as possible to be able to accommodate all the food and dishware you need to feed a group. Adding extra chairs on the outside of the table also helps you maximize the space, so you aren’t relying entirely on the booth seating.
Splurge On Extendable Tables And Stackable Chairs
Another oldie-but-goodie that I actually haven’t seen as much of lately is the classic table leaf. Of course, I know exactly why this option isn’t exactly at the top of everyone’s list. Adding a leaf to your table is a great way to expand your surface space to host a crowd. But in most cases you’ll need to manually remove and store leaves when you aren’t using them. Ditto for your spare chairs. That said, if you really want to be able to flex up your seating space for parties, this is probably the most reliable and comfortable way to do it. If you’re willing to splurge, tables with butterfly leaves store the leaves inside the table itself. Pair that with dining chairs that are stackable, and you can get the most amount of extra seating with the least storage space lost.
Cut Corners For A Cozy, Intimate Family Table
On the other hand, if your problem is that you don’t have much space for a dining table in the first place, the best way to scale up your seating while saving space is to cut corners – literally. Rounded dining tables aren’t the best option if you have space for a very long table, but if your choice is between a squat or square table and a round one, the rounded edges will win every time. Why? Getting rid of the hard edges lets you fit more chairs all the way around the table without sticking someone at an awkward angle, and gives you a similar amount of usable surface area while taking up less space in the room. Narrow or armless chairs are easier to fit around a rectangular table, but round tables enable you to use full sized chairs without losing seating capacity.
Go Backless With Chairs You Can Stow Under Your Dining Table
In a great room that’s a little lacking in square footage, another issue that arises when trying to maximize your seating is that too many chairs or a too-large table can actually block movement through the space. Now, this is a slightly more difficult problem to address (especially in terms of table placement). That said, one easy solution is to opt for dining chairs (or benches) that can be stowed completely underneath your table. It’ll take a little effort to maintain effectively, and isn’t necessarily the option with the best back support, but if you really need to keep your walkways clear, using hideaway chairs is one of the best ways to do it.
Mix, Match, And Experiment To Get The Best Seating For Your Space
Finally, it’s worth noting that none of these solutions exist in a vacuum. If there’s more than one option on this list that sounds like it might help you, don’t be afraid to do a little mixing and matching. Banquettes with hideaway chairs, dining tables with upholstered benches, and drop-leaf tables that switch between rectangular and round are all viable and stylish options that can help solve your small-space woes.
So if you love to entertain, don’t let your small space hold you back. You don’t need a bigger house to have better seating, and you don’t need a monster dining set to host a crowd – you just need to shop smart and plan ahead for the guests you want to have!