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Bring the Cafe Atmosphere Home with Bistro Tables

Kitchen islands and big dining tables have become the heart of many homes, and are great gathering spaces for the family. But doing absolutely everything around your dining table can start to feel exhausting. After all, not every conversation or meal is a formal, sit-down event – let alone an entire-household affair complete with multiple prepared foods. If you’re looking to add variety to your home’s seating options – or just miss the quiet casualness of your local cafe – bistro tables provide an attractive alternative for smaller groups and lighter snacks to be had.

A Bistro or Dining Setup?

Bistro Table (Glass Top) French and Victorian Inspired Modern Furniture, 184AJ by Polrey

What is a bistro table and how is it different from a small dining table? A bistro table, first off, is not a dining table. While they sometimes show up in a dining space or room, they simply aren’t big enough to serve a family. You can have a smaller, round dining table, but bistro tables are not it. Instead, bistro tables provide an intimate seat for two (or maybe three) to share lighter foods and drinks. It’s a place to sit and breathe while supervising a cooking casserole or a play date. Many bistro tables are used as breakfast tables, and are just right for helping you slow down and enjoy a small, quick breakfast you’d otherwise eat on the go.

Keeping Your Friends Close

Create new conversational spots in your home with a well-placed bistro setup (by Melissa Mathe Interior Design, LLC)

While not a necessity in any home, bistros bring a lot to the table. They’re both attractive and functional, and their smaller size makes them ideal for improving difficult corners of the home. For example, you can take advantage of a big window with a beautiful view without having to install a custom window seat to sit in front of it. While most sitting areas cater to large groups, bistro tables are better suited for smaller, more intimate conversations. Like in popular cafes, even if you’re surrounded by others you can feel like you have a private moment without isolation.

Centering the Table Display

While you want to highlight your bistro table’s existence, don’t sacrifice all of your table space to do it (by Melanie Stewart Design)

A lot of bistro setups include a beautiful focal point to add to the atmosphere, like open candles or a bouquet. But do you have to place centerpiece in the middle of your bistro table? Centerpieces take up a lot of the already small space, so if you feel one is going to be in the way, skip it. You can provide a cafe ambience in other ways, like a decorative tablecloth or using wall art as your bistro focal point instead. That said, if you don’t actually sit at your bistro table often, adding a centerpiece is a quick way to bring a wow factor to the room.

As a Set or Separate?

Bistro Table (Glass Top), 184AJS by Polart

You can buy bistro tables either by themselves or as a set with matching chairs. Sets are usually quicker to decide on, cheaper to buy and ship together, and likely to wear and tear the same way. That said, you have a lot more design freedom when you choose to buy the pieces separately. The chairs should be relatively symmetrical in appearance to each other, but don’t have to match the table exactly. Experimenting with bold colors or designs can make the space unique and exciting without being overwhelming.

Choosing the Right Tabletop

Indoor bistro tables have many more tabletop options than others, including outdoor bistro tables (by Marco Polo Imports)

Glass tabletops are a popular option for bistro tables. They won’t warp from surface condensation or hot or cold drinks, but do tend to attract fingerprints. If you’re nervous about committing to a glass topped dining table, bistro tables are a low-stakes way to test drive the look. Other possibilities include wood and marble. Wood requires an extra layer of protection like place mats or coasters, but are the best way to convey a warm, cozy atmosphere. Marble (and other stone tops) are much cheaper for a small bistro than topping all of your counters, so they can be a surprisingly budget-friendly way to add a little extra touch of luxury to your space. That said, stone will require a little more TLC and upkeep to stay looking good, even if you don’t sit at the table often.

For many people, having multiple tables in the home to share a meal can feel redundant. For others, bistro tables are an inventive way to create more opportunities throughout the house to encourage casual gatherings.