The New Dining Table: What Dining Table Shape Do I Need?

Jayca Pike 09/07/2015

Simply suitable dining tables tend to linger long after you’ve stopped loving them. The one you have is okay, it’s workable, but is it the best dining table shape for your current home? Since it’s a substantial piece of furniture, and one that requires a considerable time and $$ investment, it can seem indulgent to buy a new table when the one you have is in perfectly good order. Whether you’ve decided it’s time to up your dining game (thumbs up!), or to grin and bear your current situation, we’ll help you find your ideal (or work with your present) dining table shape.

Rectangle Dining Table Shape

Amish Shaker Autumn Solid Top Dining Room Table - Keystone Collection

This Autumn Dining table shows off the some of the best features of a traditional, rectangular dining table

A classic for a reason, the rectangular dining table works equally well in a contemporary home, an 18th century castle, a suburban ranch, and countless other home styles. Since it does pair so easily with most dining rooms or open-concept living rooms, get a little more granular on the shape of the table:

  • Try a narrower rectangular dining table shape. You can go as low as 28″ wide, which will only bring your guests closer together (in a good way) and not impede the feeding.
    • Remember that the wider the rectangle table, the greater the risk of impersonality and overt, unnecessary formality.
  • Staring down very long table? Lessen the boardroom feel with more casual upholstered dining chairs, a dining bench, or even short dining table stools along one side.
    • If you find yourself sitting around a bunch of empty chairs pretty often, consider a table with extensions, which can be removed for smaller occasions. See What Size Dining Table for a number of different options.

Definitely in the market for a rectangular table? Since it’s the most popular dining table shape, why not use the traditional tabletop as a chance to get a little funky with other components?

Amish Vintage French Country Dining Table

  • A reclaimed wood, farmhouse table is possibly the best trend we’ve seen in years – give it a go with coordinately rustic ladder back chairs, or up the visual contrast with Eames-style seating.

Just a note: If your dining table is rectangular and you’ve got a lot of other angles going on (sharp countertops, angular lighting above, angular surround chairs) add plenty of greenery to soften the space. A modern, minimal look is definitely a style, but cold and distant are two words you probably don’t want to describe your dining area. Let some plant life warm it up.

Oval Dining Table Shape

Bring the drama! Oval dining tables carry with them a sense of occasion, so if you’re looking to impress your guests or just to bring some traditional decorum to your family dining, then an oval style may suit your sensibilities.

Pedestal table legs beautifully befit an oval table, and also solve the persistent leg-banging problem. These pedestal legs can make an ordinary oval table deliciously different . . .

Amish Arlington Pedestal Table

Such delicate curls on the Arlington Pedestal Table!

Additionally, without sharp corners to contend with, oval tables seat extra, unexpected guests with the simple slide of an extra chair.

If you need to move around the table as part of the function of the dining area (say, a thoroughfare between living room and kitchen, or the kitchen and the deck) an oval dining table shape grants easy access, and the curved edges of the table visually allow more energy to flow freely from one space to the next. Instinctively, people are less wary of jostling an oval table, and thus more able and apt to bustle around it.

As for seating:

  • Simple stools are a fantastic choice for those smaller, well-used thoroughfares we talked about. Tuck them up under the table when you’re not using them
  • Matching the wood or color of your table to the wood or color of your chairs will give you a unified look, which you can take a step further with similarly curved chairs, as well. Feel free to add angular opponents, like modern glass lighting or a sharp sideboard to a coordinating room as described.

Round Dining Table Shape

A round dining table is the optimal option for accommodating intimacy, encouraging sharing, and fostering almost any sort of conversation. We’ve all been to that dinner party where we’re stuck chatting with the two people immediately next to us, or when the good pie is way down at the head of the table. A round dining table shape allows for plenty of shared dishes and shared company.

If you’re looking to serve more than four at a round table, you’ll need to increase the size of your table to about 60 inches in diameter – any smaller and everyone’s elbows will be in everyone else’s rooms. Alternately, go for a round table with extensions, which will give the table an oval shape and more space for company.

Square Dining Table Shape

Contemporary? YES. Fashionable, hip, and unconventional? A square dining table fires on all of those cylinders. Convenient for conversation and devouring dinner? Maybe . . . not so much. If you think you’re game for a truly square dining table, take a few things into consideration:

  • The tabletop will take up more room than you think. Most of us did not grow up with square dining tables, and our eyes naturally assume that a space which fits a rectangular table nicely will fit a square shape equally well. In most instances, visually, this is not the case.
  • If you’re seating more than two, it can be hard to hear across the table, since multiple conversations are likely going on at once and you’re further away than at a rectangular table.
  • Shared dishes will have to go all the way around the table . . . which means your hearty son-in-law may finish off that perfect pie before it ever crosses your plate.

Can you make it work? Sure. One of our favorite ways to make a square table more convenient is to add a Lazy Susan to the center, which solves the pesky in-law problem. Also, to lessen all of the sharp corners in the room, keep greenery handy and consider upholstered dining chairs.

Amish Poly Wood Garden 44" Square Lily Patio Table

Outside, a square dining table is a downright gorgeous idea

Finally, a square table can make an excellent gathering- or pub-height table. Elevating the tabletop and the seating frees up some visual space, lightens up the attitude, and if you add in barstools, allows for more of a “Pull up a seat!” vibe — perfect for outdoor dining.

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