1. Get Comfortable
Make sure your table is well-suited to the company you keep. Rule of thumb: buy for neither the most nor least number of guests you entertain—a 16-seater may be swell at Thanksgiving, but it will likely leave you feeling lonely the other 364 days of the year. Or, buy a too-small table and you’ll always come up short. With a little creative space-planning, you can split
THE TABLE LEAF is the perennial supper solution and is becoming more widely available in modern table styles.
INTERESTING COLLECTIONS like books and indoor plants can cordon off a section of the table to make sizeable surfaces more intimate for small groups.
BENCH SEATING keeps things versatile—and friendly—for dinners large and small.
Tip: Instead of buying an oversized table that only fills up on special occasions, invest in two smaller pieces. Use one for everyday, and the extra as a desk or kids’ craft table, and put them together when company arrives.
2. Take a (Chic) Seat
The right chairs pack a powerful punch, so before you blow your budget on a pricey table, shop smart. A standout set of upholstered chairs do wonders for a plain Jane table. To find a bargain, get on the estate sale circuit as you’ll get a better deal as a collection, then reupholster to suit your style. Or, use paint to fancy things up: a bold shade of orange, for example, on lackluster wooden chairs can go a long way to a striking dining room statement.
3. Climb the Walls
Not crazy about your furniture? Shift the focus to delicious, drama-queen walls using patterned paper that speaks volumes about your personality. Or, create avant garde stripes using alternating matte and high-gloss sheens (those at right range in width from just a few inches to more than a foot).
4. Light Up Your Night
A dding a conversation-worthy chandelier or series of bright pendants makes for an easy (and swank) dining room upgrade. It’s okay to sink your cash into a favorite, but shop around first—you can often find a similar piece for a fraction of the price. If you’re unsure about proportion or how high to hang it, bring a snapshot of your dining room with the room and table dimensions to the lighting vendor.
Idea: Score a deal on an antique chandelier by choosing one that hasn’t been wired for electricity. Install sconces for everyday lighting and dine by candlelight on special occasions.
5. Center Stage
Centerpieces take any table from ho-hum to haute. Besides flowers, collections make for sensational arrangements, whether a sea of candlesticks, stacks of pretty cookbooks, or vessels filled with seashells. Whatever you display, keep in mind that it should complement your place settings and menu and not be so tall as to impede passing plates or conversation.
Childproof cushioned seating by having an upholsterer add a clear layer of protective laminate to fabric.
Get the look of chic designer wallpaper without the sky-high cost. Order a single roll and frame portions as wall art.
DON’T FORGET THE CEILING
Add warmth to the room by painting the “fifth wall” the same hue as the rest of the room, or even a slightly different shade.
REFLECT YOUR LOOK
Make the most of ambient lighting with a large mirror over the buffet or as the focal point of a single wall.
ROUND IT OUT
For hosts partial to cozy crowds, consider a round dining table. Evenly spaced seating keeps all guests in the same conversation and makes for more lively discourse all around.
ADD SURFACE AREA
When hosting a large group, cheat up the size of a table by topping it with an oversized board. Have a sheet of plywood cut to sit atop your everyday table, at whatever size—and shape—you need. Place a sheet or large cloth between the two, add another sheet on top of the board, and cover with a pretty tablecloth.
A dining room for holidays and Sunday suppers alone? So last century. Here’s how to make it as much a living space as a showplace.
1. Seat Yourself. Chairs should be the sort kids can settle into for homework stints at the “big table” while Mom and Dad cook.
2. Opt for a hardy table. Family craft time, wrapping presents, school projects—often the dining table is the biggest work surface in the house, so get one that can withstand the use.
3. Do your chores. Make a house rule that the dining table gets cleaned nightly to keep the room clutter-free.