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Image above: Newham Trestle Table £699 www.modishliving.co.uk

Article by Barbara Chandler

When engineer Eliza Rweikiza moved into her beautiful new home at the 1023 West development by Weston Homes in leafy Brentwood, Essex, her priority purchase was a dining table. “I love feeding people with a good spread of food,” smiles Eliza.

Indeed, your table will be pretty much your most important and hard-working buy, with a multitude of uses – from feeding yourself and everyone else at single or family suppers, to entertaining, to being somewhere for the kids to slog over their homework or make messy with their craft and hobbies… to serving as your home office desk.

Stannis dining table, £279 www.dunelm.com

Your table-buying plan: Do the maths

First, measure up your space. Then deduct around 80cm all round to allow for pulling-back of chairs. Both square and circular table tops suit a square space but in a rectangular space, stick to a rectangle or a softer oval. Circles and ovals are good where space is tight – with a pedestal leg you can squeeze in an extra person. However, straight-edged tables will push back neatly against a wall, while circles won’t.

Designers allow around 60cm per person around a table for comfort. So that’s 120cm long for two people (and 180cm long, for three) each side.

Tricks up their leaves

Extending tables are just about the cleverest furniture there is. But there’s a host of ways to “grow” your table. Some have a “leaf” – an extra section that stores separately – and you’ll need to think about where you will keep that. Others are “draw-leaf”, with pull-out extensions at each end. Some have leaves fitted into the middle of the table, such as “butterfly leaves” which lift upwards and outwards in two halves. “Drop leaves” fold down at each end, so you can’t pull up a chair. A traditional “gate-leg” table with swing-out supports folds down to a shelf; modern versions are clever space-savers. In all cases, give careful consideration to ease of use.

It is worth investing in your table, buying from an established brand. You will only have to replace a cheap one, so think sustainability.

White Vox dining table £355 www.cuckooland.com

Before you commit, make newspaper cutouts of the table shapes you’re considering and tape them to the floor to see how they fit. And consider the table legs – will you be able to seat an extra person comfortably?

Material magic

Materials and technology are providing consumers with exciting new choices that are sleek, elegant and space-enhancing. Solid hardwood is natural, textured, tough and reassuring, with oak particularly popular; for example, the solid oak Hampshire extending table, £449, from Oak Furniture Superstore. Softwoods such as pine are cheaper but will be less robust. All wood table tops have different types of planks/sections, graining and knots, so individual inspection is a good idea.

Check your supplier’s eco-credentials. All timber should be labelled Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or an equivalent, to prove sustainable sourcing. Cheaper MDF, melamine and lacquers might not wear as well as wood, while their plain, smooth finish can seem somewhat bland and in some cases could scratch. They’ll wipe clean, though, for example, Dunelm’s Vixen two-bench table set, £177.20.

Wood Bruno black round MDF dining table £319 www.cuckooland.com

Glass is airy and light-reflecting but shows up dust and smears, and it should be tempered for safety. Clear glass gives views of knees and floor, so maybe go for a smoked effect. Concrete is fashionably “industrial” but also heavy and expensive. However, there are plenty of less-pricey concrete “effects” – see a good selection at Furniture Village, which also does top-luxe marble at a good price (see the Helsinki range).

Hopefully, your table will be with you for a long time. Remember, staple hues including black, grey, brown and white will always be on trend and will prove a dependable backdrop to seasonal trends.

See for yourself

Go into shops and look at the tables for sale, because computer and phone screens don’t do justice to colour and texture. Snap pictures of your space plus any chairs you have already. Note their seat and back heights. You need a comfortable gap for your knees: 30cm is about right. Chair arms add more bulk but if you must have them, make sure they will tuck in neatly.

Check the way tables extend – it needs to be easy for you. Make sure you’ll be able to get your chosen size of table into your building via stairs or the lift, and through your home’s doors. Some tables have removable legs, so can you cope with assembly? Some brands offer assembly for free.

Brooklyn solid oak and metal table and bench www.oakfurnitureland.co.uk


Top shops

The consumer magazine Which? recently published a “best furniture shops” survey, based on over 1,200 respondents.

  1. John Lewis was tops with an overall score of 87%.

For example Anyday Crescent two-seater, two-person table in white lacquer with metal hairpin legs, £79. Free advice in store or online from trained furnishing advisers.

  1. Marks & Spencer scored 83% overall.

For example Huxley round, four-seater dining table with glass top and brushed stainless steel pedestal, £229. M&S furniture has a 10-year guarantee; free assembly.

  1. Nextscored 82% overall.

For example, round, solid oak four-seater table with glass top, £499. Lifetime guarantee; assembly, £60.

And the rest…

Ikea scored 81% overall; Habitat 79%; Dunelm 79%; Cotswold 78%; Furniture Village 76%; DFS 75%.