Whether it’s a romantic table for two or a festive party of ten, a good dining room table should reflect your personal style, be flexible enough to meet your needs and durable enough to be take everything your friends and family throw at it.  Sometimes literally.

Here are some of our favorite tips for choosing the right one for your space.

Balance Size and Space

Unless you have severe space limitations, we recommend you go bigger than you think you need. If only for the few times a year you want to have the whole crew over. Think about the proportions of the room. Buy too small and the room will look sad and lonely, no matter how much furniture and accents you add to it.  

How big is too big? To avoid a cramped or cluttered feeling, leave three feet of clearance space around the entire table. It not only makes it easier for people to get up from the table, but you won’t be repainting your walls to cover up the chair back marks. Your guests need space to scoot in and out without climbing over each other. 

If you’re limited on space, consider a banquette or bench seating. This has the advantage of going up against the wall, giving you back a few feet. Consider the size of your dining chairs too. Comfort is important when you’re sitting for extended periods of time, but bulky, oversize chairs, while comfortable, will quickly take up all your remaining room.

Choose a Shape

If you’re short on square footage, round tables are a great use of compact space. They also tend to have smaller footprints than square or rectangular pieces and since there are no corners you can always squeeze that one extra guest in without them feeling like a fifth wheel. Think King Arthur’s table. A rectangular dining room table is ideal if you entertain a lot and you want to strategically place people next to each other. (Matchmaking much?) If your style is more easy going, a square table is the way to go allowing for more intimate conversations. Some rectangular pieces can be transformed into a square one by adding a leaf down the length of the table.  

Keep Material in Mind

Dining tables come in almost every imaginable material. A glass tabletop is perfect if you are worried about feeling cramped. The transparency will make the room feel more expansive. Woods like mahogany, walnut, cheery, maple, and oak remain the most popular choice but may feel too traditional for many. Metal, live edge wood, and concrete tables provide a slightly more contemporary edge. Think about how your existing serveware, dinnerware, serving platters, will fit with your new table. Perhaps you’re ready to throw it all and and start over but if not you want to make sure your table is coherent.

Make it Personal

Like all home decorating tips, there’s no right or wrong choice in choosing the ideal dining room table. As long as its functional—in other words as long as you can eat from it— there are no hard and fast rules. It’s your dinner party and you can decorate however you like!  When you find “the one” you’ll know, and meals and gatherings will be all the more enjoyable for it.