Posted on February 19, 2013
Regardless of the floor plan and despite its actual placement, the dining room table often acts as the heart of a home. It provides a common center, a place where people gather around to not only eat a meal, but to socialize. Historically, the idea of having a separate room for the sole purpose of consuming delectable food items came about during the Middle Ages. Kings, noblemen, and other dignitaries would essentially hold a form of court: the hosting couple sat on either end of the table and the guests were arranged away from them in descending order of rank.
In the modern era, dining rooms are usually located next to the living room and still have an air of the formal occasion. Many homes have an area that is adjacent to, or actually a part of, the kitchen which is designated for daily meals. The dining room is generally reserved for when we open our homes for the holidays or otherwise need to accommodate a larger number of dinner guests.
Because it must remain functional, it is difficult and rather counterproductive to get too creative with the design of a dining room. The table is always in the middle with chairs around it, and there is usually a hutch, or other cabinet, to store the china and silver. There are various ways to decorate using color and accessories, but when it comes to furnishing the room, there are only two things you need to focus on: space and materials.
In general, harder woods are better for tables because they do need to stand up to a certain degree of abuse. Pine, for instance, is too soft. Oak, ash, and cherry are harder woods that will prove to be more durable. Alternatively, if you are interested in reclaimed wood or repurposing, some folks have some interesting finds. It is not uncommon to see a table fashioned out of wood from an old barn, but one D.C. home actually sports a breakfast table made from an old Italian military bed frame.
If you find yourself strapped for space, you may want to consider a dining table with a drop leaf, which is like a choose-you-own-size version. If the room is square, a round table will work best. A small home in Austin actually utilizes a hallway for their dining room and a narrow, French tailor’s table from the 1840s serves as the furniture. If the dining room truly represents the heart of the house, they can be as uniquely unusual as the people who gather in them.