How to choose your custom dining table

Given we spend our lives designing and building furniture, you'd think when it came to choosing furniture for our own place it would be an easy task.  Yet, as we start to plan a major house renovation I’ve found myself a bit overwhelmed and being pulled in all different directions about what furniture to choose to ensure we have a space that not only flows well, but stands the test of time with current and future interior trends. After pulling myself away from Pinterest for a minute, I’ve compiled some of the best tips we’ve learnt and handed out over the past few years in designing furniture; and in particular dining tables.

Kooindah Dining Table with Box Base by Timbermill

Design for context

Designing for context is one of the most important skills we’ve learnt since starting, and something everyone should think about prior to designing or purchasing furniture. Whilst pushing design boundaries is a recommended and amazing thing, the most important and overriding factor is that it works.

As an example, whilst I’d love to have white floors and linen everywhere in our Timbermill showroom I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I run a furniture workshop. This means I have a team of builders and delivery guys traipsing in and out every day, and they certainly aren’t the best at remembering the remove the dust/dirt/glue/paint off themselves prior to entering. When working on designing the space, we sat down and thought about the context of our space and designed for that. In our case, this meant toning down my white floor dream (to the office only) and making sure the interiors and furniture within it can withstand how we operate.

For a dining table, prior to purchasing, have a good think about how you will be using your new piece.

  • Will it be a homework and craft station just as much as it will be for dining and needs heavy duty finish.
  • Are you prepared to maintain it over time or want a finish that doesn’t need any maintenance.
  • Maybe you want to make the legs come out to the edge to fit more chairs or benches?
  • Will you be moving it in a few years and need it to be able to come apart for the move?

Size Matters.

Size is key. Too small or too big can ruin not only a table, but how a space will flow.

  • Do you want your table to be long and thin or shorter and wider?
  • Is most of your meal service in communal dishes as you want a bit of extra width down the middle for platters?
  • Short on space? How about looking at a round table or using bench seating on one or both sides to fit in more people and can be tucked under table after use. 

As a guide, allowing 55cm per person width along the length of a table for a chair and their arm room is good. And around a 1m clearance around the table for people to walk around as well as pull their chairs in and out is ample space.

To test this, lay out some newspaper sheets in the size of your proposed table and test it in the room to see how it looks and works within the space.

Simple Is Key.

When thinking about what you’re after, try and separate your design ideas from the current trends and design a table which will be an investment piece and last for a lifetime. Sometimes, simple is key.

We’re probably a tad biased, but using timber for a dining table will withstand the trends as well as age beautifully over time. The natural colouring and grain in timber compliments all kinds of decor. Styled with beautiful chairs and table ware which can be switched up with seasons and trends means your table will stand the test of time.

Quality Over Quantity.

Whilst the appeal of a short term and cheaper product is good at the time, a wise person (Sir Henry Royce) once said  “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten”.

This resonates a lot in not only the furniture & interiors industry, but I’m sure across a whole range of industries at the moment. We are going into a time when a consumer has more choice than ever, and with companies making things in bulk off shore it is becoming harder for the small players to compete in pricing.

Whilst choosing a handmade and custom option will generally cost more, the one off nature of a custom product and the longevity will outweigh the short term benefits and cost savings. You’ll also be supporting a local business, win win for all.

'Benefield' Dining Table by Timbermill