How to Choose the Size of Your Dining Table

In addition to wood species and grain selection, a furniture’s proportions have the largest impact on its overall design. Unlike wood species and grain selection, proportionality influences how furniture functions. The first thing to consider when designing a new dining table is that it functions as intended.

How much room does each person need at a table?

Before starting on the actual design, determine the number of people you want to sit comfortably around your table. A good rule to follow is to allow 24 – 30 inches for each person and 12 – 16 inches on the edges. If space is a consideration, 24 inches is plenty of room for most people. For a roomier arrangement, or have large dining chairs, something around 30 inches will suit you better. This means that a typical 6-person table is between 72 – 92 inches long, while a typical 8-person table is between 96 – 122 inches long.

An easy way to remember this is, “at least 6 feet for 6 people and 8 feet for 8 people.”

Guidelines for a table that seats 6 people

Guidelines for a table that seats 8 people

When considering the longer sides of the table, allow for at least 12 inches in front of each person plus whatever room you want in the center of the table for food and decor (typically between 12 – 16 inches).With these rules, the typical table is between 36 – 40 inches wide. If you’re looking for something even bigger, you could go as wide as 44 inches, but anything much wider can become awkward. If space is a concern or you’re looking for a cozier dining experience, you can go as narrow as 30 inches.

Consider room for food and a centerpiece

Keep your table top and legs in proportion

There is no hard and fast rule to determine the thickness of a table top. Generally, smaller tables will have thinner tops than larger ones, but there are many variations and exceptions to the rule. A part of this variation is built into the aesthetics of furniture design, and the style you choose will have a greater impact on the stock thickness of a table’s top than anything else.

  • Rustic, Farm, and Country style furniture tends towards thick table tops and thick legs, no matter the dimensions of the table.
  • Shaker furniture is built “lighter”, with thinner tops and legs that give the style a more delicate appearance.
  • Modern furniture employs a mix of the two strategies. One of the hallmarks of the Modern period was the use of engineered wood products, like plywood, in furniture construction. The thickness of such products influenced many of the designs of this period. On the other hand, Modern work like George Nakashima’s tables use thick trestle bases to support massive slab table tops.

Balance your table by using legs that are proportionate to the thickness of your table top

One similarity of all these styles share is that the table tops are generally proportioned to the thickness of their legs (or vice versa). Apart from the visual balance this achieves, it also serves a structural function. Very thin legs aren’t a wise choice to support a heavy top like a slab, and beefy legs aren’t needed to support a thin top.

For a moderately-sized dining room table, most tabletops range between 1”-1 ¼” thick. However, depending on the style, the thickness of the top can fall outside of this range. Many rustic tables can get away with tabletops as thick as 1 ½”, while more delicate designs can range from ¾” – ⅞”.

So, how can you know what leg thickness goes with what thickness of tabletop? We’ve put together a reference chart below to help you find the perfect pairing.

This is by no means a definitive list. Style can heavily influence top-to-leg thickness ratios, however, this chart should serve as a good starting point for most styles.

Top Thickness Leg Thickness
< 1” < 2.5”
1” 2” – 3 ½”
1 ¼” 2 ¾ – 3 ½”
1 ½” (or greater) > 3”