In searching for the quintessential dining room pieces to place in one’s formal dining room, the dining table plays a key role.
The purpose of this fact sheet is to identify to the buyer the many types, sizes, and options available in mahogany dining tables manufactured in the first half of the 20th Century, such that a conscious decision may be reached regarding the optimum piece.
Matching Suite or “Mix and Match”.
Some consumers prefer the formal dining room to be a traditional “matched set”, particularly when purchasing older or antique furniture. (“It was made together 70 years ago, and should stay together.”)
Other buyers prefer their decorator’s newer fashion trend of “mixing and matching” pieces into the room. This trend breaks the monotony of everything being the same (highlighting each piece on its individual merits) and is in keeping with today’s “eclectic lifestyle”.
Whether making an entire selection all at once or piecing the dining room together over a period of time, a starting point in the selection process is determining the size dining table required.
Unlike today’s furniture sales where one begins with a table and four chairs and builds a suite from there, dining sets in the first half of the 1900’s were built and sold as a “9-piece dining room set”.
The industry standard dining table in these sets is a double pedestal table measuring 42” wide by 74” long when one 12” leaf is inserted (though various manufacturers would sometimes make them a little longer or a little shorter). The standard table was designed to seat six people comfortably regardless of the size of chair built to use with the table. With a “standard” chair width of 20” such as one finds in a shield back chair, it is possible to seat eight people if necessary on the holidays when the extended family visits.
Any table of a longer length (to seat more people) usually required placing a “special order” with the manufacturer. And a larger chair, such as Chippendale chairs which generally have a 23” wide seat cushion, requires longer tables to seat the same number of people.
The most common larger table is a three-leaf “banquet table”. These tables generally measure 42” x 100” (plus or minus) with three 12” leafs, and can seat 10 standard size chairs comfortably.
The chart at the bottom of this page reflects the different types and sizes of tables manufactured during the period, and denotes the type and number of chairs they were designed to accommodate.
The Optimum Size Table.
The best means of selecting a table size is to first determine the style chairs which will be used. Not that the chairs must be purchased first, but the style desired will drive the size table required, and together they will ultimately determine the size and style of china cabinet and buffet/sideboard selected.
The second decision one must reach is how many people will ultimately sit at the table – when the extended family is in town.
With these two decisions made, it is a relatively simple process to look at the chart and determine the size table required.
Some additional factors may impact the final decision reached.
> Can the existing dining room accommodate the size table desired? Many will purchase the “optimum table” regardless, secure in the knowledge that they will eventually move into a home which will accommodate it.
> Pedestal table or legged? Some people prefer a legged table, which is generally considered a little more formal than a pedestal table. However, a table with legs in the corners often reduces the total number of people who can be seated by two (only so many seat widths will fit between the legs).
> Oval dining table? The length will most often accommodate the same number of chairs as a rectangular table, but only in the “seats comfortably” number. There are no corners for the two additional “seats crowded” chairs.
> And as a final note, some legged tables, some drop leaf tables, and most gateleg tables are restrictive in their seating capacity, as a pair of support legs are often only 17” apart (an extremely difficult chair size to find).
So now, what began as a relatively simple task of “let’s go get one”, has quickly become a difficult multi-faceted equation. We trust the information contained herein helps in the selection process. Good hunting.