The dining room table is the last bastion of family gathering time.

Your table is the place your little ones smear birthday cake during their first birthday party and later share their spaghetti noodles with the dog. It’s the place you see your kids’ faces and hear about their day before they go back to their phones and computers.

And it’s the place you and your spouse regularly reconnect as a couple over a home-cooked meal (or maybe a fast-food burger and fries).

Don’t rush buying a new dining room table—it’s too important to your family and the function of your home. Whether you need a table for your formal dining room or your eat-in kitchen, take your time in choosing this gathering space foundation piece.

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Consider Your Lifestyle

Every family has different needs when it comes to their dining table. Let’s look at the needs you should consider.

Family Makeup

If you have small children, you’ll need a durable table that can stand up to high use. Besides meals, your dining table will see homework, games, crayons, art projects, and plenty of spills. Selecting the right materials and finishes are key.

Families with older children may not have the opportunity to eat together as often. School activities, friends, and the allure of their own rooms can make it difficult to get your kids to the table. In this case, you may not have as many concerns about high use, so your choices open up a bit more.

No kids at home? You have the freedom to pick a dining room table for its beauty and style. Use the next considerations to help narrow your options.

Meal Time Habits

Some of us use our dining room tables to eat meals. Some of us use our tables to pile mail high and hold the Target bags until we have time to put the stuff inside away. (Admit it, you do it too.) We won’t decide who’s right or wrong today, but you need to be honest about which one you are.

Pay attention to your daily routine. If you do eat meals at the table, buy one large enough to fit the number of people who use it on a daily basis. If you don’t use your table for actual eating, buy the most appropriate size for your space (we’ll talk about size coming up). From there, consider one last thing.

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Do you host family get-togethers and holidays? Or entertain a group of friends for games or dinner parties on a regular basis? You need a dining room table capable of seating everyone comfortably. Buy a table with the number of people you normally host in mind. Consider an extendable dining table for large parties. And remember, each person needs at least 24 inches of space at their place setting.

If your space is limited but you still entertain, buy a table that fits your space for day-to-day needs and expands when the crew comes over. Look for an extendable dining table with leaves, a gate-leg table, or a drop-leaf table. You’ll have flexibility for groups and still be able to fit the table into your space.

Measure Twice Buy Once

Getting the dining table size right is the most important part of buying a table. Imagine buying a beautiful new table, getting it home, and every time someone tries to get up from the table, their chair hits the wall. Aunt Edna won’t be happy if she has to crawl under the table to get out of the room.

Before you start shopping, measure your dining room carefully. Know how high your ceilings are. Make note of other furniture in the room. It’s a good idea to measure that furniture as well so your proportions match up.

For example, if your china cabinet is very large, don’t buy a petite table that looks tiny when in the same room. Or, maybe you have an airy feeling buffet with slender legs. Don’t buy a massive, heavy table. They just won’t work together.

Leave 42 to 48 inches of space between the edge of the table and the wall. If you have other furniture (like a buffet) in the room, that 42 to 48 inches will be between the edge of the table and the front of the furniture.

One last thing. Don’t forget to take extension leaves into account when measuring. The table should still fit comfortably in your dining room when at its largest size.

Deciding on Materials

Even though a variety of materials are available for dining room tables, solid wood is the most popular. Its durability over time and its beauty are unmatched. You can find unique looks in many design styles. Imagine a solid wood slab top, honed to a beautiful lustrous finish.

Wood veneers are also available and make it possible to buy a wood table clad in a rare wood species. Unusual patterns can be created with several types of veneers. And don’t be fooled by negative impressions of veneers. They are just as durable as solid wood.

You’ll also find dining tables made of glass, stone, metal, and laminate. Although glass, stone, and metal may seem more durable than wood, this is not always true. Glass is difficult to keep clean and stone and some metals require extra care when used, just like wood.

All materials have an upside and a downside. Talk with your interior designer about which works best for your home and family.

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Make a Statement

Let’s say you saw a table that screamed, “I’m perfect for you!” Would you go for it? Look for a truly unique dining table that’s an expression of your personality.

Your dream table might be a rough-hewn wood slab created as one piece with a metal base that makes a striking contrast to the warm, wood top. Or maybe you prefer a sleek metal topped table for a modern look.

Some companies offer the option to create a custom table to match your tastes exactly. Explore the possibilities and bring home just what you want.

Whatever type of dining room table you choose to buy, take all these things into consideration, and you’ll bring home a table that can serve you and your family for years. The designers at Montgomery’s are here to help whenever you’re ready.

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