Thanksgiving is bearing down like a freight train on all us stressed-out hostesses, but while you're fussing over the turkey and the sides, don't forget the table on which your delicious feast will be laid out. A nice tablecloth and place setting can go a long way toward making even a random collection of card tables look festive, but a real grown-up dining room table can help give the meal a sense of occasion. And if you're in the market, you're lucky; many furniture stores have good sales on tables right now ahead of the holiday entertaining season.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance, a trade group of furniture manufacturers, has a website called FindYourFurniture.com that lets you search many companies' offerings by style, size, color, and shape and links to stores where you can buy in your area, which is a useful time-saver.
It's always fun to wander around furniture stores to see what catches your eye, but that's no way to save money. As with anything, you need a plan. Here are a few pretty obvious things you should consider before you go shopping for a table:
First decide on the tone of the room -- do you want formal elegance or casual comfort?
- Decide on a budget.
- Measure and evaluate your space to see what pieces you can accommodate.
- Look underneath the table to see how it is supported -- four legs, pedestal, trestles -- you want something that will be comfortable for you and your guests when seated.
- Be sure to take a seat in the dining chairs and sit back for a while. Wiggle the backs, legs, and arms. Do they feel sturdy? Are they comfortable?
- Most materials also are offered in a variety of finishes, from light to dark. Examine the finish by rubbing your hands across the top and sides.
More and more houses these days are not being built with a formal dining room, instead appropriating that space for a bigger kitchen or a flexible "great room." Any table in these spaces would need to be multi-use, so it can be used as a game or crafting table when the holiday is over. This drop-leaf pedestal table from Hooker would work well for that; its round shape lends itself to card games but it takes up considerably less room when the leaves are dropped. Its traditional-but-simple look would be versatile in a lot of decorating styles as well.
If you have the space for the big, dramatic table, one with leaves that expand it to accommodate big parties are convenient. You don't have to skirt around this massive piece when you're not expecting a crowd, but you have plenty of space when you are. For example, this Legacy Classic table expands to six feet.
Of course, maybe you live in a small house or apartment or just don't want a huge table dominating your space. The Span table from Crate & Barrel is just the thing: It's a gateleg table that swings out to fit up to four people; when you drop the leaves and fold in the legs, it's just nine and a half inches wide. You can stow it away or use it as a sofa table behind a couch.
Whatever you choose, choose wisely; dining room tables become the source of many happy memories and sometimes end up becoming heirlooms. The one in my house is currently being used by its fourth generation of my family.