TABLE

Dining room table.

Your dining table is the place you and your family gather around at the start and end of each day, and the place where you share special occasions or lay out a buffet for parties. So, when you're in the market for a new dining table, look for one that fits your family, your style of dining and, of course, your space and budget.

Sized right

The starting point for any dining table purchase is the room where you'll put it. It's essential your table is correctly sized for the room. If it's too small, the table won't feel or look proportional. One rule of thumb for table size is to allow at least 30 to 36 inches of walking space around the table with the chairs pushed in.

Shape counts

There are four main shapes to choose from in dining room tables, rectangle, square, round and oval. In the past, the shape of the room was often used to mirror the shape of the table, but that rule isn't hard and fast. A less common shape that works well in a rectangular-shaped room is an oval table. This shape is a nice happy medium between round and rectangle -shaped tables, and has a fresher feel than the standard rectangle. In a square dining room, select a square or round-shaped table.

Try on size

A good way to see if your table will fit and leave you room for other furniture and to move comfortably around the table is to use a model table. Using a large piece of cardboard, cloth or plastic sheeting, cut out your sample table size. See how the shape, size and placement fit. Another way is to run painter's tape on the floor to the dimensions of the table. This helps you visualize the table in the room. Be sure to add another piece of tape 6 to 8 inches from the table to use as a guide for how the table will be sized in the room once the chairs are in.

Other options

Another consideration is how the table is constructed underneath. A pedestal table will allow for more legroom and can help when you need to squeeze in another seat or two at the table. It's also helpful for those in wheelchairs. Trestle tables can seat more diners but often have structure underneath that can cause guests to bump their knees or legs. Be sure to try out your table by sitting at it and crossing your legs, checking for room for your feet and legs.

Another important consideration is the chairs. Unless you're buying a table with matching chairs, make sure the height of the chairs is correct, and that the chairs you purchase are sized appropriately for the height of the table. For an updated look, consider buying chairs that are not matched with the table. Try an upholstered chair instead of a wood one or a white chair with a wood table. There are a variety of choices that can help you create a truly unique dining room that fits your style and taste, so experiment with different chair styles for your dining room table.

(For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her website, www.redlotusletter.com.)