A guide to buying a dining table you’ll love

dining table is one of the most important (and most underrated) furniture pieces in the home. It facilitates coming together, for daily meals and get-togethers, that celebrate the every day as well as momentous occasions. 

The dining table also pulls its weight in terms of functionality. Is your dining table also a home office desk? A dumping ground for shopping and school bags? The place where you sort and fold laundry? The humble dining table is the constant backdrop to the excitement and mundanity of our lives. 

Writer Adam Gopnik puts it best in his book, The Table Comes First. 

“I don’t understand how a young couple can begin life by buying a sofa or a television,’ he said indignantly to me. ‘Don’t they know the table comes first?’ The table comes first. The table comes first, before the meal and even before the kitchen where it’s made. It precedes everything in remaining the one plausible hearth of family life, the raft to ride down the river of our existence even in the hardest times. The table also comes first in the sense that its drama – the people who gather at it, the conversation that flows across it, and the pain and the romance that happen around it – is more essential to our real lives, and also to the real life of food in the world, than any number of arguments about where the zucchini came from, and how far it had to travel before it got here. If our questions of food matter, it is because they imply most of the big fights about who we are – our notions of clan and nation, identity and the individual. Civilisation is mostly the story of how seeds, meats, and ways to cook them travel from place to place. The parts of that story are surely things that everyone should know, if only because they lead us to who we are. 

This extract was published by our good friends at IN BED Store along with a delicious recipe by Sam Hillman, Labne Two Ways. 

Having emphasised the centrality of the dining table in our lives, here is our comprehensive guide to buying one you’ll love. 

As a disclaimer to this guide, Koskela is a furniture and design business with a range of contemporary dining tables proudly manufactured in Australia using the finest quality materials. Throughout, we recommend Koskela’s dining tables because they have all the right ingredients to see you through the years. 

We also spoke to Koskela’s interior consultant, Marnee Fox, who is a trained interior designer with 15 years’ experience, to glean her expert insights. 

Book a complementary consult with Marnee!

 

1. Lifestyle

Have a good think about your lifestyle when buying a dining table. The whole gamut: work, home, hobbies, health, family and friends. This will help you develop the brief for a dining table that ticks all your boxes. 

“Make sure the table works for you,” says Marnee. “I love throwing dinner parties so even though there is usually only two of us eating daily meals at our table, we made sure it could accommodate at least six more guests.” 

2. Shape

Selecting the shape is one of the most impactful decisions you can make for your dining table. Will you choose rectangle or round? Both have their merits. A rectangle dining table is easier to manufacture making it the less expensive option with a wider variety of styles. The conventional shape is easier to move, to store, and slots tidily into most dining areas. You can also pair it with bench seating, if you are a fan of that look. Check out Koskela’s Stirrup outdoor setting for inspiration. 

The round dining table wins hearts because its conversational. No one gets stranded talking to a disagreeable person all evening with a round dining table. It’s also a winner for small spaces; the round shape promotes circulation and is the antithesis of bulky. The Disc Table is Koskela’s most popular round table; its powder coated steel base means you can add colourful contrast to your dining area. 

Stirrup outdoor setting

Stirrup outdoor setting

Disc table and Jake chairs

 

“We went with a round table as it feels more communal and was an easier fit in our smaller, square room,” says Marnee. “My rule of thumb is that you should leave about 80-100cm between the dining table and any walls or other furniture on all sides to allow seats to slide out easily.” 

3. Materials

Choice of materials will determine both the durability and character of your dining table. Often one comes at the expense of the other, especially regarding timber dining tables, but with recent innovations in materials it’s possible to get the timber look without the maintenance. 

Almost all Koskela’s dining tables are available in veneer or timber-look laminate. Both finishes have a FSC forested particleboard that is the foundation for the table. Veneer is a thin slice of actual timber that is sealed, but still requires a degree of care. Koskela’s HB table demonstrates the beauty of an American white oak veneer finish. 

Laminate is a scratch-resistant plastic that with photographic technology looks like timber. Koskela’s PBS table is beloved for its inexpensive and incredibly durable laminate finishes. 

PBS table and Jake chairs

PBS table and Jake chairs

Patonga table, Konverse chairs, Yuta Badayla pendant

 

“Who’s going to use the dining table?” says Marnee. "If you have kids and they tend to get more spaghetti on the table than in their mouths, you could consider a harder wearing finish such as a timber-look laminate like the one on our PBS table. You can even achieve that light and airy Scandi look with the raw birch ply finish without the stress of stains and finger-marks.” 

It is widely believed that a solid timber dining table is the best quality, and they can be stunningly beautiful. Koskela’s Patonga dining table is a good example. However, unless recycled, solid timber is less sustainable than its modern counterparts and more expensive. 

4. Origins

Where does your dining table come from and who made it? Sometimes these questions feel uncomfortable to ask, but they are as important as any other consideration. As a vessel that carries you through daily life, you do not want your dining table to be born out of exploitative conditions.  

Koskela is a Certified B Corporation that uses business as a force for good. We are committed to manufacturing in Australia, which means the workers who make our furniture have some of the best conditions in the world. 

5. Sustainability

Buying a new dining table means you are behind the creation of a new product, and you should be aware of the resources required in this process. Science irrefutably proves the planet is suffering as a result of excess consumption, and we are all obligated to use resources more efficiently. It is important to consider a dining table’s journey to get to you, and also its lifespan. Ask yourself, how long will this dining table last and make choices accordingly. 

By manufacturing locally, Koskela’s dining tables have fewer kilometres to travel to get to you. We also use the finest quality materials, which can withstand years of wear and tear. Many styles have repairable components, so you can fix a part instead of replacing the dining table entirely. And if do ever want to retire your Koskela dining table, we offer a Second Life service. Koskela can buy your dining table back for store credit, refurbish if necessary, and re-sell it as part of Koskela’s Second-Life range. 

Ask yourself, how long will this dining table last and make choices accordingly.

6. Style

What’s your style? This is not an easy question for everyone. If you are unfamiliar with your interior style, Pinterest is a great place to start. Spend a few weeks pinning posts of interiors that appeal to you. Go back to these pins and look for similarities. Are these interiors busy and exciting or orderly and cohesive? What materials and colours are commonly seen? What takes centerstage and what blends into the background? This exercise will quickly give you a solid sense of your interior style so you can pick a dining table that will work with what you already have.

Reflecting Australia's laid-back contemporary aesthetic, Koskela's dining tables are practical and unfussy, but with a playful twist. Almost all our tabletops are veneer or timber laminate because we know that materials which imitate nature have a calming effect on the human psyche. Koskela’s Brolga dining table is a perfect example. For many of our table bases we use steel, not only to lend it strength and gravitas, but also because steel can be powder coated in your choice of colour, which adds striking contrast to the piece. Koskela’s Stirrup Table is one of our favourite steel-base tables. 

Brolga setting

Brolga setting

Stirrup table, Kaaria veneer chair, Yutta Dugitj pendant

When it comes to picking the style, try not to compromise on other considerations – lifestyle, shape, materials, origins and sustainability – if it ticks all the boxes and speaks to your sense of style then you have made the right choice. 

7. Styling

Time to zoom out and look at the bigger picture: styling your dining table in your dining area. Dining such a sensory experience that can be enhanced by your styling choices: the comfort of the chairs you pair with your dining table, the warmth of the lighting, the feel of the tableware. 

When it comes to dining chairs, Marnee has a few practical suggestions:  

  • Chairs and chair arms should be able to slide under the table with ease. Rule of thumb is approximately 20cm between the seat of the chair and underside of the table.
  • The location and size of the dining table legs needs to be considered when working out the number of chairs you can fit. Bench seats can be an economical solution if you are short on space.
  • Ideally provide about 60cm between chairs to allow people to slide chairs in and out and limit elbow wrestling with your neighbour.
  • If you are going for a timber dining setting, then match timbers with your chairs. The Kaaria veneer chair – available in American white oak or white ash – can be paired with the HB or Anssi dining table for a stunning timber dining setting.

Anssi table, Kaaria veneer chairs, Tjanpi pendant

Anssi table, Kaaria veneer chairs, Tjanpi pendant

Kaaria veneer chair in white ash

To create a sense of drama, hang a pendant light over your dining table. Again, Marnee is full of practical advice: 

When getting your electrician to install pendant lights above your table, consider the chord length. Low hanging lighting sets a more modern tone, but even so, it should never interfere with the ability to make conversation— no need to duck your face down to the table just to see your dinner guests. However, a light hung too high will detract from the cohesive feel of a room as well. A good rule is to hang lighting between 60 - 80cm from the table. 

If your dining area is in an open-plan room, create a dining area ‘zone’ with the inclusion of a floor rug. “A rug should be about 90-100cm wider on all sides of a dining table to create a sense of expansiveness,” says Marnee. 

And finally, tableware. Koskela is known for our range of ceramics, lovingly handmade by Australian ceramicists. These pieces are honest examples of their craft, revealing the earth from which they were formed and the hands that formed them. It is a highly evocative experience to use them for mealtimes. And they look beautiful, too! 

Follow this guide and you cannot fail to buy a dining table you’ll love. Not just now, but long long into the future. Of course, if you do want a sounding board for your deliberations, Koskela’s interior consultants are here to help. This includes Marnee, and her colleague Harriet, both trained interior designers who can visit you in your home, arrange an appointment in the store, or consult virtually. This service is complementary, and bookings can be made Monday-Saturday. 

Book an interiors consult!

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