When guests are crammed around a dining table, they may feel physically restrained and psychologically uncomfortable. Everyone has a personal bubble, and most diners prefer not to hear the chewing, swallowing and gustatory activity of their fellow table mates. To ensure adequate eating room for friends and family members alike, follow the guidelines that interior decorators use.
Distance Between Chairs
Allow at least 24 inches between chairs, as measured from the center point of the seat. For example, if each seat is 18 inches wide, a minimum of 6 inches between chairs will provide sufficient elbow room. Allocate 30 inches (again measured from the center) between seats in formal dining rooms; with oversize armchairs, allow a few extra inches. The more wiggle room between chairs, the easier it is for guests to maneuver and stand up from the table. However, distances greater than 36 inches will create an awkward, reserved atmosphere.
Distance to Walls and China Cabinets
To serve food to dinner guests, you'll need adequate space to walk around the table. Diners need enough room to push their chairs back after dinner, too. Allow a minimum of 3 feet between the edge of the table and walls or hutches. When space permits, designers prefer a 5.5-foot span.
Working with Small Dining Rooms
To make the most of a petite space, choose a round dining table. With pedestal tables, you can seat an extra guest because there are no table legs taking up floor space. Use armless chairs so guests can easily move their seats back. To create the illusion of space, install an oversize mirror on the wall, or use a glass tabletop.
Seating Guests for Dinner Parties
Once you've spaced the chairs correctly, you'll need a seating plan. According to "The New York Times," the best conversationalists should sit at the center of the table, directly across from each other. The arrangement allows banter to flow around the room, and quieter guests at the poles of the table can listen or chat quietly. Allow diners to stand up and mingle with others after dinner, in case some guests clash with their seatmates.
Mixing and Matching Chairs
If some of your chairs are mismatched, don't fret; your dining room will appear fresh and lively, states designer Candice Olson. From mixing antique chairs with modern seating, to using contrasting fabrics, Olson resists using sets in the dining room. She often swaps living room chairs for dining chairs, and vice versa. As long as the seats are cushioned and comfortable, your guests will feel right at home.