While you could stuff an oversized dining table into a tiny dining room or kitchen, sitting at the table for a meal may be anything but enjoyable. An ample amount of space around the table in all directions ensures guests and family can sit or leave their chairs without fear of bumping into walls or other furniture. While there is no set rule, a minimum of 32 inches beyond the table ensures seated diners have at least a little room to move their chairs.
While space may be limited when you're trying to fit a dining table into a small room -- especially if the room contains other furnishings -- thorough planning allows for the best use of the space, no matter how tiny. Ideally, allow 36 to 54 inches all the way around the table to provide enough space for a pathway. After all, besides sitting at the table, guests also need to be able to walk from another room to their seats, and this may involve walking around guests who are already seated. If you're unable to leave so much space all the way around the table, position the table so the areas that are natural pathways, such as from a hallway or another room to the table, allow enough space to walk without turning sideways.
In an area where space is a premium, allow at least 32 inches from the edge of the table to the nearest wall or other piece of furniture; otherwise, guests may not have enough room to sit comfortably. In a pinch, you may be able to get away with as little as 24 inches of space between the table edge and wall, but this minimal amount of space means being careful as you slide the chair in and out.
Choosing Your Chairs
If you already have a dining table squeezed into a small space, the chairs you choose to go along with the table matter; if the chairs are too deep from front to back, there may not be much space to move them toward or away from the table. Measure the chair's depth from front to back at the widest point. If the chair back curves outward, hang a string tied to a washer from the chair back to measure its total depth as viewed from the floor. The distance from the table edge to the wall should be the chair's depth plus 8 inches, or a minimum of 4 inches. This ensures each guest can move the chair out from beneath the table with enough space to actually sit on the chair.
Picking the Perfect Table
Besides using the room's measurements to pick out the ideal table, another number matters: the amount of people who will typically eat at the table. For a square or rectangular table, allow at least 24 inches of space for each person along each side of the table, keeping in mind that the table legs take up some of the space at each edge as well. For round tables, allow 25 to 28 inches of space per seated person. If you entertain frequently, a larger table or a table with removable or fold-down leaves helps ensure there's enough table space for everyone -- as long as the room has enough free space for the enlarged table size.