I love to eat, and I love to laugh and talk with friends. So having people over to my home for meals is at the top of my fun chart. Whether you’re pulling together a last-minute luncheon with a few friends, a family birthday party or a holiday gathering for work, a great meal starts with a great table. Your dining table and chairs not only have to look sensational, they have to work for your home and life. Here are three must-do’s for getting a dining set you’ll love:
1. Make sure the table fits the space.
The biggest mistake I see folks make when they pick out dining furniture it to get a set that is too big for their space. Their heart is in the right place: They want a table that can fit as many guests as possible. But what they end up with is a dining room that’s packed to the gills with furniture. Not only is a too-full room unattractive, it doesn’t give guests the space they need to push out their chairs or to walk around the table when others are seated.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, before you go table shopping, measure your room. Then map out how much floor space you have for the table and chairs. If getting a lot of folks around your table is a top priority, pay special attention to the table legs. A center pedestal or trestle table will allow you to seat more people with ample leg room than a table with four large corner legs. The table in the photo above, taken at Nell Hill’s, is one of our most popular sellers.
2. Pick a table and chairs that fit your home’s style (but don’t be afraid to change things up a bit).
When we moved into our little lake house, we gave up a formal dining room. Our dining area now is a cozy spot nestled next to the kitchen and living room, and our large, formal dining table was not going to fit. That heirloom went to our daughter, and I started a quest for a table and chairs that were small enough to fit the spot and that would match the casual, rustic aesthetic I was going for.
I opted for a table that had a rougher, farm house finish, so if we beat it up, we’ll only add to its character. The chairs I selected seemed perfect to me for the old-family-home feel I wanted in this space. The weathered wicker chairs, with their worn, painted patina, looked like something your grandmother would have on her large, wraparound porch. I fell in love on the spot. Casual, distressed tabletops stained in a deep, rich brown are really popular right now.
When it comes to dining chairs, there is no one style that is most popular right now: Anything goes. You can come up with boundless combinations for your dining seats, and at Nell Hill’s, we are having a blast helping our customers create distinctive looks. The photo above is a great approach. Pick a matched pair of chairs to place at the ends of the table, then select complementary chairs for the sides. Here, traditional wooden chairs are married to more contemporary upholstered chairs. Clean, simple and gorgeous.
For a more layered look, cover your chairs with slipcovers, like we did here. Slipcovers give you a chance to add color and texture to your table treatment, warming up the room. Another great idea? Cap the table with wing back chairs. I absolutely adore this treatment, and it’s one of our most popular at Nell Hill’s. If this is the look for you, make sure the wing back chairs are high enough for you to sit comfortably. Another popular pick is to use a bench on one side and chairs on the other. Want to ramp up the drama? Use a settee or banquette on one or both sides.
If you prefer a clean, uniform look with your chairs, no problem. You still have lots and lots of looks to choose from today.
3. Pick the highest quality table you can for your budget.
Most of us don’t change out our dining table and chairs very often. And there’s a reason for this: They can be a big investment. When it comes to purchasing investment furniture, I urge all my friends and customers to get the highest quality pieces they can afford. If you find pieces you like that are superior quality, but cost a few hundred dollars more, I advise you bite the bullet and get the better made pieces. When you spread the extra cost over the decades-long lifespan of a well-made table and chairs, it isn’t really that much. But oh-my-goodness you will feel a keen sense of regret if you lower your quality standards and get pieces that come loose, scratch or break after a few years.
Right now, all wood furniture – including dining tables and chairs – is 20% off at Nell Hill’s during our Wood Furniture Sale. Hurry – the sale ends August 15.
Next Week … The decorating world is striking gold! This metallic is hot, hot, hot.
Rosemary Garrick saysAugust 4, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Love all of your ideas for creating the perfect dining room. I’ve been wanting to invest in a new set for years but would love some professional help with our choices. Wish we lived near you and Nell Hills as I know you would give us the help we need but the California Bay Area is just a bit too far away.
Jeanie Shehab saysAugust 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm
Love hearing from you and all your ideas for our homes. Please tell me where to buy those wicker chairs you fell in love with for your new dinning area?? I fell in love also and they look perfect for my space,as well? Thank you so much and I look froward to hearing from you. I also live in California and wish we had your shop here .
Jan Trantham saysAugust 4, 2014 at 4:10 pm
Please don’t leave out those of us that became a fan when your taste was a little more polished. I can appreciate the necessity to reduce the commute and to downsize but what drew me to your books and website was the way you brought the lovely and the casual together. The overly distressed tables remind me of barn furniture and one won’t be finding a place in my home even though I don’t want to look like a Victorian either. I will be ever so glad when this design trend finishes.
franki saysAugust 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm
We recently put the “captain chairs” that were at each end of the dining table (in the barn.) Got two aqua leather chairs in their place and I like this more “casual look.” Now…the grandkiddos want to sit in them exclusively! 🙂 franki
Rachel saysAugust 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm
What is the name of the china on your dining room table and where did you get the wicker chairs in your dining room? They are gorgeous!
Gloria Williams saysAugust 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm
Yes, dont’ you love her ideas. Please don’t give Mary Carol the idea to move to CA. She is a bright spot for this MO gal, and for my daughter who lives in KS. We have a great mother-daughter outing by going to Nell Hill’s. Her shop is the greatest! I could stay a week and not see everything. And everything is beautiful. But I’m only making you wish she were in CA. Grab a friend, book a hotel-lots nearby-and jump on a plane to KC. You won’t regret it. She ships, too.
Rena saysAugust 4, 2014 at 4:32 pm
I love the blue stipe lace-up chairs. Can you tell me the cost?
Polly saysAugust 4, 2014 at 5:59 pm
Mary Carol, Is it ever possible to see your items online? I’m in SoCal and doing a kitchen reno and will need new table, chairs and bench. Fingers crossed!
mimi tafour saysAugust 4, 2014 at 6:05 pm
I am laughing, Mary Carol, at all the back and forth of everyone. Oh my, please don’t trade in your ruby reds 🙂 and skip down the yellow lined road to California. You have got to be enjoying this blog’s comments. 🙂
Becky saysAugust 4, 2014 at 7:19 pm
I love the table at the top of this week’s blog. Marble top and iron base — please tell me you have it through your store.
Angie saysAugust 5, 2014 at 7:24 am
I have been a fan of distressed wood for many, many years. I have gorgeous pieces made by Theodore Alexander, Hekman, and Ralph Lauren. It is a not a look for everyone, but it definitely a look that is timeless, just like beautifully finished smooth wood finishes, and it is here to stay. As a matter of fact, I mix them with my more formal, polished pieces, as well as great painted pieces. I love your new lake house and look forward to seeing more. I love visiting your store when we are an KC and cannot wait to go back this Fall.
Joyce saysAugust 5, 2014 at 9:14 am
I love this post and the pictures you provided. My hubby and I searched for a new dining room table for years. It took us years because we couldn’t agree on one together. Amazingly, we finally found a rustic looking one (like many of the pics above) that we both liked. We are not over the top formal people, so the beauty of this kind of table is that it can go casual or a little more dressy. You have given me lots of ideas over the years through your blog and books of different things to do with it and I’ve ordered many things from your store.
BTW, do you have the gold bird in the last picture in your store for sale?
Celeste saysAugust 5, 2014 at 10:35 am
I agree with Jan. I live in Virginia amid history, horses and hounds. The whole trend for junk, shabby chic, and milk paint just does not work in my home. I have an appreciation for vintage items and love the mix of class and casual I have become used to with the Nell Hill’s look – and with all of Mary Carol’s books. I think the look is timeless!
Mary Carol saysAugust 7, 2014 at 11:43 am
I am so sorry to tell you that my lovely wicker chairs I purchased for my lake home have been discontinued. I know that is not what you want to hear, however, since you are out of town you might try ‘Google’—Wicker chairs.
Mary Carol saysAugust 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm
Hello Rachel—As mentioned to Jeanie, unfortunately, the wicker chairs I purchased for the lake house have been discontinued. My china is very old from England and is the ‘Asiatic Pheasant’ pattern. I believe if you ‘Google’ it you might be able to locate. Have so enjoyed it through the years.
Mary Carol saysAugust 7, 2014 at 2:36 pm
Hear, Hear Gloria!
Mary Carol saysAugust 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm
Unfortunately, we no longer have an online store, however, customers can find lots to purchase through our weekly blog, daily facebook and our website @ nellhills.com