Modern living spaces, with their emphasis on open plan rooms, and especially the popular and functional kitchen/diner, has pretty much spelled the demise of the traditional dining room. Maybe even the term ‘dining table’ is obsolete too? Today’s casual lifestyle means that the formal, sit-down meal, in a room whose sole function is for eating in, is a thing of the past for most. Yet dining tables are still what we buy – despite the fact that they are also just as likely to be the place where we work from home, the kids draw and paint, homework gets done and maybe craft, sewing and other creative projects happen as well. Just as rooms have become increasingly multi-functional, so contemporary dining tables must multi-task too.
Increasingly, modern small space living means we only have room for a small table, or don’t have the space for a dining table permanently in situ at all. When space is at a premium a large (or even small) table isn’t practical, but when we get together with friends and family then a table where we can share a meal together is extremely desirable. Can we have our cake (or dinner) and eat it too? I think so – here’s my round-up of the most stylish and versatile contemporary dining tables for small spaces, and for slightly larger ones too.
We’re starting with a very clever modern dining table from one of my favourite contemporary furniture designers, Steuart Padwick (who I also wrote about here) as I think his Double Cross Dining/Console Table from MADE, above and below, is sheer genius.
It’s a generous sized table that can seat 6-8 for a meal, but in just a few easy moves the legs and top fold back to create a neat console table or desk that can live up against a wall until the next dinner guests arrive. The table legs come in a bright, bold orange or in oak to match the table top.
Here’s a minimal, contemporary dining table that’s perfect for small spaces. The Bramante Square Extending Dining Table, above, in high gloss grey lacquer, has a simple aluminium slide mechanism that opens to reveal extension leaves stored inside – a real bonus when space is at a premium. We have a lovely wooden dining table with heavy and bulky extension sections that have to be stored separately, something we didn’t take into consideration when we bought it – lesson learned.
There’s also a larger version of this extending dining table in the Bramante range, the Bramante Extendable Table, which can extend and then extend again, giving you lots of options. The range also includes matching benches, shelving units and a very sleek and lovely console table that comes in two sizes. The whole range, including dining tables, also comes in a white lacquer finish.
Designed by Leon Pfeifer for John Lewis, the Croyde contemporary dining table features large drop leaves that extend it from an incredibly compact 20cm to a spacious 150cm without compromising stability or style. That’s an awful lot of table that will only take up a tiny space when folded away. And, of course, you could have just one leaf extended to use as an everyday table/desk if space permits.
For fans of classic, wooden extendable dining tables, I chose the Mira Extending Dining Table above, with its beautiful styling details. Designed by Danish furniture designer Ebbe Gehl, again for John Lewis, this stylish mid-century Scandi-style dining table is made from solid, oiled oak and has tapered legs, rounded edges and clean contemporary lines. At a modest 120 cm when closed, it’s compact enough for small spaces, but has two internal leaves that extend it to either 165 cm or 210 cm at its longest.
Now here’s another extremely clever table, and the name explains why. The MK1 Transforming Combined Coffee and Dining Table is “multifunctional and perfect for small spaces as it miraculously converts from a coffee table to a dining table in two simple movements” – see below.
Made from solid wood and high grade birch plywood, the coffee table version is 75 cm long unfolding into 135 cm as the dining table incarnation. It’s the brainchild of Christoper Duffy, a design graduate from the University of Brighton, who started out creating products in his kitchen – presumably a very small one. Anyway, this is just more design genius and, along with a few folding chairs, is a great space-saving solution for very small living spaces.
Family-run Danish furniture makers Skovby have come up with the ingenious Oslo SM101 Multi-Function Table, a true multi-tasker that could be the perfect solution in a small kitchen/diner. Two drop leaves can fold away entirely, but when lifted form a table that can seat from 3-6 people. A removable panel in the table top has aluminium on the reverse side that’s perfect for hot dishes, and a sliding drawer underneath gives lots of storage space. Also available in various natural wood finishes, you can buy it in the UK from Barker & Stonehouse.
Round dining tables are a good choice when you’re short on space, as the lack of corners gives you precious extra inches around the table. The compact Suki Folding Dining Table, above, from Habitat also has two drop leaves, making it very versatile indeed. Made from solid oak and oak veneer with a matt black top, it can be used with one or both of its leaves raised and will push back against a wall nice and neatly when not in use. It’s also available with a white top.
We’re finishing off with round dining tables with a pedestal style base, as these are an ideal solution for small spaces, both practically and aesthetically. There are no legs to get chairs tangled up in and the streamlined shape gives an illusion of lightness and space around the table.
A white glass top and stainless steel pedestal combine to give a fresh, contemporary feel to the Gino White Glass Dining Table from Marks and Spencer. The table comes in 2 sizes and there’s also a version with a clear glass top.
The Noguchi Dining Table for Vitra. Designed by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, this beautiful dining table is the perfect illustration of Noguchi’s belief that ‘everything is sculpture’. Indeed, the original was designed for the house of A Conger Goodyear, president of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The cast iron ring-shaped base and pedestal of chromed rods are strong and sturdy whilst maintaining a light and airy aesthetic.
And to finish our Top 10 Contemporary Dining Tables, here’s one of my own personal ‘Top 10 Design Objects of Desire’ – the original Saarinen Pedestal Table designed in 1958 by Finnish American architect and designer Eero Saarinen. Manufactured by Knoll, this iconic table comes in several sizes from perfectly petite side tables through various round versions (perfect sizes for dining tables for small spaces) up to a large oval dining table. The top can be made from marble, laminate or various wood finishes, and the base is of heavy moulded cast aluminium with a white, black or platinum finish.
The Pedestal Table was designed as a result of Saarinen’s belief that “The underside of typical chairs and tables makes a confusing, unrestful world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs.” He also designed matching chairs as part of the Pedestal Collection, and the picture below illustrates just how well he achieved his goal. The so-called “slum of legs” is replaced by the sleek, minimalist lines of space-age modernism – and is the perfect solution for contemporary, small space living
The traditional dining room, with its dining sets of table and matching set of chairs waiting in splendid isolation to be used once or twice a day, may be largely a thing of the past in most homes. But contemporary dining tables, whatever the size of our homes, are still very much with us … we just do a lot more than eat off them these days, that’s all.
Find more contemporary furniture for small spaces in our Small Space Living section:
Small space solutions: the LOFT range from M&S
Top 10: console tables with storage for small spaces
Heal’s Brunel range – covetable contemporary furniture for small spaces
The Dyson V6 Fluffy: the perfect cordless vacuum cleaner for small spaces
Top 10: contemporary home desks for small spaces
Mon Oncle portable barbecue for small outdoor spaces
Top 10: side tables with storage for small spaces
The Conran Ryton lamp from Marks and Spencer