Because the dining room is the hub of home entertaining, finding the right dining table to accommodate family and friends is a worthy investment. A good table can last decades — it can even be passed down from generation to generation. Besides being above all practical, a dining table also sets the overall mood of the space: a lightly stained wooden set for four exudes an informal, casual feel, while a formal table for 10 evokes sophistication and formality. As you get ready to purchase a new one, consider what works for you and your family.

How big should my dining room table be?

As you decide what set to purchase, think about how often you entertain and how many people usually attend. If all your family lives nearby, a larger dining table would be a worthy investment. On the other hand, if family doesn’t visit that often, an oversized table might not get much use. If you prefer to have options, purchase one with a table leaf so you can accommodate guests but still have a smaller option for more intimate gatherings. Whatever the size, be sure it fits the space. Measure the table and think about chair movement to ensure that everyone can get in and out without much effort.

What shape should I choose?

Both round and square dinner tables promote conversation and socialization, while large, rectangular dining tables are perfect for larger parties. For a look that mixes the traditional with the contemporary, consider outfitting a large room with an oblong or octagon one.

What table material should I get?

The material is mostly dictated by the overall style of the space; after all, your furniture should reflect your taste. Darker woods, such as cherry and mahogany, are often seen as elegantly traditional, while dark metals, concrete, and wood/metal mixtures are mostly contemporary. Colorful plastics are modern and playful, while glass can be modern or traditional, depending on the base material used.