Somerset Maugham once said that at a dinner party ‘one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.’ A timely chestnut for us all to consider when we are next invited to a friend’s table! The dining room table is the modern hearth around which we gather to tell stories, dispense advice, laugh, love – alas, sometimes fight – with our urban families. A perfectly set dinner table can lighten the heart and bring a convivial glow of warmth and elegance to proceedings. Choosing the correct table for your space is incredibly important, as it will become the central hub of your social life. Consider these fundamentals:

Form follows function

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio – the Roman architect, engineer and author – first put forth in his book De Architectura that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas, venustas – that is, it must be solid, useful and beautiful. Could a truer sentiment be brought to the pursuit of a new dining table? Perhaps only the sofa rivals the table as the piece of non-boudoir furniture where the design principle of form follows function must hold true. A solid piece of oak for a table-top will stand you and any table-thumping conversation in good stead, versus a flimsy piece of laminate.

Traffic must flow

The shape of a room should be a huge consideration but it is amazing how many tables are awkwardly squeezed into a space because the owner loved the table. Unfortunately, if your guests give themselves a hernia trying to get to the loo, it is going to hugely detract from the dining experience. A long narrow room will be best suited to a rectangular table, perhaps with benches instead of chairs that can be stored underneath. If space is an issue, consider some of the modern, stylish interpretations of the classic extendable table.

Solid oak table

Seating maketh the table

The accessibility of mass production furniture might have made matching table and chairs a staple but mixing them up will add personality to your room. One glamourous Sydney fashion maven hosts kitchen suppers around a small white table, surrounded by a collection of higgedly-piggedly stools in different sizes and primary school pencil box colours. It adds a dash of insouciance and contrasts with the grown-up elegance of the apartment. Admittedly, guests occasionally wobble awkwardly at inopportune moments, seriously dicing with idea of form following function. Sometimes rules are made to be broken?

Get inventive. Want the luxurious feeling of a banquette without the permanency or expense of having one installed? A settee against the wall can be the perfect substitute and add a 1920s vibe. Just make sure that there are at least 24 inches on either side of the table so that guests can get out!

To see what dining pieces some of Australia’s leading furniture-makers and wholesalers have to offer, register now to visit the Australian International Furniture Fair, co-located with Decor + Design in Melbourne, 21 – 24 July.

Tickets are also available for the 2016 International Seminar Series. Noted interior stylist and globetrotter
Sibella Court will be speaking on Friday 22 July. Sibella has directed interiors for recent commercial spaces for hospitality including Hotel Palisades bar, The Courthouse, Port Douglas, Old Joe’s, The Pines, Palings, Mr Wong, Palmer & Co, El Loco, 30 Knots, Upstairs at The Beresford, MsG’s. Book now to hear her thoughts on how interior design can fundamentally impact the dining experience.