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How to choose your dining set

'Dining sets', 'dining table', 'tables and chairs': however you phrase it, this type of furniture is pretty important. Without it there are no extravagant dinner parties, no candlelit canoodling and nowhere to lay out the buffet on Boxing Day! If the centre of your dining room furniture is looking a bit tired, or you are fed up of TV dinners and want to create a more civil place for the family to gather at meal times, read our guide to dining sets in association with Real Homes Magazine - click here to subscribe and have expert advice delivered to your door every month!

Dining tables

The dining table is an amazingly versatile piece of furniture that doesn't necessarily have to live in a dining room. It can be small and casual or large and formal, dark wood or high tech glass and chrome. If you already have some dining chairs you like, a new dining table could be just what you need to update your decor. Oak dining tables are very popular thanks to their charming looks and durability. A square dining table or round dining table might fit into a difficult place better than their rectangular cousin. If space really is at a premium there are drop leaf and gateleg dining tables with folding tops. Or, how about a bar table and some bar stools for a cafe-chic look?

For flexibility and a more unique aesthetic, you could choose to buy your dining table and chairs separately. Or for ease and a more uniform look you could go for a complete dining set. Buying a dining set will often work out cheaper and you can be sure that everything will arrive together in one delivery. The rectangular dining set is most popular and therefore offers a great amount of designs to choose from, however, square, oval and round dining sets are also available and can make better use of your space. Many dining sets are also part of a larger dining room furniture range so if you want to add matching furniture this is often an option. Alternatively, dining room furniture sets, including a table and chairs and other matching pieces, are also available.

Take your seats please

How many seats is enough? Dining sets come with anything from 2 to 10 matching dining chairs, although 4 and 6 seat dining sets are most popular and probably more practical for most homes. Additional dining chairs can often be bought separately or in pairs if needed. Consider buying the most chairs you will need and use the extra chairs around the house, in your bedroom or at a desk for example, so that they can be easily rounded up when needed. For more flexibility, sets are available with benches, where kids will be happy to pile on together. Once the configuration is decided, the style of chairs available will make your mouth water with slat backs, leather chairs, carvers and more to choose from!

Extending your table options

What do you really need from your dining table/dining set? A space saver or a space maker? If space is at a premium and/or your table is not used every day, there are a number of clever dining tables with drop leaf, gateleg and folding tops that allow you to have table without it over taking the space you have. A gateleg table and some folding chairs are a great combination for a multi use room thanks to the table tops which can be folded up and down at a moments notice. If, however, there never seems to be enough space round your table maybe an extending dining table is the order of the day. Extendable tables are available in all the usual shapes and a range of sizes. Most rectangular extending dining tables have extra leaves hidden in the middle of the table whereas the square versions usually extend via a flip and slide mechanism. Round dining tables will usually extend on one plane into an oval shaped table. Some round table tops spin and 'fan' out to a larger circle, although this mechanism is complicated and usually reserved for antique items where the maker wished to show off their skills.

The last word: style

Once you have decided on the size and shape of your table and chairs, the last but equally as important thing to think about is the style. It's all well and good having a totally practical dining set but if it doesn't suit your kitchen or work with your other dining room furniture it's going to look a bit strange. Consider the wood types you already have in your dining room furniture as well as the colour and tone.

If your home decor and food tastes lean

towards the rich and rustic (maybe with a Spanish influence) then look for Mexican style dining sets and furniture with aged pine and iron detailing. A matching Mexican style sideboard would look great against a statement wall in red or terracotta. A recent trend has been Indian 'cube' furniture, which fuses contemporary lines with traditional materials, usually Indian hardwoods like Mango and Sheesham. For versatility choose a classic style you will always like. A good quality oak dining set for example will be a timeless investment that will look great however you decide to redecorate your dining room. Of course there are many more styles out there and the room sets shots featured on many of our dining room furniture items will help you visualise your ideal dining room.