Learning Center

What's The Right Number of Chairs For Any Table?

(This post was adapted from "The Art of Dining" by Anick Lamothe)

It can be quite unpleasant to sit down for a delicious and friendly meal in a more formal setting and find yourself squeezed between two guests. Time drags on as shoulders are pulled in, elbows constrained in an attempt to become as small as possible and hope that dinner will end quickly.

This was certainly not the intention of the host who undoubtedly wanted to show their guests a good time

Whether when entertaining or making a purchase decision, there are rules to follow regarding the number of chairs to place around a table. Here’s a guide to seating arrangements for your dining table.

Think About Space First

The golden rule for comfort at the table is the amount of space allowed for guests, but also the space between the table and the nearest wall or piece of furniture. So keep the following measurements in mind:

  • 36 inches is the recommended distance between wall and table or between the nearest piece of furniture and the table. Keeping this space free allows people to stand up easily and move around with ease.
  • Although some restaurants opt for 20 inches between seats for reasons of space optimization and profitability, a width of 24 or even 30 inches is necessary for a person to sit comfortably at the table.
  • Larger measurements of up to 30 inches are suitable for formal dining, where armchairs or padded armchairs (arms and back) take up a little more space while the smallest measurements are reserved for meals with friends or family.
  • As for benches, which take up less space, 18 to 24 inches of space between people is recommended.

For example, during a friendly meal, a 6-foot rectangular table allows seating three people on each side. However, length is not the only factor that determines the number of chairs, the shape of the table and size of the chairs also have to be factored in.

"Since they’re smaller, it can be a good idea to have the kids sit on benches. They’ll be thrilled to sit there and to be able to easily slip off after being excused from the table to go play!"

Now Think About Shape

Whether round, rectangular, oval or boat style, the shape of the table will influence the number of chairs you place around it.

Rectangular Tables

If you have a large family or enjoy entertaining large groups of friends, but your room is neither very large nor is it part of an open plan, a rectangular table will be your best choice if you need to add more chairs.

In fact, depending along its length, this type of table can comfortably accommodate two to twelve people, since a chair can be placed at each end, thus saving two seats. Being narrower than a square table, it will take up less space in your dining room or kitchen.

  • Six chairs fit around a five-foot (60") rectangular table
  • Eight chairs fit around a six-foot (72") rectangular table.
Square Tables

Because of its shape—and if you are trying to maximize the space in your room for ease of circulation, a consideration worth remembering is that it is more difficult to place several chairs around a square table

  • Four chairs fit around a three-foot (36") square table
  • Six chairs around a four-foot (48") square table
  • Eight chairs around a five-foot (60") square table.
Round Tables

Although it takes fewer chairs than the rectangular table, a round table is remarkably well suited to conversation as guests are all facing each other. On the other hand, the larger the table, the more difficult it will be to reach the dishes placed in the center.

  • Four chairs fit around a three-foot diameter (36") round table
  • Six chairs around a four-foot (48") diameter round table
  • Eight chairs around a five-foot diameter (60") round table.
Oval & Boat Shaped Tables

Like the rectangular table, the oval table offers the possibility of placing several chairs, and thus seating a good number of people. However, guests at either end of the table may be touching each other, as space is more limited. Also, try to avoid placing a right-handed person next to a left-handed person at the end of the table, as the right-handed person cutting food could cause problems for the left-handed person trying to eat the food! Apart from these minor inconveniences:

  • 6-foot (72") oval table can seat six people
  • 7-foot (84") oval table can seat eight people
  • 9-foot ((108") oval table can seat up to ten people

And Don’t Forget the Extensions!

To avoid cluttering a room with too many chairs, those who occasionally entertain larger groups will be wise to opt for an extendable table. The question is: how many additional chairs can be placed for each removable leaf of the table?

Generally speaking, depending on their size, one leaf will allow for two additional chairs, two leaves will accommodate four additional chairs, which means four more guests for a joyful gathering.

A Final Thought on the Number of Chairs

If you prefer simplicity to more formal dining, you can reduce the space required between each guest. A table that is at least 30 inches wide allows dishes to be easily placed in the center, making the host’s evening more enjoyable as there will be no need to keep getting up to serve guests.

The number one rule for a memorable meal spent in good company is to see to the guests’ well-being, ensuring that conversation flows more smoothly. To this end, the space allocated to each person and their comfort are essential to success.

Share this article: