Round/oval dining tables - are they uncomfortable?
February 1, 2019 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Are round/oval dining tables less comfortable to sit at (for eating, reading the newspaper, typing on a laptop etc) than rectangular/square dining tables? (Question is not "does everybody feel this way" because of course not but rather "is this an actual thing for some people").

I'm shopping for tables and while I like the look of round/oval tables, it occurs to me that I've lived in a place with one, or regularly eaten at one. I have a notion that they are somewhat uncomfortable, but that might just be based on the type of round tables (e.g. rickety bistro tables) that I'm most used to. I like to rest my forearms/elbows on the table (not necessarily at, like, dinner parties, but while lounging around).. is this more awkward with a round table?
posted by acidic to Home & Garden (24 answers total)
I have a round table and have never found it to be awkward.
posted by valoius at 10:21 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I like them less than rectangular tables but it's not a big deal. Partly this is because I've mostly lived in small spaces where the shape was inconvenient / caused unusable gap issues because the table was close to a wall. It's easier to cram an extra person or two in at non-cornered tables, if that matters.

A friend had a triangular dining table and I *hated* it.
posted by momus_window at 10:28 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

I find it awkward because there's not as much space for placemats, napkins, silver etc that tends to sit near the table edge. I also like to spread stuff out when working (studying, bill paying) and round tables are annoying for that as there's less usable space.
posted by Miko at 10:28 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Given equal diameters of the two tables (i.e. same distance separating plates), you will have much less table area with a round table than a square one. How much this bothers you will depend on how much table space you prefer.
posted by randomnity at 10:30 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]

It Depends.

- It depends on the table size: when you're sitting at a large round table, the surface in front of you is close enough to straight that it makes no difference, but at a smaller table, or at the sharp end of an oval, it is curving away from you. That makes it less useful.
- A rectilinear table normally has the legs at the corners, and the distance between them allows for a logical number of seats. With a round table, the location of the legs is not as self-explanatory, so to speak, and they can be placed in such a way that it's hard for everyone to get comfortable when the table is fully used.
posted by adamrice at 10:37 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Elbow comfort can depend on the circumference of the table, compared to how large the person's front portion is (belly and/or chest) and/or how short the person's arms are.

If the table is a small tight circle, the sides of the table could be curving away from the seated person such that their elbows can't comfortably reach. This would also be possible when sitting at one of the narrow ends of an oval table. But it's not likely to be a big deal for most person shapes and roundtable sizes.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 10:38 AM on February 1

A friend has a (largish) oval table and I've always found it a pleasure to sit at. I'm also the sort of person that likes lounging at the table, but wouldn't so much do that at someone else's house, so maybe I've done less of resting arms on the table there, but I've probably done some and found it fine.
posted by ldthomps at 10:38 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

When I was growing up, my family had a large granite oval kitchen table, and it was where was spent basically all our time when we were home. We had other choices but we chose to sit there. Guests also always hung out there for extended chats and so on. Totally not uncomfortable at all.
posted by holborne at 10:42 AM on February 1

I have an oval table and I've never found it uncomfortable due to the shape. Much more important is the configuration of the legs or trestle and whether or not they interfere with someone who might be sitting there.

In a tight room ovals or round tables are a bit easier to get around.
posted by bondcliff at 10:44 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

What I love about the round kitchen table and oval dining table are the pedestals! So much more leg room. And somehow it seems easier to fit more people around? Not sure if that is because of the pedestal or the roundness, or if it is even true, but it feels like we can always fit another with the round table. No corners to hit against when you walk by is also nice.
posted by halehale at 10:47 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]

It is easier to squeeze in an extra person or two with an oval table. You might consider a round table that has extra leaves to make it an oval.
posted by Sunday Morning at 10:48 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]

Traffic flow is the reason we've got a round one, and it certainly does allow for a larger table than would otherwise be practical in the space. A square table would leave a corner poking out into a walking path, unless it was impractically tiny.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 11:01 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I prefer a quadrilateral table and would probably not buy a round one, but it's not a big deal. A round table can take up less space because it doesn't have corners to project out into the path of traffic, so there is that. My parents have an oval table that takes up pretty much all of their dining room; if you filled in the corner areas and made it a rectangle, it wouldn't be possible to walk around in there when everyone was having dinner.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:10 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

I prefer a straight-edged table but they are problematic in slightly-too-small spaces where a round or oval works perfectly. And ultimately, no, it's still a usable surface. I grew up with a family room table that was round, and we didn't eat there much but that is where we played games and did crafts and stuff and it was fine.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:17 AM on February 1

For my family of three, a 56-inch round table is perfect, and when we have company, the leaf opens it up to seat five comfortably, or six with a little squeezing.
posted by rikschell at 12:07 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Round tables are my fave. I have a 36 inch round in a tiny kitchen nook. So for the most part I pushed it into the corner with the fourth chair in that corner. I keep one chair in another room. There are always two chairs in there. There is a lot of space for even four people at that table. My daughter's 48 inch round seats six comfortably. Pier One always has glass table tops, they are usually on sale in the fall they are always affordable. With a glass top you can use table cloths and they never get dirty.
posted by Oyéah at 1:32 PM on February 1

I have this round table, ($6 at a farm auction! No one was bidding!) It's comfortable expanded or not, and I can't get people away from it to move into the living room. That said, we use it maybe twice a year for its intended purpose. The rest of the time it's covered to protect it while I work on my silly projects, for which I think a rectangular table would be better. Actually, an actual "dining room" seems to me to be a waste of space, but my partner loves the table, so....
posted by Floydd at 3:04 PM on February 1

Thanks for the responses so far! Seems positive-to-mixed. By the way, I live alone, so I'm mostly asking about whether it's comfortable for an individual sitting at the table (hence the elbows/lounging issue), not whether you can comfortably cram X people around it, which is only an occasional thing.
posted by acidic at 4:12 PM on February 1

I find it awkward because there's not as much space for placemats, napkins, silver etc

Round/oval placemats are excellent for round/oval tables.
Round tables definitely give you more room around the table and square tables give you more room at the table. Which is your bigger concern. For me, if I wasn't mostly using it as a desk, then square vs round would be mainly aesthetic.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:16 PM on February 1

I grew up with an oval table (technically, round but with a leaf inserted) and currently have a 48 inch round, which I like. I tend to lounge a bit at the table reading, don't find it awkward at all. I do have rectangular placemats. It's not as usable for stacking/organizing various pieces of paper, but ... I have a desk for that.
posted by basalganglia at 6:26 PM on February 1

I have a round table, with two leaves for optional expansion. It's very nice to sit at, plenty of room for elbows or what-have-you, works well for crafts, card games, or as a desk as well. I agree with the point about table corners extending into pathways being a problem.

And my table has another great feature - the legs can be removed, and then the leaves taken out, and then you can use a latch on the underside of the table top to hold the semicircles together, and it can be easily rolled to a new location, or even fit into a car that has the back seat folded down. I have done this many times. Not sure if modern tables have features like this, though. This baby's been in my family since 1968.
posted by cats are weird at 6:36 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Growing up in a family of five, our round table was great because we all had an equal “slice” and serving dishes were easily accessed. At a rectangular table, two kids would have shared a side, and looking back, that would have caused disagreements about who got a side to themselves and elbow shoving, cause kids will argue about anything.
posted by Sukey Says at 3:21 AM on February 2

I’ve had an oval dining table for years. Love it. Great to spread out on. It has legs , so no bonus leg room, but it’s great to spread out on for projects. I homeschooled my son, and the table was great for working solo, duo, or with a group of six. Great for gaming, too. And there’s also room for the cat. To, you know, supervise.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 12:10 PM on February 2

No one has mentioned pointy corners and bruised sides. Yes, I'm awkward. I'll take any piece of wooden furniture with padding, rounded corners, and legs and arms that are out of the way (pedestal tables, for instance).
Do get a table with an expanding insert. These are excellent.
Don't let any salesman talk you into chairs with armrests. Not easy to enter and exit.
posted by TrishaU at 11:13 PM on February 3

« Older Job interviews with social anxiety   |   A question about social science grad students Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments