In many current homes, there's no clearly defined dining room. This is especially true in city apartments where space is at a premium. If you're looking for a way to serve food without a true dining table, have no fear. No matter your circumstance, everyone should be able to find something that will work for them on this thorough list.
Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
If you don't have a dining table (or even dining room) in your current floor plan, there are plenty of other versatile pieces of furniture that can do the job. Some ideas include:
- Wall-mounted drop-leaf table
- Bar counter
- Fold-down table (or murphy table)
- Moveable island
- Folding/expanding accent tables
- Sideboard or buffet table
Continue reading for more about each resourceful option, how to include them in your design, and some available examples. We'll also discuss what kind of dining table is best for a small space and where a dining table should be placed in the home, so be sure to keep reading.
6 Dining Table Alternatives
Let's take a closer look at the 6 dining table alternatives that we have mentioned:
Wall-Mounted Drop-Leaf Table
Wall-mounted tables are the easiest option for the absolute smallest of spaces. They take up next to no room and utilize the usually dead vertical space along the wall. If you're handy with tools, it's also possible to fashion your own with a drop-leaf hinge and wood.
If you like the wall-mounted idea, but need something a little bigger, this one is available in a variety of sizes.
A bar table can be used for a dining table or breakfast bar for 2. Whether it's in a small space or simply used for additional seating, it's an excellent dining table alternative.
This one comes with 2 stools that are the perfect size to slide right under the bar, saving space.
This murphy-bed-like design folds up and down from the wall. There when you need it, tucked away when you don't.
This unit holds 2 bar stools, 2 small storage drawers, and a drop-leaf tabletop. It also comes on wheels with a push handle, so it can be easily moved out of the way or pulled in and out of a corner when needed.
A kitchen island provides a surface for food prep. Then, when dinner is ready, you can eat right there. If space is tight, you can even store the stools in the cabinet space when not in use.
Folding/Expanding Accent Tables
Accent tables, also known as console tables, are small and narrow. They are designed to fit between the wall and a chair or couch, or in an entryway space. If you'll be dining in the living room anyway, having an accent table near the couch may be the solution for you.
Tiptiper Folding Table
This one primarily functions as a storage shelf. The leaves on either side make it work as a side table, desk, or a full dining table for 4.
Anya Nana Folding Table
This small accent table can squeeze into just about any space. Then, when you need it for dining, just open both leaves. Now you have a 42-inch round table that will seat 4.
Stakmore Expanding Table
Versatile doesn't even begin to describe this hard-working table. It starts as a 20-inch deep console table. After one expansion, it grows to a 40-inch game table. The final expansion brings it to an astounding 72-inch long dining table. That's big enough to seat 6-8 people!
Mix Folding Dining Table
This table can fold down completely. Since it folds so neatly, it can be stored when not in use. Tuck it away in a closet, basement, or even behind the couch. You can also keep it out with just one leaf extended, and use it as a console table. Once both leaves are extended, it can seat 4 people.
Sideboard Or Buffet Table
Sideboards are traditionally featured in the dining room. If you have space available and just occasionally need an extra surface for dining, a sideboard may be the answer for you.
The one downside is that sideboard tables tend to be a bit lower than standard dining room tables. Before purchasing one, make sure to check the dimensions. If it's too low, it won't be comfortable to sit down at (though it can always be used for serving food, of course). You'll also need to be aware of the less-typical height when selecting chairs.
If you'd like more information on table sizes, check out How High Should A Dining Table Be?
This piece stands alone as a great decor item (and storage area), but can also double as an eating space when needed.
What Type Of Dining Table Is Best?
Any type of dining table, whether it's a standard rectangle table or something more inventive, is perfectly acceptable if it meets the needs and demands of your home. However, some things to keep in mind when picking the right table for you include:
- Round tables take up the least room in small spaces.
- Rectangular tables are the most popular. They work well in most spaces and offer the most surface area for fitting people and food together. The table options below include tables for as few as 2 people, but if you need to host a sizeable group, stick to the rectangular tables.
- If you need a table that can fit a group, but space is tight, consider an oval. The shaved off corners do take away from the table area, but it also makes it easier to maneuver around in a narrow space.
Can You Entertain Without A Dining Room?
Most people are familiar with homes having traditional, formal dining rooms. It was once seen as a necessity in the home. However, dining rooms no longer carry the same distinction they once did.
Many people would rather use the extra space for something else, perhaps a workspace or hobby area. In many cases, the room can get more use and function this way. In fact, a recent Angie's List poll discovered that a mere 23% of people still use their dining room on a regular basis. 7% even have a furnished room, and just prefer not to use it. Others simply are caught in rental spaces, with no room available for a special dining room.
However, everyone still needs a place of some kind to serve food. A place to sit and eat, an area to set utensils and plates without living in constant risk of dropping your dinner trying to juggle everything in your hands. In modern times, it's possible to see lots of creative inspiration for eating areas. When a dining room is not available, the eating space can be part of the living room, kitchen, or anywhere else it can fit!
Where Should A Dining Table Be Placed In A Home?
For convenience sake, the dining table should be as close to the kitchen as is realistically possible. It just makes sense to have the place where the food is made, and the place where the food is eaten, kept near each other. There's easier access, back and forth to retrieve forgotten utensils or condiments. There's less chance of spills while things are being moved back and forth. For more on this topic, head over to read Does A Dining Room Have To Be Next To The Kitchen?
However, if you're truly limited on space, place your dining table wherever it is the most convenient. If the area near the kitchen is a poor location for a table, then put it elsewhere. It doesn't make sense to insist that a table near the kitchen is "convenient" if that creates a cumbersome traffic jam or an area that is difficult to navigate through.
If you'll be selecting a less traditional piece of furniture for a dining table, this article can help you make sure that you pick the right chairs to accompany it: Should Your Bar Stools Match Your Dining Chairs?
What Kind of Dining Table Is Best For A Small Area?
If the area is so small that you don't want a permanent fixture of a table always in the way, then you'll want to select an option that can be stored away. Pick something with the smallest footprint possible and something that is convenient to put up and down. Anything that folds into the wall takes up no extra floor space. For example, the wall-mounted drop leaf table or fold-down table listed above.
Another way to make sure you use space wisely in a small area is to pick something that serves more than one purpose as furniture. For example, an accent table/desk/table does take up some room, but at least it's serving a variety of functions. Being honest with yourself about what you need from your furniture on a daily basis will help guide you to the right choice for you.
In a more general sense, in small spaces, round tables work the best. The round shape makes them easy to maneuver around without bulky corners and they take up less space than their rectangular counterparts.
Dining rooms are not the only place you can entertain guests, and dining room tables are not the only place to serve food. As a good host, you do want to offer your guests a convenient and relaxing place to enjoy their food. However, there are a number of less traditional options that you can use in the place of a dining table. Find one that works for you and your home, and enjoy!