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What is the Ideal Dining Table and Chair Height?

While you're here, there's more invaluable information from the UK's leading reproduction furniture specialists:
A Guide to Choosing the Ideal Dining Table Width
A Study of Period Dining Tables - Height and Width
Dining Table Stretcher Layout Designs

Back to the subject in hand. At first glance it may not seem that important. After all, well from my experience anyway, a clients main concerns (usually) are: How many people can I sit, length of table, will it go in my room? Oh and width.

...and there's nothing wrong with that.

But I do regularly find myself bringing up the subject of height with our enquirers. Because, get it wrong, and you've quite possibly spent a few thousand pounds, on something that may not quite work as it should!

So, table and chair height are important considerations and it doesn't matter if you're:

a) Buying a dining table and chairs all together as a set (less likely here though for things to be wrong).
b) Buying a dining table to go with an existing set of chairs.
c) Buying a set of chairs to go with an existing table.

Before going further, it's worth suggesting that with b) and c) above, if your existing table or chairs are of an unusual height and you plan to replace at a later date, then it may be prudent to compromise at this stage. That's as far as practicalities allow. This will ensure that your new purchase is future proof. Of course, if you own a valued heirloom that you're never going to part with, then my last piece of advice can be safely ignored!

For ideal comfort, there is a direct correlation between chair seat height and table height. Sounds simple enough. But introduce table top thickness and top rail height (together, as with refectory type tables), and you've effectively narrowed down the workable parameters.

Minimum and maximum workable dining table and chair dimensionsDrawing by Nicholas Berry Â© Early Oak Reproductions

Ignoring everything else for the moment, the realistic minimum distance between the chair seat and table top, is around 24cm, with the maximum being around 30cm. The ideal is around 26cm. Most modern chairs have their seat height set at around 50cm from the floor and most dining tables are around 76cms high. Therefore, we achieve the ideal 26cm. Indeed, most of our tables and chairs fit within this criteria. As they should!

But we also have to factor in how much space we have for our legs, under the table. The minimum gap should be no less than 9cm which, I hasten to add, is a bit tight. You should really aim for at least 12cm. Anything above that, is a welcome bonus.

Ideal height for a pedestal or trestle dining table
Drawing by Nicholas Berry Â© Early Oak Reproductions

In the diagram above, you can clearly see that the relationship between a (fairly) normal chair seat height and a (fairly) normal table height, gives us the ideal 26cm. At this distance most adult people are able to sit and feel comfortable at the table, whether they're eating, doing paperwork etc. etc. With a pedestal table, such as the one above, or a trestle type table (like our Medieval style tables), there are no side rails close to the table top edge, so the gap for our legs in this scenario, is 21cm. Which is brilliant!

Ideal height for a refectory dining table
Drawing by Nicholas Berry Â© Early Oak Reproductions

In the diagram above, we have exactly the same height chairs and table as the pedestal table before but, as this is a refectory type table, the side rails have reduced the usable gap for our legs to 12cm. This is ok for most people. However, if need be, it is quite easy to gain a bit extra by:

a) Reducing the height of the rail from its current 9cm. Be careful though, because go too far and it may start to look somewhat mean.
b) Reduce the thickness of the top. Although again, you may not want to do this.
c) Increasing the height of the table slightly, which will still keep us within the ideal maximum of 30cm between chair seat and table top.
d) A little bit of each!

So, it can start to become a bit of a trade-off, depending on your own personal priorities. The two drawings below  will show how we've successfully made adjustments from the 'norm', in order to suit our clients particular preferences:

Custom height carved refectory table
Drawing by Nicholas Berry Â© Early Oak Reproductions

Because of the table design above, the overall period look would have been compromised by making the carved table rail too short in height. So, to maintain an authentic appearance and still give the sitters a reasonable leg gap of 12cm, we increased the overall height of the table by 2.5cm, from the more normal 76cm. As you can see, we were able to do this, whilst still keeping the chair seat to table top distance well below the 30cm maximum. As a matter of interest, 78.5cm for table height is actually erring towards more authentic, from a period point of view, as most early tables were quite high.

Bespoke height refectory dining table
Drawing by Nicholas Berry Â© Early Oak Reproductions

The above diagram illustrates how the solid structural dimensions of the table and chairs, need to be adjusted, to take into account any plans for having separate cushions. Whilst without any cushions, the ergonomics are compromised (left of diagram). Add in the cushions (and they're only around 3cm thick) and all of a sudden the dimensions work (right of diagram).

Most of the time you won't need to make any changes from what we supply as standard, but hopefully, this article has provided enough information for you to understand the basic ergonomics and make an informed decision about whether to go with a regular chair and table height, or tweak accordingly. At the very least, it should prompt you to just double check this important factor. It's always worth cobbling something together in your own home to get a feel for what's right for you. Also, it's very easy to check your current set-up, to see how it compares to what I've been talking about here.

As always, we are here to help and will be only too pleased to assist if need be.

You may also like to see:
A Guide to Choosing the Ideal Dining Table Width
A Study of Period Dining Tables - Height and Width
Dining Table Stretcher Layout Designs

Author; By Nicholas Berry
Bespoke Reproduction Early Oak Furniture Specialist

Nicholas Berry dining table and chair height authorFrom a small boy at infant school, I've had a passion for early furniture and architecture, embracing the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. I've spent almost three decades designing and making replica early oak furniture (and architectural woodwork)...with my own hands!

Nowadays, together with a team of highly skilled and equally passionate craftspeople, I use that valuable experience helping clients commission, from our company, the very best in bespoke oak reproduction furniture, with a particular emphasis on personal service.

Circle Nicholas Berry on Google+ Profiles (opens in a new window)

© Early Oak Reproductions


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