A well-proportioned table balances ergonomics with style
Synopsis: The best designed tables combine basic ergonomics and proper dimensions with style. As Graham Blackburn describes, choosing a table design means paying attention to details such as comfort, size and seating capacity, functionality, and pleasing proportions.
Tables must above all function on a practical level. So far as function goes, ergonomic decisions, the choice of material, construction method, joinery details, and finish are of greatest importance. But — and this is a very big ‘but’ — for a table to be completely successful, aesthetic considerations are also extremely important.
For dining tables, the design begins with seating capacity. Unless you are planning to use extension leaves, you have to decide how many people you want the table to accommodate and live with that. Although it may be tempting to build a large table to account for any eventuality, you should consider how the table functions on a daily basis for the immediate family. If you need flexibility, extension tables are the best option but will require more effort to engineer the leaf supports.
With work tables, height might be the most important consideration. For example, a writing table will be too high for use as a computer table unless accommodation is made for a keyboard tray. Occasional tables have their own requirements, but height and width decisions are less critical. Still, consider how they will relate to existing furniture in the home. Sofas and arm chairs, for example, do not come with standard arm heights.
Regardless of your woodworking experience, the design of your particular table will benefit if you spend time identifying its precise function, giving careful consideration to the material and the construction tion, and following some form of aesthetic rationale throughout the piece.
Function: Tables need to work as intended
The original and quintessential function of a table…