Restaurant Style at Home: Multiple Tables for Multiple Reasons
Much like the hottest restaurant in town whose line is always out the door and who packs in patrons nary an elbow apart, this Denver lodge is an entertaining machine. If at first the room seems stuffed with furniture, consider how the tight clustering of chairs and tables addresses the number one foreseeable gripe about using multiple tables instead of one: ease of interaction. Though the layout seems to defy the “rules” you’ve read about optimal furniture spacing, you can bet that everyone will be able to hear each other from anywhere in the room.
There’s something about a break in the table that gets us thinking in zones. At a tightly-packed restaurant like my hypothetical example, you may end up seated mere inches away from a total stranger. After perhaps a moment of collaboratively navigating into your respective seats, both parties usually drift off into their own conversations, undaunted by the proximity of others. In the home, I could see such an arrangement working fruitfully for a pair of wives who’d like to chat about different topics from their husbands without feeling necessarily obliged to participate in each other’s conversations. This chitchat might take place before or after a weekly game night, when another neighboring couple joins in for three different card games played simultaneously, side-by-side.
Spacing the tables a little further apart creates even more psychological distance between the two parties and, therefore, fosters the illusion of greater privacy. In this one small space, three separate zones have been made possible by the inclusion of two tables roughly a foot apart with a space-efficient bar and loads of stools on the other side. Here, parents can catch up while the kids eat lunch or play; older kids can work on their homework while their younger siblings color and create a few feet away; or a whole group of revelers can get the party started with a leisurely cocktail and conversation.
Venturing more into bar/lounge territory is a pair of high-top pub tables and stools. The small size of these tables makes it clear they’re not for mealtime, which makes them a perfect overflow area for munchies and beer when the game is on and the sofa is full. Perfect for a game room, media room, or any place earmarked for entertaining, an arrangement like this will virtually guarantee that your house is the most popular party destination on the block.
For a cool lounge vibe a la Miami Beach, look to a plush sofa with small cocktail tables instead of stiff high-tops. This is where you’ll either crank up or wind down the after-party, sipping with your closest friends until the wee hours because the wine is flowing and the couch is just too darn comfortable to leave! The number of tables will set the tone for how many guests will feel comfortable sitting: Two guests per table with maybe a floater here or there will preserve personal space and give everyone an obvious spot to set their glass.
If the bar isn’t your scene, even at home, you can still get that restaurant vibe in your kitchen or dining room. An upholstered banquette is one clever trick to obfuscate how many people can really be seated at the table, and multiple tables blur the line even further. The size of these breakfast tables suggests that four people will fit comfortably, but the sheer mass of the channel-back banquette sends a more inclusive message. If you have the room and regularly entertain, a similar arrangement may very well give you more seating capacity and more flexibility than the 8-foot table you may otherwise have used to fill the space.
Your multiple tables don’t have to be side-by-side, either. In the background, we clearly see a dining table ready to accommodate serious meals, but the nearby breakfast table in the foreground means that the teenager noshing on pizza while he crams for finals can coexist with his parents as they finish a more conventional supper. Or, this separate table can be pressed into service as the all-important kids table during mixed-generation gatherings, or simply as a more casual alternative to the dining room, as many people already do.
Finally, just because you have the space for two tables doesn’t mean you need both. Sometimes just sitting at a table can formalize our activity and command productivity, a mission, a purpose of some sort: Eat a meal, open a laptop, write a to-do list. This multipurpose room defies labels and invites all those activities, plus just lounging with a book or stretching out to “rest one’s eyes.” They key to designing any room is to ask yourself how you live, and how you want to live, and choosing the quantity and type of furnishings that will allow you to live your best.