Do I Really Need… A Kitchen Table?

October 24, 2013

kitchen tables at DesignMom.com

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Gorgeous DIY farmhouse table from iheartnaptime.  

When we moved into our current house, I struggled with where to put our dining table… and our kitchen table. This house has an open floor plan, and we have two wonderful tables. Both are pretty, old wood — a formal mahogany dining table, and a massive vintage oak table my husband convinced me would be perfect in its already-heavily-loved state. “You need some place to do all your projects,” he reasoned, “and someplace where I’m not worried about putting down something hot. And we need someplace where the kiddo can do his homework while we cook dinner. We’re kitchen people. We need a good kitchen table.”

We are kitchen people. We really, really are. In our current kitchen, we have a small sofa, a ghost chair, a really comfortable club chair that’s actually this chair from Ikea with a good upholstery job. We spend easily nine tenths of our time at home in the kitchen (if not more). We love the kitchen. It’s our favorite room in the house. Like I said, we are Kitchen People.

But we’re also Formal Dining Room People. We love the whole show of it. The candles, the pretty china, the routine of celebration and feeling like this meal is something special. But all meals are really something special, even if only in their everyday regularity, and more importantly, we couldn’t fit both tables in our small, open floor plan space. So the conundrum became: Which table do we keep?

I lobbied hard for the dining table (Christmas! Thanksgiving! Sunday dinner! This is why God made coasters!), but in the end, my beloved formal table has had its leaves removed, it moved upstairs, and it currently houses a lamp, a vase of flowers, and a small stack of books. We’re down to just the kitchen table.

And I’ve never been happier.

A kitchen table is the lifeblood of the family. It’s the center of domestic attention. It’s where the magic happens. And if it isn’t, it should be.

Once upon a time, I read this fabulous Ode to a Kitchen Table (a marvelous rhyme of devotion) and had a flashback to my earliest, happiest childhood memories: Mornings at our kitchen table. The smell of coffee drifting upstairs to my bedroom, the low drum of NPR downstairs, the padding of slippers down the back stairs, and slumping quietly into my chair, knowing that my dad would take care of everything. Toast, problems with friends, trouble with conjugations, all of it. Breakfast at that kitchen table was what made whatever I ate the breakfast of champions.

It makes you wonder how I ever thought I should fight for the dining table, doesn’t it?

So we’ve found a happy medium. Our kitchen table, which seats eight without its leaf and takes up the single largest space in our house, is covered in remnant pock-marks of glue, glitter, and Prismacolor markers. It has scratches from a life we don’t even know about and a few we caused ourselves. It is also home to our fancy silver candlesticks, which are hand-me-downs from several generations ago, and a vase full of flowers that always seem happy to see me. It’s at once coffee bar and breakfast nook, home base for Thanksgiving and the place we toast our biggest accomplishments.

It’s everything it should be: The center of it all.

As we look for new houses (in St. Petersburg, Florida, so if you have neighborhood recommendations, please pass them on!), I’m constantly struck by the lack of space in kitchens. There’s no room for a big kitchen table. There’s usually no room for a little kitchen table. There’s no room for Hunter and his toys, the dogs and their beds, the grown ups and their appetizers. There’s no room for NPR mornings and reassuring breakfasts. There’s no room for magic. There’s no room for life.

Maybe we’ll find room a doorway away. Maybe we’ll find the perfect space right there. But no matter where we find ourselves, I know we’ll find our beloved kitchen table sitting front-and-center, making our new house an immediate home. So do you really need a kitchen table? I don’t know. I do. I can’t imagine life without one.

Can you?

P.S. — I must confess my life isn’t exactly Pinterest-picture worthy. But our real kitchen table, which I love with my whole heart, is right here.

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{ 3 trackbacks }

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy October 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

I love kitchen tables…and dining room tables.

We have a kitchen table for every day dinners, and a formal dining room + table for larger gatherings (with leaves, our dining room table can seat 18). But we live in a house that was built in the 1980s – back when architects still carved out formal dining rooms. Not all houses have them, now.

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2 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:45 am

I loooooove how large your table goes. Our kitchen table, with leaf, can add another four – but I would just go crazy for something that sat 18. That’s the whole family!

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3 Amy November 14, 2013 at 10:31 am

Another thing about my dining room table – it dates from the late 1800s and is a hand-me-down from generations past. My grandparents pulled it out of one of their barns (where it was stored by the great-grandparents) when I was in graduate school years ago, and refinished the gorgeous walnut table by hand. They presented me with the table and two leaves, then gave me more leaves when I moved to more permanent homes. The table is a common design – you see them all over the midwest at flea markets – but most don’t have enough leaves to fill in the fully expanded table. It is a joy to me.

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4 Michelle November 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Your table sounds lovely!! A table to seat eighteen would be amazing (if only I had a dining room big enough to hold it :)).

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5 SwissAmericanLife October 24, 2013 at 9:06 am

We ate every meal (except Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) at our tiny, antique kitchen table. Just reading through your words about what that kitchen table meant to you brought back a flood of memories for me. :) As I write this, at MY tiny kitchen table, the one that all 6 of crowd around for dinner, I am reminded of the power of love, good food, and the beauty of a sturdy table!

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6 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:45 am

A good table is a wonderful thing. : )

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7 marian October 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

We are a family of 8 and finally just purchased a larger home with more bedrooms and bathrooms. I was shocked as we shopped and shopped and shopped and the lack of room for a kitchen table. Here would be a 5 or 6 bedroom house, a large kitchen, nice living spaces and a little teeny nook for a kitchen table big enough for 3 (maybe 4). We finally found a great house with room for us, but it was a struggle.

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8 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

This is what we’re going through, too. We are only looking for a 3 bedroom, but I think that at some point architects decided that groups of three don’t need to dine together. Apparently we should be totally set with a nook and nothing more. (They clearly don’t believe in big family and friendly-neighbor dinners, like we do.)

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9 Grace@ Sense and Simplicity October 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

I would be completely torn between a dining room table and all the loveliness of setting a formal meal and the homeyness of a kitchen table if I had two to choose between the two. Fortunately we only have one table and moved into a home that doesn’t have a formal dining room. We eat in a part of the family room-dining room-kitchen area and I’ve chosen to decorate it a bit more like a dining room so it bridges the gap between the two.

The table we use is one that was bought by my great grandparents when they returned from China and is over 100 years old now. To say that it was in rough shape is such an understatement so last year at this time I refinished it and gave it a new lease on life. I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed its new look and even though it is looking a little fancier, it is still the kind of table that nothing can damage and I can do craft projects on. You can see my post about it here, if you are interested: http://gracie-senseandsimplicity.blogspot.ca/2012/11/a-little-table-talk.html

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10 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:44 am

Are those the original wooden wheels???

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11 Grace@ Sense and Simplicity October 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

original metal wheels – makes moving the table around a snap!

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12 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm

oh that’s so wonderful! they looked wooden on my (sadly dying) computer. (computer, last until christmas, please please! santa has been budgeting for a new one for then!) we have ancient wooden wheels on a china cabinet and i can’t figure out if i want to get them swapped out or just appreciate how wonderful they are. it makes moving it an absolute fright – original wooden wheels! – but then, it makes the cabinet so wonderful – original wooden wheels! you see the dilemma.

if only they were metal – we wouldn’t have this concern : )

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13 Ducky February 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm

With the bases loaded you struck us out with that anrews!

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14 Janet October 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

I have to have a kitchen table too -just like I have to have an actual real newspaper delivered to my house. The day does not seem right without a newspaper and I fear the days of real newspapers may be fading before my very eyes. LOVE your table!

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15 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:50 am

Hey thanks! We scored it for pittance at a local antique shop here in Wilmington, North Carolina called Thrill of the Hunt. We can’t believe how fortunate we were to be able to scoop it up – and how grateful we are that other people have the sheer power to move it. I can barely lift it to clean!

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16 Christie October 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

Until I read this post I didn’t even know that kitchen tables and dining tables were mutually exclusive! We’ve always just had the one dining table that we eat all our meals at and have all our conversations on.

I fancy tables that can be extended when you need to sit more people or need more room if you need them.

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17 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

I do too. Our dining room table (now upstairs as an occasional) actually folds down to 21″ when its leaves are out and the two side leaves down – it’s amazing. It stretches to seat 10, which is a nice number and always pretty seated around it : )

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18 Lori October 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

My grandmother lived in an old bungalow that had a kitchen that was relatively untouched since it was built in 1909. It had plumbing that had been added for a sink and of course updated appliances. This meant there were actually NO counters in the relatively large kitchen, except for a hoosier cabinet and a big, old table. Everything was done at that table. Every grandchild’s birthday, every Christmas, every funeral, everything-in-between. It’s the stuff memories are made of.

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19 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

I love tables like that. Thanks for sharing your memory. It makes me nostalgic for a grandmother I didn’t even know.

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20 Elisabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

Growing up, we had a huge island (mostly for sitting at) in our kitchen and a separate dining room. Crafts and homework happened in the dining room (which was right next to the kitchen), as did most playing, and we almost always ate dinner in our dining room. The last few years, we gradually started to eat more meals in the kitchen at the island, and now we go between the two. However, we almost always eat in the kitchen at my grandparents. They have a tiny kitchen, with a table where half of it folded down so it could be pushed against, but even though we barely all fit, unless the entire extended family is there, we eat in the kitchen and it is so cozy. So I can understand both sides, I guess.

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21 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

In a perfect world, we’d never have to choose.

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22 Emily October 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm

This actually made me rethink my tables. Our house is very 1970s and we don’t have a dining room, and the kitchen space is small. We have a table in it and then downstairs in our massive basement we have a large old table that we use for crafts. Also when we have a lot of people we eat down there. I don’t care what happens to that table but my kitchen table I am so careful about hot things and stains. Maybe I need to not worry so much.

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23 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I’ll tell you – distinguishing the two has been a key to happiness for me. I LOVE our beautiful, formal table. It’s safe and solid and no one goes near it without a trivet, coaster, and great care. But the kitchen table… it’s the one that will tell stories. And I love that about it.

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24 Claire {The Half-Hearted Housewife} October 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm

We have a fabulous kitchen table that my father-in-law made for us. It’s made of beautiful vintage wood (um, I guess that’s what it would be called? It’s really old wood that had never been used before our table… and is a species that no longer grows in the US) and I love it more than almost any other piece of furniture in our house. It’s big and imperfect which is exactly what my family, with four sons, needs. But it’s also beautiful and dresses up nicely, which works perfectly for big holiday dinners.

We don’t have a formal dining room in our house, but I imagine we would still use this table, even if the room went more “formal.”

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25 Melissa October 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Our kitchen only has space for a small table, too cramped for our family of five. Instead, we have stools at the counter for weekday breakfasts, and a comfy chair for lounging while keeping an eye on dinner or keeping the cook company. But the dining room is right next to the kitchen, and we use it daily for family meals. We can put three leaves in the table when we have more family and friends over. We use the good china every day, too. :)

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26 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm

There’s no sense in having it and not using it!

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27 Jeanette October 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I have a love for tables as well. I remember the day my mom sold our family kitchen table; my little sister bawled and clung to one of its legs. It was like selling a member of the family. After my dad died 7 years ago, our second table was sold. That time it felt like another piece of my dad was taken away; he was the head of our table. It’s amazing how a piece of wood and four legs can become the center of our lives. So many memories were made sitting around those tables.

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28 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Everything you just said makes me want to have you over for tea and we could just sit at our table and talk.

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29 Jeanette October 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

That sounds lovely.

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30 chania October 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I would have a big kitchen with a massive table over a dining room.

We have a home in St. Petersburg. I researched for a year before we purchased. My recommendations are Old Northeast. Crescent Heights. Snell Isle, depending on your budget. 4th street, 9th street, 16 th st are very busy so try to get a house a few away from those, same at 22nd Ave and 30th Ave. Are you wanting on the water? Any home in Passe a Grille beach would be great…amazing area if you want to be on the Gulf. Our house is in Crescent Heights.

I constantly look at the listings as we are hoping to buy another property there. Some areas need flood insurance. There are some areas to avoid that are not as safe. If you have a property(s) in mind and you send me the listing, I can give you my opinion of the area. Design of house can play a part too. You will have to get a wind and water mitigation study done for insurance.

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31 Lizzy October 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I feel the same way about this post as I did about the breakfast in bed post. I think it’s charming that you are so passionate about your table, and think its wonderful that you made the choice that is right for you. Good for you! But a kitchen table is not for me. We have one table (made by my husband’s great grandfather), and it lives in the dining room. We gave all our meals, and do all of our crafts, projects, and homework on that table. I love my dining room! If we always ate in the kitchen, my dining room would be useless, and that would make me sad.

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32 Nicole L October 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I absolutely need a table… either or for me though! We’re currently in the process of moving from a house with both an eat-in kitchen (with hand-me down table) and dining area (with another hand-me down table) to a house with only a dining area – it will be the new home for my great-grandparents formal dining room table. It won’t ever be fancy and all decked out, but it will definitely be the heart of our new house!

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33 Becki October 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Beautiful! I loved your post. We bought our first house 3 years ago, and it is MUCH bigger than anywhere we had lived previously, and close to many family members. We have 3 tables: kitchen (family meals), dining (homework and projects), and living room (games), and at least once a month we have a group big enough to use all of them for eating. I am always amazed and grateful for the number of people we can sit for a meal.

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34 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay October 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm

My 94-year-old Grandma just died in August. Most of my special memories of being at her house growing up involved her kitchen table. Especially helping her cut vegetables to make her daily pot of soup. After she died my cousin and I sat at the kitchen table in her house. She wasn’t there. Life will never be the same.

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35 Karen October 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm

What a great story, thanks for sharing. You have a fabulous writing style – I was anxious to read which one you chose… and that both have a special place in your home and your heart.

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36 Emily October 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

When we moved into our current house, we kept the always used kitchen table and the formal dining area now houses the piano. And I love it too. The kitchen table is where most of our life happens :)

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37 Charlene October 25, 2013 at 3:07 am

Try looking for housing in Gulfport, FL small city adjacent to St Pete. Over 100 years old, funky main st. with farmers market and stock of older houses. Maybe there will be one with a large kitchen.

loved this post.

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38 This girl loves to Talk October 25, 2013 at 5:32 am

Your thoughts are lovely and deep on this. I’ve also blogged something similar (but about hating my kid abused broken table and chairs) when my husband said but I love it this way. It reminded me of one of my favourite passages from 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families is about the kitchen table.

I cut out my wedding dress at the same place where I memorized my spelling words. It was the same place I ate cookies each day after school. It was there as I prepared for the SAT’s. My husband to be was grilled mercilessly in the same spot. Much of what I have learnt and hold dear is inextricably intertwined with the kitchen table. That 4×6 scratched and worn piece of furniture was a small physical part of my home. Yet as I look back on what we did there, I realize that it was a key to the life I now have.

As I struggle each night to get dinner on my kitchen table and round up my children from the four corners of the neighbourhood, I wonder why I dont just send them to their rooms with a chicken pot pie and tv. I don’t because I am giving them the gift of the kitchen table. Perhaps it is in the genes. Or perhaps it is that kitchen table. That magical place where I learnt responsibility and felt love and security.

There’s something about a kitchen table.

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39 Ginger October 25, 2013 at 7:33 am

Welcome to St. Petersburg. You’ll love it. First place to look is Old Northeast. Close to downtown, old homes, brick streets…

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40 Petra October 25, 2013 at 8:15 am

I love this post, Raleigh-Elizabeth, especially your memories of the kitchen table as a child. I didn’t grow up with a kitchen table scenario like that, but I hope my children will! We live in a large, old Victorian with lovely proportions, but it hadn’t been very thoughtfully renovated over the years. When we had a pipe freeze disaster a couple of years ago, we had to tear out a lot of the kitchen and in the re-design, I removed the island with range, and instead made a u-shape of kitchen counters leaving a great big space in the middle for our kitchen table. Islands and bar counters may be grown-up friendly, but kitchen tables are everyone friendly. Now the children can do homework, crafts, or help with meal prep right there while I make meals around them – I love it! Our table was a great find too, we were lucky in our previous home to live near a Restoration Hardware outlet, where I scored a table I’d been coveting from the catalog – one made from the floor boards of old whiskey distilleries in Scotland! Now, I’m just saving up for the perfect Tolix chairs to go around it.

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41 ggal October 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

We moved to St Pete exactly a year ago. Found a place in a cute little neighborhood just north of downtown called Historic Uptown. It’s got houses the same age and charm as the Old Northeast without the high price tag. We know every neighbor and gather together regularly. Houses just a bit north in Crescent Lake or Crescent Heights are also wonderful, as are the fabulous bungalows westward in Kenwood. Old NE and other coastal neighborhoods run the risk of astronomical flood insurance rates. Be warned: The market here is crazy, for both rentals and purchases. Look every day and be ready to pounce.

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42 Emily November 5, 2013 at 8:21 pm

My family spends all of our time in the kitchen too and I cannot imagine a childhood without our table. Where would I have done homework? Helped Mom bake?! Carved pumpkins?? Learned to sew?! I couldn’t have lived without it.

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43 becky November 19, 2013 at 2:40 am

Yes our table has seen it all…homework, chats about friends, tears, me studying, craft projects …..

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