As always, thanks for reading, and welcome back to part two of our (admittedly belated) Holiday Guide to Dining Tables!
Now that you've decided on shape and size, it's time to discuss materials. The vast majority of mid century dining tables out there are made of wood. There are many different types of wood used in dining table construction, but for mid century tables, you will find mostly teak, walnut, rosewood, oak, maple, and birch. The type of wood you choose will usually revolve around what else you have in your home, and what type of floor you have. Generally, it's best to choose a wood that will contrast with your floor rather than blend into it. So, if you have light oak hardwood floors, it's maybe not the best idea to get a light oak (or birch or maple for that matter) dining table.
Although other woods such as rosewood, oak and walnut do appear with some frequency in Danish modern dining tables, teak is by far and away the most common wood used. In contrast, it is fairly rare to find a vintage teak table that is made in the USA. In lieu of teak, walnut is seen much more commonly in American mid century dining tables, as is birch and maple. The reasoning for this is pretty simple - walnut, birch and maple are all trees that are found very commonly in many parts of the USA, whereas woods like teak and rosewood are "exotics", found only in parts of the world like India and Southeast Asia. Since the majority of the lumber-producing forests in Europe were cut down hundreds of years ago, Danish furniture makers were unable to rely on indigenous woods as were their American counterparts, which is why exotics like teak and rosewood are much more common in European furniture of the era.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering a wooden dining table is the possibility of having it refinished to a different color. This mainly applies to lighter woods such as birch and maple, which can be stained or lacquered practically any shade or any color you want. While it's not as common to do this to darker woods such as walnut, rosewood and teak, it is possible. It's just that more often than not, these woods have very attractive grain patterns that you wouldn't want to hide under coats of dark stain. In contrast, most lighter woods don't have very exciting grain patterns, so it's no major crime to stain them very dark to achieve a more dramatic effect. A good example of this is the Paul McCobb Planner Group dining table that we refinished and sold awhile back.This table is a great looking, extremely functional table with its combination of drop leaves and center extension leaves. However, the maple wood in its natural state was just a little plain. The ebony stain that we applied to it gave the table a fantastic presence, and made it look just that much more elegant as well.
When choosing a material for your dining table, the most important thing to consider is the other pieces in your home. If you have hardwood floors, a wooden credenza and a wooden china cabinet, you might want to consider a metal and glass table to break up all the wood. Likewise, if you have an extremely clean, modern interior with lots of chrome and leather and polished concrete floors, you might think about a wooden dining set to warm things up a bit.
In the end, if versatility is an issue (the ability to have your table go from small to large), you are most likely going to be stuck with a wooden table. Although expandable glass tables do exist,
they are much less common than their wooden counterparts.
The glass and steel dining table shown below offers a very specific look, and also needs a very large room to live in, measuring in at around 7' x 4'. Although quite attractive, it offers little in the way of versatility.
When putting a room together, perhaps the worst thing you can do is to have everything match. Our brains thrive on contrast and how things play off of each other, and if everything in a room matches perfectly, well, there's no contrast and nothing plays off anything else, and the end result is BO-RING. That's not to say that if you have the opportunity to purchase a matching dining set of table, chairs and sideboard, that you shouldn't do it. If you find such a set that meets your needs - by all means, go for it. However, there's no need to get hung up on whether or not the chairs you buy to go with your table "originally" went with the table. It's also worth noting that many vintage furniture dealers have the rather annoying habit of "marrying" a dining table and set of chairs that don't really go together, trying to sell them as a set, and refusing to "break up the set" when it is pointed out that the table and chairs don't actually even belong together. Which is to say, even if you think you're getting an original set, it may not always be the case.
Of course, you don't want to go overboard and have every piece contrasting wildly with every other piece - that'll just give you a headache. What we're looking for here is a happy medium. Strive to bring different elements together so that they complement each other instead of clash with each other. Keep in mind that materials are only part of the picture - you can draw a room together using pieces made from different materials so long as they all possess a complementary line.
Having said that, the first rule of Interior Design (at least in our book) is that THERE ARE NO RULES! If you play strictly by the "rules", you might never put together this modern industrial dining table with these black lacquered antique French chairs. And that would be a shame!