The Recommended Clearance Around a Dining Table


Dinner in a cramped dining room can make your guests feel as if they're navigating an obstacle course on a reality TV show just to get into and out of their chairs. Besides the lack of comfort in a cramped dining room arrangement, crammed seating in a crowded room can cause guests to stumble, break something or mar the walls behind the chairs. By being aware of the recommended clearance around a dining table, you can plan your dining room layout to create a better functioning and comfortable space for you and your dining guests.

Spacing Guidelines

  • Professional interior designers use recommended dining room layout guidelines to help them create a pleasant, safer and better functioning space that enhances traffic flow. But that doesn't prevent a bit of guideline tweaking to suit individual preferences. Just make certain that when you make spacing deviations outside of recommended guidelines, you don't compromise your dining room's efficiency, comfort level and even the safety of your dining guests. Leave enough room so that family members or guests can get into and out of the chairs easily.

Room Sketch

  • You can start with a simple pencil-and-paper dining room sketch to design a functional layout that incorporates adequate clearance around your dining table. Graph paper with 1/4-inch squares serves as the foundation for your design with each box representing one square foot. Add the room's layout to the sheet based on measurements for its length and width, including door and window locations. Draw a sketch with to-scale representations of your dining room table and chairs onto a separate sheet of graph paper. Cut the paper furniture out and place them on the sketch; shuffle them around to find the best layout. Try different arrangements on paper first before you physically rearrange the room.

Round Tables

  • For round dining room tables, leave a minimum 3-foot clearance from the outer edge of the table to the walls or edges of other furniture pieces. If you have a large sideboard or china cabinet with hinged doors and sliding drawers, increase the amount of clearance by the actual width of your cabinet door or drawer pullout length. Allow generous table space of about 30 inches per person at the table due to the pie-shaped dining spaces created by a round table. Ample tabletop space for each individual permits every guest to enjoy his dining experience in a well-designed space.

Rectangular or Square Tables

  • The recommended minimum clearance from the outer edge of a rectangular- or square-shaped dining table to any dining room wall or piece of furniture is also 3 feet. You should also allow at least 24 inches of tabletop space per dining table side chair and 28 inches for each armchair. Leave no less than 18 inches of unoccupied space on the longer sides of a rectangular table between the end of the table and the nearest dining chair. This vacant space provides the dining guest seated at each end of the dining table with sufficient legroom underneath the table.

Other Considerations

  • If you want to place a cozy area rug underneath your dining table, choose a rug size that allows enough space to pull a dining chair away from the table without the back chair legs scraping over the floor. Leave approximately 3 feet of an area rug to extend beyond the edge of a dining table for ample room to scoot a dining chair in and out from under the table. Free up additional floor space in a small dining room by removing bulky hutches, buffets, cabinets, armoires and sideboards. Opt for floor-to-ceiling corner cabinets, wall shelves and narrow storage units or buffet tables in lieu of more massive pieces.

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