Fine dining tables - how the traditional centrepiece is no more
The days of the traditional oak centrepiece and matching chairs is long gone
I once spent time with a family that didn't have a dining table. They prepared their food in the kitchen and carried it into the living room on trays. Then they ate it on their knees in front of the television.
Without a table to sit at, I felt disorientated and lost. Most families eat in front of the television sometimes, but this particular household hadn't left themselves an option. "We found that we weren't using the dining table so we just got rid of it," they explained. There was no table in the kitchen either.
Nutritionists seem to agree that eating in front of the television is not a good plan. Television is distracting. When you're watching, you pay less attention to your food. Distracted eaters remember their meals less well and are more likely to eat snacks later in the day. They're consequently prone to fatness. Eating while distracted by a Smartphone has the same effect. It seems that the healthiest thing that you can do while eating is to focus on the food.
There is nothing new about this advice. In leaner times, people knew instinctively that they would get the most out of their food by giving it their full attention. It can be hard to break the habit of having your meals in front of a screen, but it's worth a try. Eating with a bit of awareness is a simple and pleasurable thing to do.
For this, you will need a dining table and some chairs. The interior design event, House, which returns to the RDS from May 26-28, should have some good ideas.
At the top of my wish list, the Veizla table from Pemara Design (Stand D17) is made from solid wood panels. This creates a lovely patchwork effect - as though a high class parquet floor decided to morph into a table. It comes in just about every wood imaginable, with round and rectangular options.
Another Irish design classic, the DC table from OD Design, has a more architectural look. It's a refectory style table in solid oak and stainless steel with a wide choice of options in terms of size and finish. Prices for both these tables are available on request, but be prepared to think in four figures. The dining room suite, in which the chairs and the tables match, is probably a thing of the past. The table itself is still a relatively serious item, but chairs are cheaper and can be more playful.
There is no reason, for example, that they all have to be the same colour. O'Hagan Design (Stand B8) is the Irish stockist for the Danish brand, Hay, known for satisfyingly simple designs in interesting colours, including the Neu 13 Upholstery chair. This follows the basic pattern of moulded shell on wooden legs, upgraded with nice fabric upholstery, delicate stitching and a piping detail to accentuate the rim. Expect to pay around €355 for a chair with upholstery, and €215 without.
"All life happens around the dining table!" says Matja Komu of Harvey Norman. Over the last few years, she has seen Irish people move (gradually and cautiously) away from the traditional oak dining table and begin to enjoy glass table tops. "They don't break and they're easy to clean - you just wipe them with a cloth."
One of the newest tabletop surfaces to emerge internationally, although yet to become popular in Ireland, is ceramic. "It's not like the ceramic that you see in plates and cups," she explains.
"It looks more like pressed sand and it's basically indestructible. You could probably break it if you tried, but you'd have to use a hammer."
I've experienced tiled ceramic tabletops in the past and found them visually attractive but hard to clean. Also, the tiles were liable to crack.
Kombu assures me that the new generation of ceramic surfaces are nothing like this. "It's a single surface with a matt finish and it doesn't stain." Ceramic offers a blank canvas in terms of colour, with the most popular choices being light or dark grey, followed by taupe.
Dining tables from Harvey Norman range from the modest Jensen dining table (€799) to the elegant glass-topped Lucci extension table (€1,999). Many of their designs can also be customised.
"The idea that one size fits all is outdated and generic. People like to have options in terms of colour and size, and they like the idea that the piece of furniture they buy is unique.
"Some of our ranges are fully customisable, but that gives you a lot of choice, so you really need to know what you want."
For sheer cleverness, you can't beat the 4You dining table from the Polish design company, Vox. It's a Scandinavian-style table with hidden storage in the tabletop, which is basically a sandwich with space between the layers. This allows for two types of storage.
All the models have a built-in container that runs down the middle of the table. This can be covered over or left open to display flowers or fresh herbs. You can also buy drawers (€52 each) to insert between the layers of the tabletop.
The table comes in a choice of oak-effect and white laminate (you can mix and match the drawer finishes) and two sizes (100cm x 100cm or 200cm x 100cm). Prices start at €415 for the smaller table from Cucklooland (delivery charges will vary depending on where you live).
See house-event.ie, pemaradesign.com, odfurniture.com, ohagandesign.com, harveynorman.ie, cuckooland.com.