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Putting It All Together: Finding the Perfect Dining Set

Buying a full dining table set is a quick, convenient way to give your dining room an instant makeover -- especially if you've got an old, mismatched set right now.

But with so many different styles, shapes, sizes, chair fabrics, and colors to choose from, how do you choose?

By making a list of your must-have features, of course. Here are a few options to consider when picking out the perfect dining suite for your home:

Size Matters: Choosing the Size, Shape, and Height

First, you need to determine how much room you want your dining table to take. Do you just need seating for two, or for eight or more?

If you've got a big, airy dining room and plan to host plenty of large dinner parties, then a big table with a leaf or two and a couple of extra chairs is a natural choice.

For a smaller space, consider a round table to act as your room's centerpiece. Or, go rectangular with a breakfast/dining nook that can tuck into a corner and still leave you some room to breathe.

Finally, do you want a standard-height table for family meals? Or a counter- or bar-height table for sharing coffee with a friend and enjoying the view from your favorite window?

To Leaf or Not To Leaf?

If you have occasional guests for dinner, then a dining set with a table leaf is a good investment. Here, too, there are several options to choose from.

A butterfly leaf is perfect for small dining rooms with limited space. In this type of table, the leaf (or multiple leaves) folds up underneath the table when not in use, eliminating the need for a separate storage space.

A drop leaf dining table also helps you save space, with leaves that fold down on hinges on each side of the table. Again, the attached, folding leaves keep you from having to find a place to store them when not in use.

An extension leaf, usually the drop-in style found in traditional tables, provides extra space for larger gatherings. In many extension leaf tables, you can add multiple leaves to accommodate a big group of people -- just don't forget to also add some extra chairs!

The Breakfast Nook: A Small Space Champion

Take advantage of corner space in a small dining area. A breakfast nook is a great solution, as many styles feature bench seating along two corner walls and a bench or chairs on the outside.

Your breakfast nook can come in a traditional style, with all-wood benches in a finish that matches the table. Or, it can give your room a more contemporary look, with rich fabric or leather seat upholstery to add a bit of luxury.

Seating: A Perfect Match

Once you've determined your dinette set's size and style, it's time to consider the kind of seating you want.

Consider mixing a bench on one side of the table with matching chairs on the other for a casual, modern look.

Do you spend a lot of time around the table, such as hosting family game nights? You might want to go with a set that includes comfortable, padded chairs.

Spending a little time now to think about your dining room's space, decor, and how you'll be using your table and chairs will help you find the ideal dining set for your home.