Although a kitchen table can sometimes be pushed against a wall on one side and still function well, that type of positioning is not desirable for the formal dining room. Elegant dining requires a feeling of balance and spaciousness for your family and guests' comfort. Consider the other furnishings in the room, as well as the needs of anyone who may want to enjoy a meal at your table, and you will have a dining room that is attractively arranged whether or not the chairs are filled.
Sizes of dining chairs vary greatly, particularly between antiques and currently manufactured chairs. Today's standard chairs average 22 inches from front to back. Measure your chair from the foremost to the rearmost points, including things like claw feet or a scroll back. That's how much room is needed to pull that chair away from the table and allow a small person to seat himself. Add another 6 to 10 inches to that measurement for an average-size or large person to comfortably manoeuvre his body to sit down.
Allow space for individuals to walk around the table, whether or not all chairs are being used. Otherwise, family and guests will feel trapped. To the approximately 22 to 32 inches that you allow for people to sit down and get up from their chairs, add another 10 to 12 inches, which brings the measurement for clearance up to a possible 42 to 44 inches. While this much space may not be absolutely necessary, it makes moving about easy and also serving food from behind possible.
If your dining room contains a china cabinet, buffet or sideboard or other storage or accent furniture pieces along the walls, you should imagine that the front of such a piece is like a wall. The dining table and chairs must be positioned so that the chairs do not strike the other furniture when being moved during seating or rising. Clearance for chairs and walking space must be measured from the fronts of such pieces as though they are walls.
Accommodations for the Handicapped
The possibility exists that someday a member of your family may develop a handicap. You many wish to allow for access to the dining area by users of wheelchairs or other mobility devices such as a "walker." A standard folding wheelchair is 26 inches wide. Adding another 3 inches on each side for manoeuvring brings the total amount of extra clearance required to 32 inches. This measurement would replace the 10 to 12 inches you would have allowed for simply walking behind the dining chairs.