Don’t panic. When choosing the right dining table and chairs, there are no rigid rules.

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Need a new dining set before the big feast? Don’t panic. When choosing the right dining table and chairs, there are no rigid rules.

Think about mixing and matching pieces instead of plunking down money for a perfectly matched set before Thanksgiving, experts say.

“These days, we see people choosing opposite styles for the table and the chairs,” says Amy Panos, deputy editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine. “It makes the room interesting and gives it personality. Everybody wants a very personalized, ‘Oh I threw this together and it represents my style’ look.’”

Where to start

Think about your style, budget, the size of your dining area, how you like to entertain, and how you’re going to use the table and chairs — are they just for eating, or also for homework, kids’ projects, work?

Start by measuring the space, whether it’s a breakfast nook, kitchen, large dining room or small college dorm.

“You have to have room to pull the chairs in and out, and be able to move around the table,” says Panos, who suggested leaving 36 to 48 inches on all sides, away from walls and other furniture.

“Get something you love, that really speaks to you,” she says. “Are you in it for the long haul, to have that table as an heirloom, or are you someone who frequently wants to change your look?”

Tables and chairs can range from a $200 wooden dining table and $30 wooden chairs at Ikea, to $250–$800 tables at chains like World Market and Crate & Barrel. Higher-end tables can cost thousands of dollars at boutique stores, antique stores and upscale outlets such as Restoration Hardware. Shipping furniture bought online can also bump up the cost, Panos says.

Styles to consider

At Sunbeam Vintage, a Los Angeles store that sells new, on-site handmade, imported and vintage furniture, owner Ebee Martinez, 37, says glam chrome, gold, copper and brass accented tables and chairs are making a comeback.

“If you have a small space, a glass-top dining table is really fabulous, since it creates the illusion of space,” says Martinez. “In smaller spaces, pedestal tables — tables that don’t have legs in the corners, but only in the middle, like a tulip table — work well, and allow a lot of knee space. You can basically put any kind of chair around that table.”

Based on a late ’50s design by architect and designer Eero Saarinen, tulip tables have a smooth central column resembling a water drop.

“The white-top dining tables provide a contrast if you have a lot of wood in your house,” says Martinez. “Don’t be afraid of color. You can go light on the table, colorful on the chairs, and vice versa. Comfortable chairs, we’ve observed, usually have rounded backs. Your back kind of curves into it.”

Upholstered dining chairs can also be great accent chairs in a living room, she says.

Plan for guests

Getting a table with a built-in leaf makes sense if you’ll be holding both cozy family dinners and Thanksgiving for 16 people, says Panos. The built-in aspect means you don’t have to take the leaf out and store it somewhere.

“In kitchen areas, we’re seeing a lot more bench seats,” Panos adds. “You can have benches on the sides and chairs at the heads of the table. That way, you can fit more people and have that style contrast.”