life in a tiny apartment.

June 10, 2015

life in a tiny apartment: square tables | reading my tea leaves
Tip #123: It’s hip to be square. Or, consider a square table for a tiny space.

To be clear, this is a tip for small spaces, not teeny tiny spaces. Sometimes I hesitate to write this kind of post because I think about what I would have said while living in my last apartment. Namely: “Yeah, right.” But small comes in all sizes and now that I’m in a larger but still modest space, I have to remember that.
life in a tiny apartment: square tables | reading my tea leaves
Maybe I should start with an introduction. This is our new square table. New is a relative term and this table’s already been with us for a few months and kicking around this planet for a lot longer than that, but I haven’t gotten around to writing about it, so new-to-you-and-me is maybe the best way to phrase it.

Anyway, she’s a big old chunk of a table with chewed up legs and plenty of knicks and scratches, which is precisely what I was hunting for. I wanted a table that could be a workhorse. I wanted a space that I could cover with newspaper and pot up my herbs. That someday Faye can finger paint on without anyone hovering, watching for spills. But also one that we could scrub up and set nicely and use to serve guests a candlelit dinner. I wanted a table to live with, but more importantly, a table to use. I’d been seeing this table in Fork + Pencil, a local antique consignment shop, for months before I finally took the plunge and brought it home. Turns out, she was exactly what we needed.

The Ikea Ingo table that we bought off of Craigslist from a neighbor for a song and painted a deep blue was perfectly fine, but at just 29.5 inches wide, it had a width problem. In fact, I think that a lot of smallish rectangular tables have a width problem—especially when it comes to grabby toddler hands and trying to crowd a table with place settings and serving dishes enough for big families. Long and skinny can work for a crowd. And short and skinny will do pushed up against the wall and used for a couple. But short and skinny in the middle of a room can be tricky.

If there is the space, I think a square table can be an oft-overlooked answer to maximizing it. Even though our new table is about four inches shorter than the old one, its being a square means we end up with significantly more surface area without feeling like we’ve crowded our space with something significantly bigger than what we had. I’ve found that it’s easier to squeeze an extra guest—or four—given the expanded surface area.
life in a tiny apartment: square tables | reading my tea leaves
Across the river in the East Village, my sister Cait has a slightly larger square table. At weekly dinners at either her apartment or ours, we can seat six comfortably and on weekends when my parents are in town, we’ve both managed to squeeze in eight. If you’re on the hunt for something similar, both tables are stamped with the ‘Hecho en Mexico’—and we’ve been told they’re likely the product of a mid-century Mexican furniture boom. Regardless of the provenance, I love our new table mostly because it’s not so precious that I’m afraid of damaging it and it’s full of character enough to fit in with the rest of motley crew. life in a tiny apartment: square tables | reading my tea leaves
Best of all, it has the advantage of all vintage and antique furniture, which is that barring disaster it will retain its value if we ever decide to sell it. And shape aside, this bulkier table has also been helpful for us as we navigate Faye’s learning how to walk. Our old table was so lightweight that she could actually push is across the floor. This one has some pleasing heft and stands its ground better in the face of our lovable tyrant.

What about you guys? What’s working in your spaces? Square, round, rectangular, or otherwise?

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #121, RIGHT HERE.

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25 Comments

  • Reply Francesca June 10, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Rectangular: Our table has been with us for 15 years now and I love it. It is not narrow. Borders on square. I cringed when I saw the first scratch (made the mistake of using it as a work space when installing new blinds). But after a few more oops, letters and numbers engraved in the table, just realized it all adds character.

  • Reply Norma June 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    We are currently using a couch desk that's more rectangular than square. No official dining set in our place. Waiting on my husband to fix an oval table my aunt gave us because my dad had given it to her so many years ago. It's definitely antique but it has leaves if we need them so I'm excited for the option. Hecho in Mexico- Love it!!!

  • Reply Archana June 10, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Tables are meant to be worked on and upon. Yes to well lived in pieces of furniture.

    Square tables are hard ! I live in a small space and a square one would look great. But I am afraid of how workable it would be. So we sacrificed floor space for a table we can both work on and eat. But in the back of my head, I know that a smaller table would make the space look bigger.

    This series is really relatable.

    Erin, do you look forward to moving into a larger space in the next 5 years ?

  • Reply Rachel June 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    We live in an apartment with a larger kitchen and a smaller dining area right off of it. Our dining room table is a large rectangle. The base is from Ikea but my boyfriend built the top. The chairs are from our previous small dining room table that now lives in my three-year-old's room. At first I was in a rush to make it perfect looking but I kinda like the mismatched vibe of it. I love your table and chairs. It reminds me of the table and chairs my step-mother had while I was growing up.

    xo
    Rachel

  • Reply Bethany R June 10, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Square tables in tiny spaces- yes! That's what my husband and I decided to do, and it was so worth it. We actually splurged a little and bought this square one from West Elm, which can expand two times (it comes with two leaves), so it can seat up to 10 people! We like to think that this is our "forever table" and someday our grandchildren will be sitting around it with us. I'm 7 months pregnant with our first right now, so that's a long way off!

    Here's the table: http://www.westelm.com/products/angled-leg-expandable-table-f667/?pkey=cdining-tables%7Crectangular-square-tables%7C&cm_src=dining-tables||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_–_-

    • Reply Erin June 11, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      Terrific! I definitely entertained the idea of an expandable table, but I got scared away fearing they were all too precious!

    • Reply admin June 11, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      Terrific! I definitely entertained the idea of an expandable table, but I got scared away fearing they were all too precious!

  • Reply Nina June 10, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    We have an old oval drop-leaf (or gate-leg? are they the same?) table in our small but open-plan kitchen/living room. It looks nice and it seems to be a good shape for squeezing extra people around. It was my parents' when my sister and I were growing up, and I don't mind the various wax crayon marks, cup rings, scrapes, etc at all – character!

  • Reply Kari June 10, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    A square table would work perfectly in our space. I don't know why I never thought of that. Thank you. Also, just out of curiosity, what happened to your rug?

    • Reply Erin June 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Glad to hear it! We sold it!

    • Reply admin June 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Glad to hear it! We sold it!

  • Reply Alexa June 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    i love a square or round table—so encouraging of conversation amongst the group!

  • Reply Thistlewildfire June 10, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    What paint color is your dresser?

    • Reply Erin June 11, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Abyss by Benjamin Moore (there's a post in the archives about painting furniture if you're into it!)

    • Reply admin June 11, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Abyss by Benjamin Moore (there's a post in the archives about painting furniture if you're into it!)

  • Reply marie June 10, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    We have a really small square table squeezed into our tiny kitchen. And therefor lack the square in the (living/everything-) room now. Instead we have two options of skinny long ones we use in rotation or we put together to mix match a too big square…But two tables are fare too much for our small space. Especially with a little running girl around. So after I read your thoughts I think :…maybe I should simply look for another small square !

  • Reply Laura and Michael June 11, 2015 at 9:30 am

    My Mum has a table that she got when I was little, 15 years later and it's seen 6 kids grow up! It's covered in bits of paint, a few chips and has remnants of so many dinners 😛 I hope one day my children will sit at that table and that one day it will live in my house 🙂 x

  • Reply Anonymous June 11, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    your apartment photos always look so poetic, Erin!
    when we moved into our house, we had a big old oak rectangle kitchen table (no dining room) – it was a great work space for 3 boys, but it was just too big and someone was always catching a corner. we recently found a small round table with drop leaf "wings" and it has 2 leaves to make it a larger oval. my mum looked for just such a table for years and she was so right about it!

    • Reply Erin June 11, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      oh man, the corner catching! an oval sounds perfect for avoiding that!

    • Reply admin June 11, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      oh man, the corner catching! an oval sounds perfect for avoiding that!

  • Reply Heather at Happy Chippy Junk June 15, 2015 at 3:48 am

    So did you move? I can't tell!!

    • Reply Erin June 15, 2015 at 11:34 am

      Last February!

    • Reply admin June 15, 2015 at 11:34 am

      Last February!

  • Reply Anne August 16, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I don´t know if you already answered this question in another post, but how big is your apartment?

    • Reply Erin Boyle August 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      It’s just under 500 square feet!

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