Common House Tables
From: Joani Blank (
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 15:05:05 -0600
I have a lot to say about common house tables but little time to go into it
in detail now.  Chuck (Durrett) and I have been talking about co-designing
the :perfect common house table. We should be able to do this because we
eat at the same common house tables frequently, because he knows a lot
about cohousing--duh, and because--some of you don't know this--Chuck is
also a furniture designer.

My opinion, based on visits to about 16 cohousing communities is as follows:

1. Definitely start with new your own extra odds and ends to see what feels
good. (unless you are really rich and haven't had unexpected construction
cost overruns--sure). Even if you can afford to get all new tables at the
beginning, proceed with caution; that is, unless the perfect table has been
designed before you get to the point of buying new ones.

2. Round tables are definitely a no-no in my book. They look nice, but as
others have pointed out they are conversation killers on several counts
which I won't go into now. Also, even if they are relatively small (six
maximum), they take up a lot of room (relatively). Remember you have to
have space behind each chair for getting in and out, just like you  have to
have 24 feet of backup space behind every 20 foot deep parking place
(learned that just this week from Katie). 

3. I want cohousing dining tables that will seat four, six or eight
designed so that as many as four conversations could conceivably be
happening at once, but so everyone is close enough so that one or two
conversations happening at once feels fine as well, and doesn't contribute
substantially to the overall noise in your common dining area. 

I thin the perfect table will be no wider than 34 inches wide and 60 inches
long, but I want it to have curved flaps at the short ends that can be
raised to make a curved end at one or both ends of the table. Then up to
four more people can sit at the ends as long as the table has either
pedestal legs (2) or trestle table legs so that you can pull chairs in
anywhere around it. (Then the two people at the end can actually have part
of their place setting off the flap).If legs are not at the edge of the
table and there are some curved edges the  you have more flexibility,
meaning you can pull in a high chair, or even an extra chair or two when a
person not seated with you wants to bring his/her coffee or desert over to
your table at the end of the meal, or so that one extra person doesn't have
to sit by him/herself at dinner.

It won't surprise anyone to hear that custom made tables would be very
expensive, even more so if people care that they be gorgeous. But I am
talking to a couple of restaurant supply houses that could make decent
looking tables for a reasonable price. Stay tuned.

Joani Blank
Doyle Street CoHousing (currently) and Old Oakland CoHousing / Swan's
Market (future)

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