tables and chairs
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 16:08:01 -0700 (MST)
For the RoseWind common house we did all sorts of searching for 
information about tables, including cohousing sources and carrying tape 
measures with us at all times!

My conclusion based on all that was that a table size of 3x5 ft was 
ideal. (or 2.5x5, if pressed). At my daughter's boarding school, with 
about 60-70 at meals, that's what they had: 6 people could all be in the 
same conversation, there was room for condiments or decorations and 
serving dishes in the center of the table, and the table legs weren't an 
issue. They arranged them parallel to each other, but diagonally relative 
to the rectangular room, on either side of a long center serving table 
(not diagonal). Seemed less institutional, not being lined up square with 
the room. 

What we actually got was an inexpensive IKEA table, which is somewhat 
smaller, but has worked out fine. It is a shade under 32" x 48". Seats 4 
with lots of room, and 6 with a bit of compromise, but it often gets used 
for 6. Because most of our tables are these, we can combine them in 
various ways, most often putting two together to make a more square 
table, seating 8+. 

They have a birch veneer top, which seems to be treated with something 
that makes it easy to clean up. Most of the time, we use the tables 
"bare" and just sponge them afterwards. The light color is very neutral 
and adds to the light feel of the room. 

They do have legs. Pedestal tables are FAR less easy to locate, at least 
in the lower-cost range. But it hasn't been a significant problem. 

They do not fold up. Our original plan was to have a number of 
non-folding tables sufficient for usual dining, and some folding tables 
to add when we need maximum table space. So far, our initial purchase of 
non-folding tables has been sufficient for even our larger occasions, or 
we have supplemented with borrowed card tables. 

How do we then clear the space for meeting, dancing, etc? Hasn't been a 
problem. They are lightweight and can be moved to the sides of the 30x30 
room. For more space, it's easy to invert one atop another. Once someone 
really wanted the space all clear, and stacked them thus in the kitchen, 
which adjoins, and which was not in use. 

One thought we had in choosing these IKEA tables was that they were 
relatively inexpensive (don't have the number), so that IF we eventually 
changed to something else, it wouldn't be a great loss of investment.

For folding tables, we have identified what we want, but haven't yet 
purchased. Costco sells a very light, very sturdy table with a molded 
hollow plastic top, comes in grey/beige/brown I think, and folding legs. 
I think it's a 6 ft table. The local Unitarian church uses them for 
everything and are very pleased. We have a smaller one, for use as a 
spare serving area, or for messy art, and it is solid. 

The main beauty of these is their light weight. Conventional 
particleboard folding tables are extremely heavy, making it more likely 
that someone will get hurt moving them, or that they'll clobber the 
woodwork, the floor, etc. These are light enough that they can be stored 
on end in our storage closet (made for extra tables and chairs, opening 
into the dining room) with no danger of disaster if they were to fall on 

The only real drawback is that they look like the plastic they are, so 
we'd use tablecloths. If I were using them for daily use, I think I'd 
craft sturdy oilcloth-type coverings, maybe with an elastic edge to slip 
on like a cap.

We played Goldilocks with at least six different sample chairs that IKEA 
loaned us. Each of us sat in each of the chairs and recorded our 
preferences and comments! It was funny, really. But it also showed that 
we strongly preferred two of the 6, with a few people who needed a third 
sort, for the shortest people. As a result, we have three kinds of 
chairs, and that works fine. We have the most of a flexible, armless, 
birch chair that looks very Scandinavian modern, with a round hand hole 
in the back and very curvy lines. They stack cleverly and are light 
enough to hoist around. 

Chair number two is another IKEA one, of black molded plastic. It has a 
15" diameter round seat (for which we might someday make or buy cushions) 
and the whole top, including arms, in one piece. They are supposed to 
stack, with the legs threading through holes at the rear of the seat, but 
with the protective leg caps we added to protect the floor, the vinyl 
caps may get stuck at the holes, and the ones with rubber caps can't 
stack at all. 

(note therefore that you should also note if you need end caps on your 
chair legs - that's a lot of caps to try to find in one day at local 
hardware stores, we found)

Chair number three is one with open arms, and a black upholstered seat 
and bottom. Quite comfortable, but the arms make it unsuitable for some 
table locations. It's often a choice when we have a meeting, because of 
its cushioned quality. 

All of our dining chairs are comfortable for dining. To some degree, all 
are NOT comfortable for meeting. Acceptable, but not comfy. Think, too, 
of that. 

I recommend having more than one kind of chair.

We also have my grandparents' old oak table, about 4 ft diameter round, 
or oblong with one or both leaves. Yes, I read and believed all the stuff 
about how round tables were inefficient and all. But it was so handsome, 
and family surplus, so we decided to give it a try. It is always the 
first table to fill, at a meal. First round, then with one leaf, then 
both leaves. First in a corner of the dining room, now in the center. It 
might seem an odd mix with the modern, but it lends some dignity. 

We also have (all donated) a wooden rocking chair, a 5-part cushy 
sectional sofa, and three large old wooden dining chairs, all of which 
get used regularly. 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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