Re: Common house design
From: Virgil Huston (
Date: Sun, 24 May 2015 16:47:39 -0700 (PDT)
This is a very interesting thread and an important one. I think many people
may not realize that sometimes people who don't talk at meals are not being
anti-social, they can't hear conversations. I speak from experience. I
think large tables make communication difficult for anyone, but often
impossible for those with hearing loss and who have issues filtering out
background noise, even with great acoustics. Certainly poor acoustics make
it worse. Any round table over six people and any rectangular table with
over two people on the long side is going to have this issue and it gets
worse the bigger the table gets. I have problems even having conversations
on rectangular tables with the person next to me and my hearing is far from
the worst. There is background noise and there are multiple cross
conversations that go on. The worst is when people have a conversation
across you or where the person at the end is shouting to be heard by the
person a couple of seats down. Four top tables are the only way to go and
if you really need more, push two together. Beyond that, the entire purpose
of group meals is defeated. My two cents as the one who never says anything
because I hate asking people to repeat everything they say. I do a lot of
nodding and saying, "yep.

On Sun, May 24, 2015 at 12:59 PM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>

> Interesting.  My experience with the long table is that you can converse
> reasonably well with the person right or left, and the three (left, right
> and center) directly across.  But after that, you are shouting past
> abutters who in turn are trying to shout past you.  This interferes with my
> fine dining experience.  In general, I prefer small groups of four to six
> at one table, which facilitates linear rather than disjoint conversation —
> but I intentionally mix it up, so I’m not sitting with the same small group
> month after month.
> It’s worth mentioning that when my wife and I were in China last year,
> most of the meals were at a very large round table for about ten persons
> each, with the rotating glass tray in the center.  Conversations broke down
> into two or three adjacencies, and the food service worked extremely well.
> As the tray slowly rotates, both turned and paused according to individual
> motivation, you learn about sharing, collaboration, and deferred
> gratification — all of which are important to the cohousing lifestyle.
> I believe it was you, Sharon of Takoma Village, who once mentioned a trend
> away from huge common meals toward smaller, more selective "dinner
> parties".  Do I remember correctly?
> R Philip Dowds
> 175 Harvey Street, Unit 5
> Cambridge, MA 02140
> land:     617.354.6094
> mobile: 617.460.4549
> email:   rpdowds [at] <mailto:rpdowds [at]>
> > On May 24, 2015, at 12:31 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at] 
> >>
> wrote:
> >
> > In our dining room we have tables that can seat 6 but they are more
> often pushed together in a long line. People seem to like the look of
> things with individual tables but prefer to sit at long tables. It’s more
> communal because you can talk to more people, either to the right or the
> left. You aren’t “stuck" with people who don’t talk or who leave early. Or
> talk to each other and not you.
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