Dining tables are a standard piece of furniture that we rarely dwell over too much and typically have in every home. As long as they provide enough seating for everyone under your roof at one time and are durable enough to last at least 5 years, we generally know that we are looking for a tabletop with four legs.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with regular dining table designs and that is the lack of flexibility they provide for dining rooms that need to adapt for multiple purposes – a common modern-day scenario. The solution can be found in a unique range of folding dining tables that are now available for homes with such living environments.

To educate people on the types of folding tables there are, we’re going to briefly look at each one in turn and the different advantages each one has over the other.

Drop Leaf Tables

Drop leaf tableDrop leaf tables fold into three parts, the sturdiest being the central piece where the legs are connected. Image taken by Arla Cherryoak.

One of the oldest folding tables produced, they were first produced in the Elizabethan 16th century and originally called refectory tables, according to Furniture Styles (source).

They have a very distinct character that differentiates them from other foldable tables, which features a tabletop that folds into three parts with a fixed centre that is often attached to either 4 table legs or a pedestal base. The other two sections of the table surface fold down at opposing ends and are attached to the centre by hinges.

Benefits of owning drop leaf tables:

  • Can be positioned against a wall in its most compact form and offer additional table surface space by unfolding a dropped side without moving the table, even if it has a round tabletop.
  • Can be used as a handy kitchen table or breakfast table and avoids getting in the way by folding down its foldable parts.
  • Ideal for single people who live alone but require a little extra dining table seating for occasional moments with friends and family.

Gateleg Tables

Gateleg table against the wallImage: a gateleg table positioned against the wall, taken by kaythaney.

Gateleg tables have a very similar design to drop leaf tables because they also feature a table surface that folds into three parts. The only major difference between the two is how the tabletop is held into position when extended.

Most drop leaf mechanisms include a catch or slide-out support to prop up the hinged surfaces. Gateleg tables, on the other hand, support the surface of the table with a leg that folds out from the centre of the table like a farmer’s gate – hence the name.

Gateleg dining table designs are often more compact than drop leaf tables because the legs that swing out offer additional stability to the small furnishing.

Benefits of owning gateleg tables:

  • More compact than a drop leaf table, therefore, more free space in your dining room, kitchen/ anywhere else.
  • All the same benefits as the drop leaf table.

Extending Dining Tables

Extending dining tableImage credit: Rocking Chair on Flickr

Extending dining tables aren’t as flexible as drop leaf and gateleg tables because they are usually the same size as a regular 4-seater table but with the added bonus that they can be enlarged to cater for 6 to 10 seats comfortably.

The extending mechanism on these tables can vary between designs. Some have sliding parts that slide out from underneath the table ends, others have a middle segment to unfold and reveal a system of clips, additional panels and more.

Extending tables are traditionally made out of different hardwoods, however, more modern design and carpentry techniques have made it possible to make them out of steel and glass combinations too, which is great for property owners who want a contemporary dining room.

Benefits of owning extending dining tables:

Provide plenty of seating for larger volumes of people when required e.g. Christmas time, Birthdays, and special occasions but remain functional as a regular-sized table for most of the time.

Which one to buy?

Out of the three types of folding tables we’ve mentioned, it is obvious that two out of three would be better suited for smaller living spaces, i.e. the drop leaf and gateleg; whereas the extending table would be best for regular-sized dining rooms that need to cater for more people on the odd occasion.

Your choice is ultimately decided by your preference for design, function and more but my general recommendation is if you happen to live in a smaller household where the dining room often doubles up as another type of room, then the smaller folding tables will provide you with more free space to work with.

Randal Whitmore

Editor of Home Luv and a prolific writer and reader of interior design and home improvement. Currently undergoing a variety of building and renovation projects. Big fan of solving complex problems with simple solutions.

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