Commissioning the perfect dining table

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The dining table is probably one of the most important pieces of furniture in a home. It's where everyone gathers and where so many of the important moments in the life of a family unfold. Like a hearth, the dining table is the altar of the modern family.

For most people, commissioning a dining table is a once in a lifetime experience; therefore, it's important to get it right. Keith Fritz Fine Furniture can design and build the perfect dining table that will not only last a lifetime ~ but for many generations to come. For the past 10 years, Keith and his team of artisans have been privileged to custom craft signature dining tables for numerous families including a former president, congressmen, movie stars, and leaders of industry.

Size, Shape & Seating

The first step in commissioning a dining table is to determine the shape and size required.The number of people you desire to seat and the size/shape of the room or dining area will usually dictate the shape and size of the dining table. If the dining area is a square space, then a round dining table will work best.

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“I love round tables because they are so egalitarian,” Keith Fritz says. “Everyone can see and talk with everyone else at a round table; no one is at the head. Also at a round table it is a lot easier to squeeze in an extra person, since there are no corners defining places.”

With round tables, clients always ask how many people will be able to be seated at a particular diameter table. Keith Fritz provides AutoCAD drawings, which illustrate how the seating can be configured. Seating charts allow the designer to see the placement of the chairs at the table, and how they relate to the table legs and to the rest of the room.

Rectangular rooms lend themselves to a rectangular or a racetrack dining table.A rectangular or racetrack table has a definite head and foot ~ places that are perceived as more important than others.

“Some people like a pure rectangular table,” Keith says, “but I prefer a racetrack. On a racetrack table there are half round ends with straight sides in between. Often people want to call a racetrack an oval, but an oval by definition does not have any sections that are straight.The rounded ends of a racetrack provide more surface space and allow you to seat either one or two people at each end. On a rectangular dining table, I recommend clipped or rounded corners.”

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Leaves

Clients often feel like they must have a leaf, but in many cases they don't need one. A leaf is a good thing if you have a large dining space and you have the room to expand your table, but want to keep it small and intimate most of the time. Many people have small dining rooms and only one size of table will fit into the room. If they don't have room to expand, they are better off with a fixed top table that does not have leaves.

Leaves afford the versatility of keeping a table small and intimate most of the time, and then have the option to expand for large occasions or family events.

At Keith Fritz Fine Furniture we create a lot of round tables that accept center drop in leaves and expand to a racetrack, or perimeter leaves that grow a small round table to larger diameter.

Design

Most of Keith Fritz's designs have legs that curve in and sweep up after hitting the floor rather than dropping straight down.This affords clients more flexibility, knee room and clearance.

“For tables that take just one leaf, I prefer a fixed base and having the table open. Leaves then drop into the middle of the table with the top cantilevered out equally over both ends. When a table needs to double in size and requires multiple leaves, it is best to design a table that has two pedestals, or has a base that splits in two so that the base moves with the top.”

Wood-Finish: Formal, or Casual?

Keith Fritz Fine Furniture is known for its use of the finest woods and finishes. Some woods and finishes are more relaxed and casual and best for everyday use. While others are more formal and dramatic, and best for elegant entertaining and special events.

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“If a table is going to be used every day, I recommend a hand-planed antique finish,” Keith says. “People love these finishes for their casual elegance. Since it already has a rich patina and undulating texture, you don't have to worry about hurting it.The patina will also grow richer with everyday use.”

Many designers today are looking for dining tables with strong dramatic silhouettes. They like dark finishes like coffee or espresso that strengthen these sculptural forms. The problem with these dark finished tops is that they show wear, and become hard to maintain. Keith Fritz has discovered that the solution is to create a two-toned table.

“A good example of this is our Cambridge Table,” Keith says “It has a hand-planed antique coffee finish on the base, border and edge and a pie match insert of natural handplaned antique walnut on the top.This achieves the darker silhouette, but puts a lighter color walnut finish on the top, where it receives the most wear and tear.”

Some people still desire a more formal statement.They don't want the table to look antique, but want a finish that is easy to maintain. “I recommend French walnut or a chocolate rosewood ~ both of these woods have a rich grain pattern. Because your eye is drawn into the grains, it does not notice the little wear marks that come with use over time. French walnut has beautiful graining and variegation, it is the same type of walnut that has been used in fine continental and English furniture for centuries. Chocolate rosewood has an exquisite graining that varies between dark chocolate and light chocolate. Mahogany crotch is another wood we turn to create a classic, formal piece. For an Art Deco sensibility, we employ Ebony, another formal wood.”

Sign-Off

Once all of the details of a table have been decided upon, Keith Fritz provides the designer with a drawing illustrating the table, the seating chart and the placement of the chairs.

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“We don't begin the process of making the table until the designer signs off on this drawing, ensuring that they will receive exactly what they want. During this process, we can make any adjustments that are needed. Since we are building each table one at a time, it is no problem to customize every last detail to achieve the perfect table.

Delivery

When the table is complete, Keith Fritz escorts it to the designer's receiver. Most company's ship their tables via a mover and they get moved between warehouses, consolidated into larger shipments, loaded and unloaded several times before arriving at the final destination. Keith Fritz takes total control of the moving process to eliminate any damage or problems. If there are any problems, he is on the spot to take care of them.

These trips also give Keith the opportunity to visit his showrooms and work with designers. Contact your showroom to find out when Keith is visiting next. He would love to create the perfect dining table for you and your clients.