Design

Did Instagram Kill the Round Dining Table?

Long rectangular tables are dominating the dinner party circuit-and your feed. Is that a good thing?
IMAGE JACK JEFFRIES
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For years, the go-to table for a dinner party was round—they're cozy, congenial and no one is left at the end. But lately, if Instagram is any indication, it seems as though the round table has been, well, taken off the guest list.

It's all about endlessly long, candlelit tables topped with heaps of flowers and foliage, all the better for a tablescape hashtag. The dreamy setting is visual catnip, and with good reason: A sumptuous table sets the scene for a good party, not just the décor, but the way guests interact and move around.

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But is the round table officially dead? The verdict is mixed, according to some of today's designers, hosts, and party gurus.

TEAM RECTANGLE

Interior designer and host extraordinaire Charlotte Moss (her suggestion to put a selection of breakfast items and a coffee maker in overnight guests’ rooms remains a personal goal of mine) is the captain of Team Rectangle, particularly for parties of 10 to 14 people, which is her preferred number of guests of a dinner party.

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One of Charlotte Moss’s rectangle tables, from her book Charlotte Moss Entertains
Photo by COURTESY CHARLOTTE MOSS.

David Monn, a celebrity party planner, is firmly in her camp and believes a banquette brings people closer together: “You can talk to your left and right, as well as to the people sitting in front of you.”

Also on team rectangle is event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who is mindful of creating a space for good conversation, but hails the decorating possibilities of a rectangle. “It can be a really dramatic, visual element,” he says. “Round tables are so embedded in our minds with weddings and nonprofit galas, the rectangle freshens it up. You can also do things on a rectangle you couldn’t on a round [one]. I once did an entire Treasure Island-theme with rectangular tables."

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A dramatic dinner party from Bryan Rafanelli’s upcoming book A Great Party
Photo by ALLAN ZEPEDA.

TEAM ROUND

Leading Team Circle is designer Carolyne Roehm, who swears by the round dining table in her Manhattan apartment. “First of all conversation is much better. It is much easier to have an entire round table in a discussion. That one cannot easily do without shouting down a long table! There is also a wonderful democracy to a round table—no one is ever sitting at the end," she says.

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One of Carolyne Roehm's intimate round-table set-ups
Photo by COURTESY CAROLYNE ROEHM.

T&C contributor and interior designer David Netto is with her. “I grew up in the ’80s, and then it seemed like cool parties involved taking all the furniture out of the dining room and replacing it with all these rented round tables with ballroom chairs. And you couldn’t even get into the room for all the flowers,” he recalls. “What happened to these dinners? Intimacy and decadence can and should be hand in glove.”

Production designer and event planner Bronson Van Wyck argues that round tables are for more casual occasions. "They allow the hosts to sidestep the hierarchical seating dictated by the formal protocol at a long one. In a quiet room, the guests at a round table can all become part of the same conversation,” he says.

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Round tables with drama: Bronson van Wyck styled the American Ballet Theater Fall Gala and the world premiere of The Tempest, from his book Born to Party, Forced to Work
Photo by COURTESY BRONSON VAN WYCK.

But, he has a caveat: If the room is very large, opt for a long rectangle or a mix of the two "to avoid getting a stiff neck."

TEAM BOTH... OR NONE AT ALL

The members of Team Rectangle and Team Circle will all admit there is a time for each, but Jung Lee of event design firm Fete NYC wants them both—and she’ll take a square too. “To me, it’s not the table shape that’s important. It’s the room and the scene we’re creating that should dictate the size and shapes of the dining tables,” she says. She frequently mixes different shapes together to create dynamic environments.

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No tables at all ensure your guests will end up dancing by the end of night, says interior designer Sasha Bikoff.
Photo by BILLY FARRELL/BFA.COM.

So what to do? Sasha Bikoff, the interior designer and T&C swan, proposes another solution altogether. “When you are entertaining, an atypical seating arrangement invites a unique and fun vibe. The issue with long rectangular tables is that you are confined to the people next and across from you. It doesn't allow for much partying. I love to entertain on the floor with carpets, poufs, and large trays. It feels very eccentric and exotic.”

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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