9 Convenient Alternatives to a Traditional Dining Table

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated January 14, 2022
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If you’re not in the market for a traditional dining set, a functional eating surface isn’t off the table. Space-saving substitutes can be more practical than the traditional option. Don’t purchase those TV trays just yet—consider these dining table alternatives.

1. Folding Kitchen Table

A kitchen interior with folding table and chair
Photo: demphoto / Adobe Stock

A folding table is an ideal on-demand eating surface. These come in all shapes and sizes too, so you’re bound to find one that works for your kitchen space. Many models collapse to small sizes that can fit in a variety of nooks, closets, or other storage space. As a bonus, a folding table can make your kitchen look larger by making more open space when it’s not in use.

2. Built-In Bar Counter

A modern kitchen interior with stylish wooden table
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock

Who needs legs? A wall-mounted bar offers the perfect chow-down spot without the bulky footprint. You can find the finished surface and hardware in a ready-to-hang package that you can install yourself (with the right power tools, of course). Or, if you’re a crafty DIY-er, you can find or repurpose your own table and fix it to the wall with sturdy L brackets. The only other thing you’ll need is a set of barstools, ideally short enough to fit right below the counter.

3. Free-Standing Bar Counter

Whether you’re a renter or just don’t want to drill into your wall, you can still opt for a bar counter. Free-standing models are still compact, with many having stools that fit comfortably underneath. Many home goods stores sell free-standing bars at reasonable prices. 

4. Fold-Down Table

A fold-down table takes the space-saving concept of a regular folding table—with the added convenience of a wall mount. Much like a pull-down bed, a fold-down table has hinges that allow it to be stowed away when not in use. Then, when your friends stop by for after-dinner drinks, you can fold it down as fast as you can say “Presto!”

5. Pull-Out Kitchen Tables

What’s that? It’s a drawer, it’s a cutting board, it’s…a table? A pull-out table is a sneaky surface that pushes into a cabinet or recess, making it virtually undetectable when you don’t need it. You can find these pre-made or you can go the DIY route if you’re up for a more complex project.

6. Kitchen Island

A white gourmet kitchen with farmhouse sink
Photo: PC Photography / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

No place to sit and no counter space to chop veggies? Investing in the cost of a kitchen island can eliminate your woes. These create a highly functional kitchen layout, as they can act as a work surface, eating surface, serving surface, a place for your Jenga game, or anything else you need. Get in touch with a general contractor near you to start planning your project. 

7. Mobile Kitchen Island

A modern kitchen interior with stylish wooden table
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock

As practical as they are, kitchen islands still take up a chunk of space. If they’re not a good permanent option, consider getting a kitchen island with wheels. That way, you can just roll it to the side until you need it.

8. Breakfast Bar

A white kitchen with breakfast bar
Photo: Per Magnus Persson / Getty Images

Even if you had a kitchen table, it would likely gather cobwebs once you had a breakfast bar installed. These surfaces are great for the cook who doesn’t want to lose face time as they’re preparing the feast. Family members and guests can plop down across the bar and chat away.  These can also multitask and create kitchen office space or an extra surface for food prep.

9. Table With Wheels

Not wanting a dining table that takes up your valuable floor space? Consider a table that you can just scoot out of the way when you’re done devouring your homemade Chicken à la King. A table with wheels is a functional and convenient eating surface that you can easily move when you need the extra space. As a bonus, it can be a makeshift bar cart when you’re entertaining or even a plant wagon on watering day. 

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