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Comparing Table Leaf Styles & Designs

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Dining tables will never be a one-size-fits-all kind of item and table leaves are the traditional answer to this problematic fact.

Growing families, holidays, parties and the dreaded nosy neighbor “pop-in” are all good reasons for owning a dining table with leaves. You can always count on needing the extra room from time to time, unless you’re one of those lone-wolf types.

But, which style is best for you?

Drop Leaf Tables

The drop leaf is one of the least complicated styles and has a few notable benefits. You don’t have to worry about storing the leaves, the design allows for a few configurations and the leaves are easy to adjust.

The one drawback among some drop leaf tables occurs when the leaves hang low along the sides. This design effectively creates a two-top table by forcing diners to either end, because it prevents comfortable seating along the length of the table.

Butterfly Leaf Tables

Butterfly leaf tables offer a beautiful solution to expansion by cradling a folding leaf under the middle of the table. Just pull the table apart, unfold the leaf, push the ends back together and ta da! You have a bigger table.

The main difficulty with this type of table is that it can be heavy and hard to move if you ever decide to change residence. The extra parts required for the cradle and leaf mechanism can add weight to the table, but the cool functionality and space-saving storage make it an easy tradeoff.

Loose Leaf Tables

As the name suggests, the leaves for these tables detach completely and must be stored elsewhere. It adds lightness to the table, which is convenient, but it also calls for extra storage space, which may or not be a good thing.

‘Self-Storing’ Tables

These tables store their leaves in pretty much any way that doesn’t fall into the butterfly design category. Some of them fold their ends in while others pull apart to reveal additional table length that overlaps in the middle.

Self-storing tables share the same pros and cons as the butterfly variety in that they house storage for their extensions at the cost of added weight to the table.

Comparing Table Styles

Comparing these different table styles is all about deciding what features and drawbacks are significant to you. Here’s a little help:

Lighter/Easier to Move: Drop Leaf, Loose Leaf
Heavier: Butterfly, Self-Storing

Less Moving Parts: Drop Leaf, Loose Leaf
More Moving Parts: Butterfly, Self-Storing

Requires Extra Storage: Loose Leaf
Requires No Extra Storage: Butterfly, Self-Storing, Drop Leaf

Multiple Configurations: Loose Leaf, Self-Storing
Limited Configurations: Butterfly, Drop Leaf

Of course, price will be one of the most important factors, but fortunately every style features many price points so you likely won’t have to limit your design preference based on price alone.

The "Autumn" extension dining table from Modus is crafted in solid acacia and features extendable end pieces that self-store inside and below the table. 

Furniture of America's drop leaf "Clarksville I" dining table sports shorter leaves that don't get in the way of seating when folded down. 

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