Here, we've found five homes in every price range that are worthy of family gathering, plus three tables that don't need a lot of dressing up.
ANNUAL TAXES $98,899
TIME ON THE MARKET 3 1/2 months
LISTING AGENTS Barbara Catalano and Marianna Kirikian, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-759-4800
ABOUT THE DINING ROOM Grand scale and bold color are the highlights of this home's dining room. "That table sits 14, but we've shoved more people in there," says seller Ellen Hobbs, a homemaker who has lived in the house since 2004 with husband, Chuck, a portfolio manager, and their three children, Kristina, 21, Charlie, 16, and Aidan 13.
Hobbs renovated the room when she redid the six-bedrooms, 6 1/2-baths, 10,000-plus-square-foot house in 2009. She painted the walls, and added the custom molding and the chandelier. But the room, while large, still feels warm, in part because it has a fireplace.
"We can put the fire down nice and low, and dim the chandelier lights, and it's elegant and huge and also very cozy." After dinner, the family retreats to the library. "The library looks like something out of the board game Clue, and it's the only room that we really did not do anything to. It's all wood panel, and at Thanksgiving we always watch football here. It's huge and gorgeous and like something out of a 1940s movie."
ANNUAL TAXES $13,253
TIME ON THE MARKET Three weeks
LISTING AGENT Judy Pernice, Select-A-Home Island South Realty, 516-223-9463
ABOUT THE DINING ROOM The first thing you notice about seller Linda Molinaro's dining room, if you've arrived on a sunny day, is the light. "In the daytime, it's so bright and beautiful in here, you literally need sunglasses," she says.
Molinaro, who used to work for the school system while raising two children, has lived in this home with husband Dominick for 31 years, and she's put a lot of herself into it. "I built that rock wall myself, with a friend," she says. "We got the stones from Rickles Home Improvement. I love decorating."
She also loves to entertain. "Family dinners have always been here for the holidays, because I'm the oldest in the family," she says. "I've had about 20 of us in the house, and if I put another table in here with this one, we can fit 13 to 15 people in this room. We have another dining room, too, so anything over 20 and we use that."
The four-bedroom, two-bath home, built in 1951, also features an eat-in kitchen and a solar-heated in-ground pool. "This was always my little dream home," she says. "I took this little bungalow and turned it into my dream home and then shared it with everyone I loved."
ANNUAL TAXES $10,204
TIME ON THE MARKET Seven months
LISTING AGENT James McKenna, Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-499-9191
ABOUT THE DINING ROOM Seller Joan Clark, a hospital administrator, has lived in this home for 13 years with her husband, Ciaran, and she's hosted a lot of family dinners here. "It's perfect for entertaining," she says. "My family can be at the table, and then come into the kitchen when I'm cooking. The layout really facilitates that. I think that's my favorite feature -- how the kitchen relates to the dining room. It's really just one big room, and to be able talk to Ciaran or whoever is at the table while I'm cooking makes it very comfortable."
Another element that lends the room its warmth is the yellow walls. Clark says the paint shade, Semolina from Benjamin Moore, brought just the right balance of brightness and earthy appeal, she says. "Everyone comments on that color, and it goes well with the hardwood floors," she says.
The four-bedroom, two-bath house, built in 1987, has water views of the Makamah Beach Preserve. There are sliding doors from the kitchen and dining rooms to a deck, and deeded beach rights.
"When you walk upstairs to the second floor, there's another sliding door," says Clark. "When I looked out from our upstairs deck, I just fell in love with the view of Makamah marsh. Our backyard abuts the marsh, and you can see osprey and the blue heron. It's my favorite spot."
ANNUAL TAXES $10,390
TIME ON THE MARKET 1 1/2 months
LISTING AGENT Linda Faraldo, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-674-2000
ABOUT THE DINING ROOM For seller Lynn Barthel, who has lived here nine years and works for the Roslyn schools, her small, light-filled dining room is perfect for Thanksgiving dinners. "My favorite feature of the room is the view from the table, looking out into the backyard as you eat," she says. "It's my comfort zone. My daughter is a chef, and she likes to do all the holiday cooking. The room isn't that big, and you could maybe fit six people to eat. But even if it's just us, it looks lovely, and we have all the things to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner."
The three-bedroom, two-bath home, built in 1949, also features a living room with a fireplace and landscaped grounds. But for Barthel, the most important part of her home is how it makes her feel. "It's gentle," she says. "The mood and tones are pretty, and when you walk in here, you just get a gentle feeling."
ANNUAL TAXES $3,284
TIME ON THE MARKET 10 months total
LISTING AGENT Dan Terysen, Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-747-0544
ABOUT THE DINING ROOM "I grew up here," says seller Linda Velsor, an oral surgeon who moved back into her childhood home in 1990. "My dad moved this barn, which was . . . built around 1900, up here from the village and converted it into a house." In 2004, Velsor redid the kitchen and dining room, and painted the walls their now-signature red hue. "I love red, and I drove around for weeks with color samples of red in my car so I could see what they looked liked in different light," she says.
For Thanksgiving dinners, the space fills up with family. "We could get 10 people in there if we wanted to, and if they really liked each other." Family often spills into the living room and gathers around the fireplace.
The two-bedroom, one-bath home is on about 1.8 acres, and is well-known for its curb appeal. "I like to decorate, and I have won awards from Sag Harbor Village for the nicest Christmas decorations," says Velsor. "This is the house you see when you enter Sag Harbor. It's not elaborate, but everybody loves it. It's a cute little cottage up on the hill."
What's for sale
Already love your dining room, but not your dining room table? Here are three unusual options for where to gather around for your next family meal:
The glass tabletop lets light through, which makes the table unobtrusive; it blends in, even when space is limited. The table, in tempered glass, is stain resistant and easy to keep clean, and it has extensions to accommodate extra visitors. The legs are made of steel and are chrome plated. $299 at Ikea, 1100 Broadway Mall, Hicksville, 516-681-4532.
Round tables make square and rectangular rooms feel less sharp. This 49-inch round, 30-inch-high Crank Dining Table from Noir Trading offers a substantial reclaimed pine wood top and a just-for-show heavy iron hand crank base. $1,895 at Rumrunner Home, 62 Hampton Rd., Southampton, 631-287-0583.
Long on style
The Grand Baluster Rectangular Dining Table features extravagantly turned legs and mortise-and-tenon joinery. Handmade weathered brown or black oak, the 39-inch-wide, 31-inch-high table comes in three sizes, from 48 inches long to 96 inches long, not including the included leaf, which extends the table an additional 24 inches. $1,195 to $1,595 through special order at Restoration Hardware, 69 Main St., East Hampton, 631-907-1300.
-- Compiled by Lara Ewen