It's the commonest of complaints -- one you hear yourself saying and realize you're becoming your mother: "Nobody sits down to eat anymore." Well, not in the kitchen, at least.
Left to our own devices, we'll often graze at the counter, which explains the appearance of tall coffeehouse-style "bistro" tables in kitchen corners, as well as the sudden hip factor assigned to hip-height food preparation tables from restaurant suppliers ($149 and up, from B&B in Los Angeles,  735-1561; www.equipmentworks.com). A fixture of loft kitchens, these cook-eat-wipe-and-run-out-the-door surfaces also have started a run on vintage stainless-steel tables once used only for industrial purposes.
And in keeping with our alternative eating habits, several sit-down options are ready to serve us. The folding TV table, once derided as tacky, has grown up and been refined. Bed, Bath & Beyond sells a simple wood one ($19.99) with a larger surface area for those whose cuisine is not all that lean.
Umbra pairs metal legs with a curved veneer top that's so handsome you won't need to consign it to the closet ($56, available at Clover in Los Angeles,  661-4142).
For a more polished look, there's the "butler's table," a tray that sits on an X-shaped base and can serve as a small bar or accent piece when the meal is over. Though simply designed, it is anything but dull. Gumps offers one in bamboo and rattan ($189), Casa Armani's square version is in ebonized oak, and Hermes' pear wood and leather edition adjusts to several heights.
Updating the mid-century "Camel," a dining table that could be lowered to coffee-table height, Hydra Designs has created a glass model with a hydraulic system operated by a foot pedal that also controls a swivel top ($1,500 from Bedfellows, Studio City,  985-0500).
If you don't care for chairs or sofas, try your California rolls in true Japanese fashion, putting cushions on the floor and using a bench from Casa Armani or a couple of sleek black and white ottomans from Modern Living as a tabletop.
Value fun as well as functionality? Italian designer Patricia Urquiola's Fat Fat Lady Fat looks as curious as its name, like an overgrown version of one of those portable ashtrays from the '60s, the kind with a beanbag bottom. Available in a variety of fabrics and sizes (from 12 to 18 inches high), it is a space-saving example of anything-but-shabby chic with an inset metal "lid," which doubles as a serving tray and conceals a storage hold beneath.