The dining room seems to be a controversial room at the moment. There’s the take-it-or-leave-it group, the must-haves and those who’ve come to think of this room as wasted space, preferring instead to tear down the walls and opt for a more casual, open kitchen-dining-family space.
The holidays, whether we are ready to admit it or not, are right around the corner, and many, this time of year, start to think about holiday entertaining. There are others, however, who think the dining room is a thing of the past, a room that is becoming obsolete. I have written about this before and I’ve talked with designers and architects and real estate ages, and while most agree – even if they do not subscribe to the theory personally – that both the modern home and the modern family have become more casual over the years thus driving current home trends to a more open floor plan. I do see a benefit to this – more family togetherness. In one room the family, works, plays, cooks, cleans and studies, and while nothing is more important than quality family time, I must sing the praises of, and come to the defense of the dining room.
I still think the dining room to be a very important room, even if it’s not used all the time. Whether you’re formal or casual, serious or silly, your dining room should absolutely reflect who you are, your interests and your lifestyle. While the name ‘dining room’ does generally imply a more formal space, these rooms absolutely need not be. They can be whatever you make them to be – bright, bold, dramatic, formal, elegant, casual, simple or understated. What makes the room stand out isn’t necessarily how it’s painted or decorated and furnished but how it’s used and enjoyed. When people eat in dining rooms they seemingly spend more time in there, lingering, enjoying the food, the company and the conversation. A separate space, removed from the kitchen is a an attribute, not a detriment to any home.
Think about the kitchen. The busy, crazy, often chaotic kitchen. Think about the energy and traffic flow. Think about the mess – the pots and pans, dishes in the sink from meal prep … the piles of mail and bills, catalogs and school papers that often sit, cluttering up counter space. All of these are distractions – great distractions. Dining rooms were originally created as a place for families to congregate and enjoy their meals while leaving the mess behind in the kitchen. How can one sit back, truly relax and enjoy a meal with the constant visual noise in the background?
Is it realistic or practical to use the dining room daily? No. Our lives have changed greatly in the past 20 – 30 years. We’ve become more active and much busier. Fathers are working longer days, mothers are working full time jobs and having to care for the children who are also busier, with more activities and longer days. Family meals every night are simply not always realistic and for those families lucky enough to enjoy them, busy lifestyles dictate set time limits – homework, after all, is seemingly endless and must take priority. But, this is no excuse not to use the dining room. Why not plan a meal once a week – a night where everyone will be home? Start having dinner parties again. I do not mean casual get togethers where finger food meets wine or beer, but long, leisurely sit down meals… Meals with courses, soups, salads, entrees, desserts or cheese platters, coffee and wine. These needn’t be time consuming to plan, or complicated for that matter. Consider it as an excuse to get your dearest friends together! The next time you have a Birthday party, book club, or anyone over for that matter, bring them into the dining room! And now the holidays are right around the corner and so why not make the most of these magical spaces. Fall in love with dining and entertaining again! Start a new tradition. Start a dinner club. The possibilities for these rooms are endless!
Still think the dining room as an empty space? Why not convert it to a multifunctional space. Convert your dining room table into a desk. Built-ins can hide and conceal office equipment. Line the wall with book shelves and your dining room can also serve as a library. A more casual space can become a den, a studio even a guest room. A good designer will be able to work with you and your vision and help you make the most of your dining room. But I implore you to dust away the cobwebs and put this room to use!
Images via: BHG, Steven Gambrel, Tumblr, Gideon Mendelson, James Michael Howard, Carol Egan Interiors,