The Disappearing Dining Room

The social trends of today are significantly changing our way of dining and entertaining in our homes. More and more, people are leaving behind the idea of a formal dining room, which in many homes is used to its full capacity only a couple of times a year. The stagnant room that seats eight or more becomes wasted, “dead” space for the rest of the time. With that said, what is the reason behind this new way of life? Even more importantly, what is the solution for this area that is rarely needed most of the year, yet crucial for seating many on the few times it is used?

While working with various clients, I discovered one common denominator that attributes to the death of the dining room: The television! Television is the single most common reason people do not flock to the dining room for meals on an everyday basis. Usually the kitchen or family room becomes the area to eat the day to day meals, because this is where the television is. There are televisions in the kitchen, bathroom, ‘rec’ room, family room, bedroom, and most any other area in the house you can think of. The television has become the central focus of the families gathering space.

Another issue for the lack of dining room use is family member’s schedules. Because of different schedules that each family member has, this will not allow for full sit down meals and conversation with the entire family at once. Often family members eat separately, kids during one time, and parents at another. Therefore, a formal dining room with a large table does not invite only one or two people to sit at it. For single people, or couples without kids, a dining room is too big and too formal of a space for daily dining. The room can feel intimidating or uncomfortable. Because of this, the tradition of a dining room does not work for the new informal way of life.

So why not get rid of the dining room all together then? Well, many people actually are! Enormous new homes are being built with little more then a breakfast nook as the designated “dining area”. Even this does not get used for more then morning coffee. If the dining area is not used or needed, tradition may not be enough of a reason to keep it.

Others however, although they may not use the room often, still need a place to entertain a large or formal group of people a couple of times a year. Having no dining room at all is not an option for them in this case. These new, popular dining requirements request the space to be utilized all year round while also being able to accommodate formal dining when needed.

THE SOLUTION There are a few solutions for this issue which leave behind the idea of the traditional dining room.

  1. Place two or more small café style tables in the room which seat 2 – 4 people each. If the room is not very large, two tables lined up near each other will break up the space, and will be a more inviting atmosphere for one or two people to sit at. When larger company comes, place the tables together for more seating. If necessary, you can maximize seating by adding leaves to each table.
  2. Some people don’t care for the idea of having tables all year round since they prefer folding tables and chairs on the few occasions where people sit in this room together for dining. Instead, try creating a room that is fun at any time, yet complimentary to a dining situation when used as such. A large bar area with stool seating can serve anything from drinks to ice cream. This also serves as a great place to put appetizers, drinks or side dishes for when the room is used for dining. You can still have a small table nearby for yourself or for more casual company throughout the year.
  3. Creating an informal library / breakfast room is another way to utilize the space without causing the static of a dining table. By either building custom book shelves, or bringing in freestanding ones, you can use the room as a library. Bringing in a small café table for morning coffee or reading can draw you to the room to sit either by yourself or with another person. This area can also be used by children for homework or studying.
  4. If your existing dining room is attached to your kitchen, you can open the space entirely and expand the kitchen into the dining room area. This way, you have completely rid yourself of a designated formal dining area all together, as well as utilized more space for storage and day to day activities in the kitchen. By eliminating this closed off area, your can better enjoy the time with family and friends by creating a casual, inviting space for everyone to gather and wander through.Evaluate how you and your family live and entertain in order to select how to best create a space for you as well as larger groups. Don’t be afraid to drop the dining room tradition if it does not suit your life. Real estate is a value commodity and there is no reason to waste it on an area that remains static most of the time. Recreate, redesign and enjoy your new space all year round!

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