Author – Lauren Li
The formal dining room has been neglected in residential architecture for many years. Today, if you’re lucky enough to have one, it is more often used as a home office situation, but it’s possible we need dining rooms now more than ever. After all, how luxurious to have a room dedicated to nothing more than sitting around a table with loved ones? No TV, no phones, no view of dirty dishes and no noisy distractions...
Dining areas in modern homes are often part of large open-plan spaces including both the kitchen and living areas. In this context, it’s up to the homeowner to carve out a ‘dining room’ within a larger, multi-functional space.
It can be difficult to create a cosy and welcoming feeling in these open-plan spaces – that’s where good interior design, decoration and styling comes in!
One way to create a dining area in a compact space is to use built-in furniture. A built-in table and bench seat for example can be made to suit the exact dimensions of the space. Even a freestanding bench against a wall and a dedicated lamp over the table can create more valuable room, and is a good alternative if you’re unable to make structural changes.
Think of the dining area as a space to engage the senses. Whether it’s a table for one, or a homework station for the family, the dining area should be a well lit, comfy and inviting space to spend time.
A few practical ideas can help make the dining experience easier and more pleasurable. Chairs should be comfortable to sit in for a while, and the dining table is a piece worth investing in. These are items of furniture that we touch and interact with on a daily basis for many years, so you want them to last.
The style of chairs should be comfortable, practical, look good, last for years and fit within your budget. Consider upholstered, timber or polypropylene (plastic), or even a bench seat.
Mixing up different types of chairs adds character and personality to a space and there are basically two different ways to do this; every chair is different for an eclectic mix, or only the chairs at the end of the table are different. Don’t aim for perfection (the ‘right’ dinnerware, artwork perfectly hung and colour matched, cushions plumped and lined up in a row), rather, aim for a space that feels relaxed, functions well, and invites you in to stay a while.
When we’re sitting down for a meal, whether it be breakfast or dinner, think about sound. If it’s an open-plan layout with noise from the dishwasher, exhaust fan and cooking in the kitchen, consider using soft furnishings such as cushions, curtains or a floor rug as an acoustic buffer.
Turn the TV off and play some tunes instead!
A dining table is one of the largest surfaces in most homes, so it’s an opportunity for displaying your most loved pieces. Arrange a collection of vases or objects on your table, even a simple bunch of flowers in a sweet vase makes the everyday dining experience a little bit brighter.
Alongside the table, if space permits, consider bookshelves or a buffet to display treasured artwork, books, or even a wine collection.
Another great way to create a lovely atmosphere in a dining space is with lighting. A pendant light over the table instantly creates a clear zone for dining, particularly in an open plan area.