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There was a time was when dining rooms were prim, fussy spaces used for formal meals only. That meant that dinners with company took place here, and in some families, the daily dinner meal.
For most of us, those days are gone. We live differently these days. When we entertain, we do it in a much more casual way. We chat with the cook, and we nibble as we sit along a kitchen counter. We eat our meals on a table close to the kitchen.
During the week, our busy schedules may not even allow a sit-down meal for the whole family. We often end up eating on the run, trying to grab something nutritious between work or school and scheduled evening lessons and activities.
The weekend evening dinner that some families manage to enjoy together tends to be much more casual — perhaps it’s takeout, or pizza, tacos or a barbecue in the summer.
If you’ve got a formal dining room, the design team thinks you should reassess how you use it. Chances are it just doesn’t work for you anymore. Just consider how often a formal dining space is used for dining in your household. If the answer is once a week, or once a month, we don’t think the dining room is doing enough for you!
If, on the other hand, you use that underused dining space for many purposes for which the space was never intended, you can be pretty sure that the end result is likely a cluttered and unorganized design crime.
The secret to using this space efficiently is dividing the space into functional areas. For example, a dining space can seamlessly include a small home office, a homework or craft area, a library and reading corner, or an intimate conversational area.
One easy way to demarcate these separate zones in the dining room is to use two different rugs to divide the space. Use separate lighting for the two areas according to need, but also to further stress that you’ve got two functional spaces in the dining space. Arrange the furniture so that they are self-sufficient groupings. For example, chairs in a conversational corner should face each other, not the dining space.
The decor should be separate enough to indicate two spaces, but sufficiently related by colour and/or style so they don’t totally clash.
A screen could also be used to create movable boundaries. Pieces of furniture can be placed to create a “border.” For example, a buffet serving table could be placed in a position to create two spaces in the dining area.
Often, a formal dining room has formal-looking furniture —hard wooden chairs and a table that go together, often with a hutch or sideboard in which to store china and table linens.
The newest casual look in a dining area is informal and friendly. You can get this look by using less formal furniture that isn’t part of a matching dining room set.
For example, use padded, leather or upholstered chairs that look and feel more comfortable than formal wooden dining room chairs. Use a less formal table that can be used for homework and crafts, and opt for floors or rugs that can easily be cleaned. Finally, make sure your storage solutions fit your functional areas.