The Dining Room
Another favorite space I love designing is the dining room. What better space to bring to life than a room that families gather in, celebrate in, dine in, decorate…I could go on and on. My point is simple, though this room may not be the most used in the home, it has an important role.
I realize recent home trends steered towards wide open spaces touting “open concept living”. I believe that after a few moments here, people realized how important a more intimate space is. After being home for a few years, this room has functioned as an office space, a classroom, even work out areas. In short, we are beyond thrilled to bring intimacy back to this room, so let’s talk about how do you design it. Similar to designing other rooms and making design decisions, great design starts with first answering a variety of questions to hone in on your wants and needs.
Unlike other rooms where function is typically the kick off, I start this special space with the pretty. Where is the personality coming from? Elegant wallpaper? An heirloom light fixture or china collection? A treasured thrifted (maybe antique) piece of furniture? I start here and build the room around it. If this isn’t your starting point, that’s ok, ask yourself “what’s the most important aspect to this room for me?” It may be great seating, gorgeous textiles, stunning fixtures. Start there.
Once you identify your design starting point, let’s talk function. The point of this room is dining and gathering on a slighting more formal level. That does not mean stuffy or precious, if that doesn’t fit your life and lifestyle. I love a formal dining room all day long, but it’s about you and how you want this room to not only look and feel but also function. Think simply, this room should have an elevated design from our everyday hustle and bustle while you check off design elements like storage, seating, lighting and decor.
Let’s start with need over want. Do you have specific storage needs in this space? Think china place settings, crystal stemware, specialty holiday serveware, maybe a scored thrifted bar set up – items that are not used every day. If the answer is yes, you’ll want to select the location for a piece, and a size and design for that piece that is appropriate for the needs. Glass doors to show off a collection or, closed doors and drawers to concentrate on their storage functionality. If storage is not demanded here, you may opt for a statement piece of furniture that leans more impressive from a design standpoint. A beautiful sideboard or console with great art or a statement mirror above. This also provides a surface to dress which is always nice to display pieces and items you love.
What is the best shape to select – rectangle, square, round? The shape of your room is helpful here. If your room is rectangular, this shape table may be best option.
* Design tip “when in doubt tape it out” – masking tape on your floor to show the dimensions of the pieces you’re looking at.
If your room is square, a round table may be most appealing. Think about the scale of your room next. Look at the seating, is there ample (think 30″) behind each seat to pull the chair out to be seated.? This is an especially important aspect to consider if there is another piece of furniture behind your chairs like a sideboard or hutch for example. Next, consider if your table should (or could) have extendable options. Do you need to seat 12 regularly, or, go to my 98% rule –
“Design for how the space will need to function 98% of the time, not the 2% of the time.”
Meaning, if 98% of the time this room would seat your family of 4 plus your brother and sister in law, totaling 6, you’ll want select a table that seats that 6-8 comfortably, but, perhaps has additional table leaves you can store to use in the 2% of the time you may host and need to seat 10-12.
So many materials to choose from can be a blessing and a curse. Let’s break some of the options down. Leather – soft, offered in a variety of styles and colors and easily cleanable. Wood – extremely durable, many tones to choose from but not as comfortable. Fabric – beautiful and endless customizable fabrics and styles, but can stain (unless treated correctly). Woven texture – light and casual but can tear over time.
Let’s now think about arm chairs versus side chairs (no arms). If the table is rectangular, I like arm chairs or “host chairs” at each end and side chairs, well, on the sides of the table. Host chairs can also be an interesting way to mix up your seating selection by selecting something different for this prominent seat location. Certainly not necessary though. If your table is round, the same chair all around is best be it side or arm. Lastly, with armchairs and tables, there is no sizing standard, so you’ll want to make sure your arm clears the apron on your table so the chair can push underneath when not in use.
Chandeliers – practical and functional. This showcase piece is often over your table and fits the look of your home but perhaps takes the design factor up a notch or two. Also checking the function box, you can select a fixture with anywhere from 3 to 16 lights giving you ample lighting through the space (make sure it’s on a dimmer switch!) in case this may be the only source of lighting. In open area dining rooms, I like to try and tie spaces together like the kitchen and dining areas – barstools with coordinating dining chairs, island pendants and coordinating chandeliers.
If I can, I love adding wall sconces that compliment and repeat the design of this pretty feature. Think flanking wall sconces on either side of your statement art work over your sideboard. Lastly, if I have opted for a glass door hutch, I love adding some interior “puck” lights for drama that illuminates the special items of this statement storage piece.
The LUXE Touch
In this special room, if budget allows, I have a few fancy tips.
1- Look UP. The ceiling, aka the fifth wall can take statement wood treatments, wallpaper, or even just a different shade a paint bringing some big design impact.
2 – Adding architectural details. Adding wall moldings, ceiling trim details, wainscoting, and there’s always great storage built-ins that bring personality and function. Any of these elements can be customized in scale, color, style and don’t have to be big budget options.
Pure Salt Interiors Geoff Chick & Assoc Pure Salt Interiors Artisan Signature Homes
3 – Wallpaper and Murals. This can be a custom mural by a local artist of a favorite locale or beautiful wallpaper like grasscloth or a highly dramatic pattern to add texture and interest.
When it comes to the dining room, think JOY. Joy of a holiday. Joy to gather with family and friends. Joy to see design elements that make you pause and smile, as you walk by multiple times a day. Choose JOY when it comes to what you select for this special space.
February 17, 2023