Friends, Family, and the Formal Dining Room

Dining room by Bryant Park Designs, LLC. Photo by Michael J. Lee.

Some say that the formal dining room is a relic of the past. This school of thought considers it outdated and unnecessary. It’s true that some modern homes are foregoing the formal dining room in favor of more everyday, shared spaces. Some skip the dining room altogether and use that space to create open floor plans that are so popular today.

However, today’s top designers and trend-spotters say that the formal dining room is making a comeback. In fact, the return of the formal dining room is cited as one of the top design trends to look for this fall.

But unlike stuffy dining rooms of the past that featured chandeliers and crystal goblets, today’s dining rooms are far more casual and versatile. The most notable designs we’re seeing skip the matchy-match furniture, instead blending a mix of styles, fabrics, and finishes for a look that’s less contrived and more welcoming. The goal is a lived-in look that’s functional for a variety of situations and events.

So, how can you help your clients create a functional yet fabulous multi-purpose space? Here are some top tips:

Tables are Tops

The dining table is the showpiece that sets the tone for the room. Whether you’re seating 4 or 14, make the table the star of the show. The table should be a reflection of your overall design style and play off of the tones and textures found in other areas of the home. Whether it’s reclaimed wood, stone, steel, or polished wood, the material you select will make a statement. Remember, an element that will have this much of a visual impact should be the sole focal point.

Take a Seat

There are a lot of options when it comes to seating, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. One way to keep the dining room laid-back and relaxed with more of a free-spirited atmosphere is to select playful chairs. Gone are the days where stuffy high-backed chairs are used to create a uniform look. You can mix and match the color, shape, or material of the chairs. Keep at least one of those consistent throughout each piece to subtly tie the chairs together.

Another popular way to keep seating casual is to go with a long bench rather than individual chairs. Have squirmy kids? A bench on one side of the table makes it easier for them to get up and go. Benches also maximize your seating abilities, plus they tuck under the table if you need to free up some space. Plus, benches can be easily moved to another room if the need should arise, making this a truly versatile seating option. Wood benches are a great fit for rustic interiors, of course, but they work with other styles of décor as well. For example, a painted bench would fit with a coastal look while an acrylic option would be at home in the most modern rooms.

Just remember, whether formal or funky, comfort is key when it comes to seating. Go with something inviting.

Color and Balance

If you opt for colorful seating, stick to neutral colors throughout the rest of the space. This will create a background and let your chairs stand out. Additionally, be sure to include plenty of negative space. This will help ensure that the room’s function isn’t overwhelmed by its style.

When pulling together a dining rom, it’s important to strike the right balance with the rest of the home. Don’t ignore adjacent rooms. If your dining room is next to the kitchen, be sure to coordinate rather than contrast.

Focus on Lighting

Lighting is important in any space, especially the dining room. Remember that you are not limited to a run-of-the-mill chandelier. You can certainly use one to create a stunning focal point, but make it stand out. Think of it as a piece of art, and the sky’s the limit. And when choosing statement lighting, the size of the fixture is your main concern. As a rule, if you add the length and width of the room together, this number is equal to the diameter that your chandelier should be.

Before you agree to help your clients eliminate their formal dining space completely, talk with them about how to make it a casual, versatile, and above all usable space. The dining room can be an important place in the home where loved ones come together. The perfect dining room should be a place where you want to relax and spend time with family and friends. If you keep it casual and comfortable, you’ll get plenty of use out of the space.