5 Ways to Rethink Your Dining Room, Starting at the Table
Forget Everything you know about the Dining Table
What’s the easiest way to bore your dinner party guests? Sit them down at a dining room set. You know, one of those stuffy setups where the walnut chairs coordinate perfectly with the walnut table, giving off an air of meh and blah with a side of playing it safe.
Instead, create a dining room that is as warm, welcoming and interesting as you hope your meals will be — and the conversations around them. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Forget the formal dining room.
Plenty of designers have proclaimed that the dining room is dead. Blame the kitchen island or the return of the cozy breakfast nook. Or blame our on-the-go lifestyles, which have made sit-down dinners fewer and farther between. Many say their dining room is seldom used, and in fact plenty of homeowners have repurposed this space into a play room, office or den to make better use of the space.
Before you scratch the dining room altogether, consider what an “informal” dining room might look like for your family. Which brings us to the next point…
How often do you really host big dinner parties? If the answer is at least every other month, then by all means go for that 10-foot table. But if your family is on the smaller side (under four people) and you don’t entertain all that often, you may want to consider a cozier scenario. A large formal table may not lend itself to an intimate family meal, nor will it be the easiest to wipe down after a meal. A smaller round table on the other hand will inspire closeness and conversation, as will a table with a removable leaf. Make your dining room a place you will be drawn to on a daily basis — for meals, yes, but also for homework sessions, work-from-home days, family meetings, etc. — rather than just a setting for special occasions.
Break out the measuring tape.
This is an important part: Measure before you buy. If you’ve ever been stuck in a tight spot — say between a table and a wall or too close to another dinner guest, then you’ll know why this matters. Giving your family members and guests ample elbow room as well as room to push their chairs back to rise from the table will naturally make them more likely to sit and stay awhile. According to Wayfair.com, you should consider the following guidelines when specifying a dining room table: Allow for at least 36 inches between the table and the wall (bonus points if you can make it more like 42-48 inches), and each guest should be given 24-30 inches of table surface.
Break all the rules.
Now that we’ve given you the spatial rules (the ones that really are important to mind), forget all the rest of the rules you thought you knew about the dining room. Breaking the rules is not only where the fun comes in, but it’s also where you show off your personality.
Many of today’s designers make it a point to mismatch the dining table and chairs and to mismatch the chairs themselves, using completely different styles, even colors, to create an eclectic space. Consider using a bench on one side of your table (this is especially good for a family with children) with chairs opposite it and on either end. Mix in chairs from different eras or express yourself with upholstered chairs in a fun fabric, mod Eames-inspired plastic chairs, or a pair of Louis “ghost” chairs.
Terrified to make a mistake? Here’s your rule of thumb: Never buy anything for your home you don’t absolutely love. We can almost guarantee you that if you buy a dining room table you love and pair it with dining room chairs that you love — no matter how disparate the styles — the combo will thrill you because it is so precisely you. If not, the beauty about only buying what you love is that you can almost always find another place in your home for that beloved item to live.
Play with materials.
The most foolproof way to ensure you elevate your dining room above the ordinary — without too much risk — is to choose a table made from an unusual, super cool material. Rather than opting for wood, try a maintenance-free concrete table. Surprisingly versatile, concrete which will work well in spaces that are modern, industrial or rustic. Speaking of rustic, hammered copper tables play well with the warm tones so often found in ski lodge and log cabin inspired spaces, as well as in a Mediterranean design. Plus, copper surfaces kill bacteria and develop a beautiful patina over time. If you have your heart set on wood, consider a live-edge wood table or reclaimed wood table to establish a vibe that is naturally one-of-a kind.