Make Your Dining Area The Heart Of Your Home
Many consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, however, our interiors columnist Lauren Li makes a convincing case for value of the good old fashioned dining room!
‘Do we need dining rooms more than ever?’ Lauren wonders in her thoughtful column today. We think she could be on to something! With the relentless ‘busyness’ of modern life, and our addiction to screens and social media at an all time high, perhaps a distraction-free space for sharing mealtimes with loved ones is the ultimate indulgence in 2019!? Here, Lauren shares some ideas to make your dining area sing!
The dining room has been neglected in residential architecture for many years. The old fashioned formal dining room, with a door off the hallway and a table in the centre is a relic of dinner parties gone by. Today, if you’re lucky enough to have a separate dining room, it is more often used as a home office situation! Removed from the action of the kitchen, and the view of the TV, no one is interested in spending time there.
This got me thinking, do we need dining rooms more than ever? After all, how luxurious to have a room dedicated to nothing more than sitting around a table breaking bread with loved ones. No TV, no phones, no view of dirty dishes and no noisy distractions. Imagine a room to talk to one another every day for breakfast and dinner. Or if you like to entertain, a room with a table crowded by noisy friends where the wine pours freely beside the flickering of candlelight. Alas, I’m aware I’m probably on my own here – I can’t see the open-plan trend slowing down any time soon…
Often houses built today incorporate a dining area within a large open-plan space that includes the kitchen, living, often merging into an outdoor living area. In this context, it’s up to the homeowner to carve out a ‘dining room’ within a larger, multi-functional space.
This can be a lot to ask, and makes the furniture and lighting selection and placement extremely important, to really create a ‘room within a room’. 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!
At the other end of the spectrum, a dining area is the first to be deleted in cookie-cutter apartment developments. With space at a premium, once the sofa and TV go in, there is often no space left for a dining table and chairs. The developers of these apartment buildings are really impacting the way the inhabitants live. Without space for a dining table, they are suggesting that one is to sit on the sofa facing the TV at mealtimes, or simply vacate their home to find dinner at nearby restaurants.
But all hope is not lost…
One way to create a dining area in a compact space is to use built-in furniture. It’s space efficient because a built-in table and bench seat 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 will give you more space, and a similar feel if you’re renting.
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. The chairs should be comfortable to sit in for a while, and the dining table is a piece worth investing in. These are pieces of furniture that we touch and interact with on a daily basis for many years, so we want them to last.
A handmade table by one of the many brilliant Australian makers (get lots of great ideas from 11 local craftspeople here!) only gets better over time. A timber table top that tells a story of family life through its dints and scratches becomes something worth treasuring.
The types of chairs we sit on should be comfortable, practical, look good, last for years and fit within our 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, flatware or even a wine collection. Maybe there is room for a glamorous bar that illuminates when opened up!
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. Find some spectacular examples below.
This article also appears in The Designfiles, Lauren is the interior design contributor.