Feb 15 2017

Who needs a Dining Room anyway…

Posted in: Interior Design, Tips for the home

Many of us might remember our grandparents’ generation entertaining family and friends in a formal dining room, complete with a sideboard for fine china, glassware, and even cutlery that was saved for special occasions. However, these days having a dedicated dining room, or second reception, is often seen as a luxury that can take up valuable space – let alone having extra storage for another dinner set.

Conversely, some argue that a private eating space could be the answer to spending more quality time with the family without distractions of TV and other screens. It’s also a great room to inject your interior style and personality into, as the below schemes prove. So should this dwindling interior tradition be reinstated? Or should it be left in the past? Let’s identify some pros and cons and some dining room alternatives for those not lucky enough to have the choice. 


Peaceful meal times 

A separate dining room that’s not host to any type of screen or device offers some respite from the barrage of digital noise that we’re so familiar with. This dedicated space will also encourage interaction and conversation without the distractions you might find in a busy kitchen. A separate dining room offers a great way of enjoying valuable time with friends and family in a relaxed, calm environment.












Space to experiment with different styles                                                                                         

If you want to give a new interior trend a go, or you have some styling ideas you want to experiment with, then a closed off dining room is ideal for testing out a new look without worrying if it will work with the rest of the house.

Show off statement pieces

A dining room offers the opportunity to showcase fabulous pieces that might not work in any other room. For example, a large-scale ornate mirror or an opulent light fitting might not sit well in a laid-back family space, but these oversized statement pieces balance well with the large dining table shown here. Formal dining rooms also give you the chance to indulge in a sense of grandeur, and have fun with bold pieces, such as elegant dining chairs and dramatic centrepieces.

Create a dramatic dinner party setting

With the revival of dinner parties thanks to supper clubs and TV shows like MKR, a formal dining room gives you the chance to go to town with your styling and set a beautiful scene that’s relaxed and inviting. Plus, you can ensure it won’t get disturbed by the rest of the family once the door is shut.

Make it a versatile space

A second reception is gold dust to many space-hungry households, so turning a dining room into a multi-functioning zone could be the ultimate answer. Think craft area, play room, home office or even library. But whatever combination you choose, ensure there’s plenty of storage so it can easily be turned back into a smart dining room when needed.


Family behaviour has changed
With meal times now seen as a social activity, families are more likely to want to encourage everyone to get involved with the preparation, so the kitchen has become the hub of the home. Perching at a breakfast bar or island unit is becoming the norm while we interact with the host or help out with the chopping. Chatting with guests at a table in the same room feels far more sociable and friendly than separating them in another part of the house.

Meal times can feel lonely

It’s hard to expect everyone to eat at the same time every day, so eating on your own in a formal dining room might feel a little unappetising. Not to mention the inconvenience of having to set up the table and dash back and forth to the kitchen if you’ve forgotten something.

It’s another room to decorate and clean

Unless you have endless interior ideas and schemes you love, finding the energy to decorate another reception room so that it’s in keeping with the rest of your style might put you off having a separate dining room. At least in open-plan rooms you get to decorate the space in one go so it all works cohesively.

That said, designing a scheme can be a whole lot of fun.

Finding the Right Balance

Kitchen/ dining rooms
So what are the alternatives if you don’t have space for a separate dining room? By far the most popular meal time set-up for families is the open-plan kitchen diner, that allows everyone to be in the same space at the same time. This is great for busy households where the kids can be supervised while cooking or clearing up continues. It also works well when meal times are disjointed and not everyone can sit down at the same time. At least in this scenario, no one is left eating alone in a separate room.

Similarly, if you only have room for a tiny table in the kitchen, opt for a chic design that will allow you the versatility to style it up for more formal occasions, and dress it down for day-to-day meals.

Breakfast bars

People will always gravitate towards something they can sit or lean on for comfort and ease, therefore a breakfast bar, or central island is great alternative to a dining table, particularly if it doubles as a work surface too. Pop one in the middle of your kitchen and watch it transform from a cooking zone to a sociable eating space.


This is a genius solution for anyone living in a compact space who still wants various dining options. A breakfast bar has been extended at one end with a benchtop fitted at a lower level to create a dining table set-up. The owner’s then have the option of casual eating at the bar end or formal dining at the table. Perfect!


In a climate that practically begs you to come outside and enjoy the weather, eating alfresco for the majority of the year means a formal dining room is totally impractical. What’s more, with the rise in solid-roof verandahs, serveries and full outdoor kitchens, eating outside is becoming a year-round activity.

Island drama
If you love the idea of an elegant dining room but only have space for an island, you can always combine the two. Try to capture the same intimacy of a formal dining room by adding a stunning statement pendant for mood lighting and some wraparound upholstered stools for comfort and opulence.

It seems that the sociable aspect of coming together to cook, eat and entertain in a relaxed manner has certainly overtaken the convention of dining in formal surrounds. However, if you have the luxury of a separate dining room, this is definitely something to celebrate and indulge in. Go to town on the styling and enjoy the freedom of choosing special pieces for the space, as it may only be a matter of time before it’s taken over as a toy room or home office.

Tell us

What do you think about formal dining rooms? We’d love to hear your views.

Source: Houzz | Author: Louise O’Bryan – Houzz contributor, interiors writer