While many new homes no longer include the formal dining room in their designs, many older homes are still cursed with this space, which, outside of major holidays and funerals, is wasted space.
Dining rooms are usually a dead end in the family home. They don’t have a real role in the world of drive through restaurants and mobile lifestyles. Instead, they collect dust for most of the year. Often, they are so unfriendly and impersonal that it’s tempting to place a red velvet rope at the entrance with a “closed for the season” sign hanging on it.
But with some simple redesign, your dining room can be useful year round. Not only do you reclaim the most underutilized place in your home, but you create a new gathering spot for family and friends.
If your dining room looks like a museum, start by making it more inviting. Get rid of the large china cabinet and dark, formal looking artwork or furniture. If your dining room has a window, redo the curtains or coverings and open the blinds or drapes to bathe the room with welcoming light. If you don’t have a window, consider adding a large mirror to make the room look larger. You want to open up the space and make it feel less cramped.
Don’t be a square
A large square or rectangle table in a square room makes a room naturally seem formal. This is even truer if the table is an expanse of dark wood that was designed to seat as many as possible for the rare holiday meals. While this is great once or twice a year, a round table will make the space seem larger than it is, while adding an informal look to room. A side benefit: A round table lets everyone at the table see one another, without having to constantly turn their heads as if they’re watching a tennis match. You may also want to tone down on the polished look – a less polished service makes the furniture look less intimidating.
Relax, will ya?
Have you ever noticed that most formal dining rooms are a bit gloomy looking, like it would be more at home in a funeral home than your home? Lighter woods are not only more informal, but make the room look larger. If you can’t afford new chairs, consider having the rich silks or tapestries reupholstered with something that’s more colorful and inviting. With a lighter look comes lighter conversation. Visitors will be more likely to relax and have a good time if they don’t have to worry about their manners.
Dump the chandelier
For some reasons, contractors think dining rooms still need a fancy chandelier or light fixture to make the space look more formal than it needs to be. Who wants to clean a crystal or glass chandelier every month? If you want to make the space more inviting, remove the chandelier and consider an alternative. Wall sconces are a nice addition as is a floor lamp in the corner. The light doesn’t have to come cascading down from on high. Instead, consider indirect lighting for the space. It will feel warmer.
Mix it up a bit
If you can’t get rid of your formal dining room furniture, consider mixing it up a bit. Keep the table but cover it with a brightly colored tablecloth. Redo the upholstery on the chairs or get a more informal style of chair to replace every other chair at the table. Add playful placemats when you have to use your conventional dinner plates. These are just a few of the things you can do to make your dining room more comfortable. If these still don’t do the trick, put the fancy china away and use your china cabinet as a display space for books or collectibles instead.
There are no rules when it comes to reclaiming this poorly utilized room in your home. No matter what the etiquette police say, this is your space. Make it your own and have some fun with it in the process.