The Return of Formal Dining Rooms

Relaxed dining room with a traditional flair from C3 Studio LLC in Knoxville, TN. Photo from Houzz.

Lately, dining rooms haven’t been the must-have feature they once were. For many, sitting down enjoying a meal together with family is largely a thing of the past—something that only happens in old-fashioned movies and TV commercials. However, designers say that the formal dining room is making a comeback and we shouldn’t completely count out these spaces when shopping for or constructing a new home.

In fact, the return of the formal dining room is cited as one of the top design trends to look for this fall. But this “new” dining room of today has changed a little bit. It’s no longer a room strictly used for “dining.” Unlike stuffy dining rooms of the past that featured Grandma’s china (collecting dust), today’s dining rooms are far more casual and versatile. It’s no longer a requirement for a dining room to always look like it’s ready to receive guest for dinner. Instead, homeowners are opting for more casual, versatile furnishings that serve a variety of functions. Rather than a room filled with matchy-match tables and chairs, dining rooms today are blending a mix of styles, fabrics, and finishes for a look that’s less contrived and more welcoming. The goal is to create a “lived-in” look that’s adaptable to a variety of situations or events.

Why this shift back to the dining room? Well, some say that’s all the distractions of life are taking a toll. Families are so busy running around from activity to activity, and we’re so preoccupied by our electronic devices today that we’re seeking an escape. By using the dining room, even a few days a week, we are able to avoid distractions such as clutter in the kitchen, leaving our focus on our families, even for just an hour or so.

So, how can you make your dining room projects both a useful and welcoming space? Here are some top tips for creating a functional, yet fabulous, multi-purpose dining room…

Go Rustic

One easy way to tone down the formality in the dining room is to go with a “rustic chic” style of décor. By using reclaimed wood for tables or chairs or by incorporating “lived with” items that have a patina, an instant “relaxed” vibe is infused into the home. For example, a rough-hewn wood trestle table feels far more inviting and welcoming than one of polished wood and ornately carved legs.

Set the Table

The dining table is the showpiece of the room. It sets the tone for the entire space and the table should be the star of the show. Choose a table that’s a blend of the home’s overall design and the homeowners’ unique personality. Make a visual impact.

Sit on It

One fun way to keep a dining room laid-back and relaxed, with more of a free-spirited atmosphere, is to incorporate playfully mismatched chairs. There is no need for uniformity, so feel free to mix and match the color, shape, or material of the chairs. Keeping at least one of these elements consistent throughout will help to subtly tie the look all together.

Approach the Bench

Another popular way to keep seating casual is to go with a long bench rather than individual chairs. Benches maximize seating capacity, plus they tuck under the table if you need to free up some space. Benches can be easily moved to another room if the need should arise, making this a truly versatile seating option. Just remember, whether formal or funky, comfort is key when it comes to seating. Go with something inviting.

Keep it Light

Since you want to have as much versatility as possible, keep dining room furniture on the light side. If one configuration works for a cocktail party and another works for family dinner, give yourself the convenience of ease. The lighter and easier to move around your furniture is, the more likely you are to host a variety of gatherings or events. Also, don’t commit to a lone look. Feel free to move things around and enjoy a variety of furniture combinations and looks.

Light it Up

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.

Balancing Act

When designing a dining room, it’s important to strike an appropriate balance with the rest of the home. Don’t ignore adjacent spaces. Rather coordinate with them so that the spaces blend together in harmony.

Are you and your customers ready to give the formal dining room another shot? What’s your one “can’t miss” item for the dining room?