Are residential dining rooms really becoming obsolete???

"Before" picture of Karen's dining room

"Before" picture of Karen's dining room

As a residential interior designer, one of my recent and biggest challenges has been to creatively answer the question that many of my client’s ask me which is, “Can’t we do something with my dining room to make it more user friendly as our family only dines in this room once or twice a year on special holidays. I would like to make use of the room all year round. Right now our dining room seems like a waste of good space.”

"Before" pictures of Karen's dining room

"Before" pictures of Karen's dining room

My answer to this now common dilemma is illustrated by looking at a Connecticut dining room I recently redecorated for a single Mom, named Karen, living with her two adorable daughters in New Canaan. Karen’s original dining room (see ‘before’ pictures) was designed in a traditional and formal style using heavy colors/ fabrics and dark wood furniture choices. The room’s personality was solemn and uninviting. It was no wonder that Karen and the girls didn’t venture into the dining area unless lured there by their yearly delicious Thanksgiving feast!

Karen and her daughters are a warm, casual, and modern family, and their original room did not reflect their light hearted and active lifestyle. Because of this, Karen requested that the room be redesigned to mirror their current lifestyles and function for homework, everyday dining, and personal work space. She wanted guests and family members to be drawn into a warm, welcoming, and functional space.

"After" picture of Karen's dining room.

"After" picture of Karen's dining room

The design changes gave Karen everything she and the girls requested by transforming the dining room into a library/den where everyone can now read, do homework, and eat (even breakfast!). This new multi-functional room plan was achieved by using a few key elements of design starting with the wall color (see ‘after’ pictures). To set the stage, Karen’s hot red wallpaper was removed and replaced with cool gray grasscloth. The heavy, traditional drapes were changed to simple gray patterned panels and a sheer roman shade in crisp white. This new modern and relaxed color palette immediately filled the room with lightness and peace. Instead of the drapes blocking the outside from coming in, the new window treatments ushered in the sun and the wind softly blew the sheers as if waving family and friends into the space. It is amazing how a new window and wall treatment can immediately transform a room!

"After" detail of Karen's dining room antique store cabinet

"After" detail of Karen's dining room antique store cabinet

Next, the original and traditional breakfront was replaced with an oversized antique store cabinet which was painted a calming dark gray inside to coordinate with the walls. The large scale of this cabinet made Karen’s small dining room feel bigger and became the room’s central piece which would welcome guests into the space. The cabinet was filled with an eye-catching collection of accessories, library books, and dishes giving the cabinet an exciting personality and importance. This one of a kind cupboard also provided Karen with storage and emphasized the casualness of the interior.

A custom made iron based “X” table with an aged and spotted zinc top harmonized with oversized and slipcovered crisp white linen club chairs, providing a comfortable setting for doing home or office work, as well as everyday dining. The room’s decor was completed with the installation of an unexpected chrome billiard light and unique wall art in the form of a funky wooden starburst mirror made by a local artist. The resulting interior is friendly and functional and Karen now says, “I just stand in the room and love being there and marvel at how beautiful it all looks. I never knew why I had a formal dining room and my new space proves that today’s dining room is an interior concept of the past. I absolutely love how the room functions now!”

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