Darren Palmer on Decorating Dining Rooms
Planning your dining room
A Reinvention of the Dining Room
Growing up, all of my family meals were generally sat around the kitchen island bench, the dining table, immediately next to the lovely apple green laminate topped island bench was reserved purely for the odd dinner party where adults were involved. These happened maybe thrice if my memory serves me well. Fast forward to the home my folks built when I left home (let's leave for another day what it means when you upgrade your house as soon as one of your offspring vacate the premises), and there was space to burn with a formal lounge and formal dining, I refer to these to this day as "the good rooms" where no one ever went for any reason except a fancy dinner, which again were few and far between.
Is this how we all live? Does everyone have rooms or things that get reserved or preserved for only the most special of special times? The thought that things don't get made for use and enjoyment every day must pervade my design ethos. I would far prefer to create rooms that serve every day and function well, inviting people to engage with them happily and often.
The dining room though may well be a relic of the past. Running through my client list we have people who eat in front of the TV on the couch, or that occupy the end of the eat in dining bench in their kitchen rather than sitting at their 12 seat dining table. I think having a large dining table that serves for family gatherings and get-togethers is fine but the family dining area, wherever that may be, should receive as much or more attention so that all the nicest and most comfortable things aren't the things that receive the least use.
A dining area should be the place that you can eat in whatever mood takes your fancy, brightly lit so the kids can't hide their vegetables or lit dimly so that a romantic meal in front of the TV isn't as ironic as it sounds. You can achieve this easily by giving yourself control of light levels through dimmers or home automation. The type of light also should be a consideration as pendant lights can "anchor" a space by giving a table something to sit below, giving it visual purpose.
You should be comfortable in the way that you sit where you eat so be sure you allow enough seats to suit your lifestyle and family and make the chair upholstery and materiality suit also. This could mean plastic chairs like those from kartell which clean easily if you have young children or soft and luxuriously woven fabrics if your dinner guests can be relied upon not to wipe their hands on their seats. The type and material of your dining chairs depends on who will use the space and how often.
A Dining Room to Match the Way you Live
The space you allocate for eating also depends on how you live. Depending on the size of your home, it's not such a bad idea to have a family eating space and a more formal adult dining area but that luxury isn't a reality for everyone. Make sure though that you are choosing the right sized table for your space and your lifestyle so that you can get the most use out of it. These days dining tables can often serve as makeshift home offices so it's not such a bad idea to consider this dual functionality when planning your dining room. Make sure you can alter the level of light for those odd bits of work you need to do from home, even if it's just paying the bills on your laptop. Also make sure you have a place to charge your computer and you could also dedicate a small amount of storage in a side board or hutch located nearby to a printer and some paper, sitting alongside tableware, napery, plates and glasses for those dinner parties that happen once in a while.
Dining areas should be decorated with the same gusto as the rest of your home, with the focus on creating a friendly and conversational space to linger in. A sideboard or console in the dining area gives the opportunity to layer in a lamp, a stylish vignette of dining area appropriate books and belongings. Consider the colour you use in the space too, if it's part of an open plan living dining area don't demarcate the space by changing the wall colour, it's wiser to do so with a pendant lamp and/or a rug underneath the table. Also keep in the back of your mind that blue is an appetite suppressant and yellow a stimulant so the colours you use may make your dining a more or less vigorous experience.