Are dining rooms obsolete?

Are dining rooms obsolete?

Clients often ask me if they need a formal dining room in their new home. A full 50% of the projects I design end up without a formal dining room.

Do you need a dining room?

I come down square in the middle on this one. It really depends on how you live.

Like I’ve said before, design your home for the way you live NOW. Architecture can be a powerful thing in your life, but it will not alter your habits. If you watch TV while you eat, design your home so you can see the TV from where you eat. If you want to change habits, work on changing your habits, but design your home to be a comfortable place that supports the way you currently live.

So, how do you decide? Ask yourself:

  • How do you currently entertain?
  • What are your family traditions?
  • Could you put that square footage to better use somewhere else?
  • Is this your forever house or are you looking at resale?
  • What else do you do at the kitchen table? Homework, computer, school projects, bills, conversations?

Take a look at the progress of home design with a focus on the dining room. You will find that through time we have added things we like but not removed the old deadwood. This has contributed to our over-sized homes.

In the 1920s, we had a functional kitchen and an all purpose dining room. In the 1950s, we added the eat-in kitchen for convenience, but the dining room was still a work horse for daily family meals. In the 1970s, the eat-in kitchen moved to a nook adjacent and open to the kitchen, still keeping the dining room for formal meals. In 1990s came the stools at the bar, yet we still had the nook and formal dining room.

Before we knew it we ended up with three dedicated places to eat.

In my opinion, having three dedicated places to sit down and have a meal is a waste of space and resources. My recommendation is pick two: one place to eat more formally, one place to eat casually. That could be any combination that supports the way you live in your house.

If you do forgo the formal dining room, here are some important design tips:

  • Size your dining area to seat 8 people. This is much larger than your typical breakfast nook.
  • Layer your lighting. Your new multi-purpose dining area will be a work horse if you pay attention to your lighting layout. Include a chandelier, can lights on a dimmer and some form of soft up lighting.
  • Storage for all of your dining room things. Chances are you will not have a china hutch so you need to account for storing china, silver and serving pieces as well as linens.

For what it’s worth, I live in a renovated 1920s farmhouse. I am raising 3 boys. Two are teenagers and the third is in his early twenties. You can imagine how much of our lives are centered around food. We have a kitchen island with bar seating for three and a separate dining room. This dining room is casual enough for family dinners, homework, and my occasional ad hoc work station. However, it has all the makings of a formal dining room when desired.

Hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you!

- Sheri

As Founder and Principal Architect of Springhouse Architects, Sheri’s mission is to lead Clients through the building process with the Clients in control and Springhouse as their guide, advocate and ally.  With over twenty years experience in Residential Architecture, Sheri brings knowledge and confidence to your custom home project.

Lisa Saldivar