Friday, October 23, 2009

Does Anyone Still Dine In The Dining Room?

The most popular floor plan in today's homes is the open floor plan, where a kitchen, dining space, and sitting room known as a family room are in plain view of each other. Separate formal living and dining rooms are seldom used if they are included with a home's open floor plan. Older homes are renovated to create the open floor plan by knocking out walls between smaller rooms.
The first casualty of non-use is usually the dining room. Hermetically sealed and seldom used, except for holidays and maybe a special occassion, one can feel the waste of floor space. Lately this room gets made into a "library".

Martha Stewart

The notion of having a library in one's home as opposed to a home office, is a unique concept for the modern home. Most of us read books, and some of us may collect books. The Victorian idea of having huge rooms with huge bookcases to house leather bound books is a romantic one that evokes a comfortable home.

But totally giving up on the idea of a dining room is just too much to handle. We can't let go of having a dining room, even if it's seldom used. We just like to have it around just in case.
But by adding some bookcases or book shelves, and staging the table with books and such, there it is, your library!

You can add all the bells and whistles, like a library ladder, book stands, comfy chairs, etc.

But you must always keep the option there to clear the decks, and set the table for the occasional
dinner party. Somehow dining amongst books is very cozy, and slightly romantic.

If you have the luxury of another dining space, your could devote a room unto itself as your library.

The apartment of Jacques Grange in Paris

I got inspired to post about this after seeing Artie's (from Color Outside The Lines) dining room cum library. I love the way he faces the chairs out, and layers everything in the room. I wonder where he would put everything to transform the room for a dinner party.

Artie - Color Outside The Lines

Even in an open floor plan house, you could stage your dining room table as a library space.

Martha Stewart - I love the little stools, so reminiscent of Renaissance era library

The idea of having a table dedicated to reading, or doing homework is just so appealing.
If you live in a small space, clearing off the dining table, whether in the kitchen or a dining room is what happens when the kids need to hit the books.

By now many of you are familiar with my dining room turned office. I can't bring myself to call it a library, a term that seems a bit grand for a Creole shotgun cottage. I can't even take credit for the seemingly necessary element of installing bookcases in the dining room to morph it into a library. The pre-existing built in shelves (done in the 1960's) were actually cupboards. I took off the doors and styled them as book shelves for my over size design books. The minute the books were displayed the identity of the room reads: Library/Dining Room.

When we first moved in I used a round caterer's table, the type with folding legs, as my desk. I added a floor length tablecloth, thus creating the dreaded skirted round table.

The dreaded skirted round table used as my desk

I actually had many dinner parties in this small room, placing ten guests elbow to elbow around the round table. I stashed office things in a bedroom closest for the night, and set the table accordingly.

The dreaded skirted round table used as a dining table

I thought my actual dining table was too large for the room, and staged it in the kitchen with a buffet set on top of it. It seemed a terrible waste of a great table. The kitchen really wasn't suitable for it to be used as a dining table.

French dining table staged with a buffet on it - the wing chair eventually moved to my office

Now I use the large French style table as my desk, and the room is strictly dedicated to being my office.

The round table is folded up in the garage, and seldom used.

The dining room seldom sees actual dining anymore - at most it's dining on a tray at my desk
Go HERE to see this entire story

We are doing less dinner parties these days, and when we do invite people over, we stage the kitchen for dining. Large dinner parties (for 12 or more) are set up to resemble the chef's table in a restaurant kitchen.

The chef's table in our kitchen - go HERE to see the whole story of this party

Smaller groups for up to six cozy up to our small round table in the kitchen. And, Alberto often opens his laptop on the kitchen table, evoking visions of doing childhood homework.

So, what's in your dining room?


red ticking said...

what an amazing post... you are so talented and inspiring... i dont not use my dining area as much as i would like but when i do, it always makes the dinner feel special and intimate... love dining rooms... esp at my parents home... always so cozy.... have a wonderful weekend... x pam

My Notting Hill said...

Now that we removed the table in our great room so we could add another couch we eat in our dining room every night. My dining room is a pass through room and I wish it was wider so I could add shelves to it. Love the DR/Library combo.

Maman de trois petit rois said...

We actually made our "formal" living room a library/music room, with a piano, and built in bookshelves on two walls. Our dining room is intact and we use it for supper clubs, impromptu brunches after Mass, and cocktail parties... I guess in the end I'm to much of a Southern traditionalist to let go of my "formals". Definitely use it more than we ever did the formal living or sitting room. Great post!

VictoriaArt said...

Dining rooms and their use, I almost want to write a book about it....
When I came to America I came the first time across such formal dining rooms.
This type of room seemed to have all but disappeared in Germany, when I grew up. Lack of space in the aftermath of the war being most likely the reason. And lifestyle changes. Now it's coming back.
Anyway, learning in my practice I have realized -similar to you - people do hardly use the space. I always try to encourage dining 'in' at least one time in a week.
When I help install dining rooms I always try to make it multifunctional, so my clients are invited to use the room and make it lively.
But habits are hard to break....

Our dining room on the other hand is the most used room in the house.
We do not have a eat-in kitchen and no breakfast room either, so every meal, often home work, crafts projects and much in between happens at the large table in this green wallpapered room, with enough flair for fun and fancy...
Great post, got me thinking about it all over again.....
Have a lovely weekend!

Laura Casey Interiors said...

I love the concept of a DR and library, especially with a round table. Just add a fireplace and I am set.

Renae said...

I "look" at my dining room and use it seldom. In my dream home, there will be no formal dining room per se, I like what you have shown here, making it into a cozy library/DR. Open spaces that flow.


my favorite and my best said...

awesome post. we use our dining room to eat in every night. although it's in dire need of some life and love. i LOVE the library/dining room. one day.....

and i LOVE skirted round tables as night stands or entry tables. but never as a dining table. or a radio show.

Bunny, The Paris House said...

First of all, gorgeous post!! I'm with you, I will never live without a dining room. We live in a 200 year old stone and clapboard farmhouse in the country, when we first moved in there was a small dining room with a little foyer off it blocking an old quaint staricase and around the corner a large but dark living room. It hardly ever got used until we knocked down all the walls, added french doors that open to a wrap around porch, exposing 2'thick interion stone walls, gorgeous handhewn beam ceillings. Now it is a dining area/library, a billiard room, sitting/living room area and the old foyer has a piano. We use it everyday, there is even a media giant screen that is hidden when not in use. We entertain all the time (I'm a party planner) and everyone hangs out in there...and of course there is a bar!!
I can't wait to host Thanksgiving, I just move the books and set the table. Theys special rooms should be used.

Design Junkie said...

My dining room is actually in the stair hall and, though used often, little more than a passageway. My dream, though is to one day have a combo library dining room.

niartist said...

Oh Valorie! Thanks so much for mentioning my little project in the dining room! I'm more than excited, I'm thrilled! :)

Anonymous said...

You guys are such consummate hosts! Your house is gorgeous in all of them! We miss you!


Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

Perfect post!

Our dining room quickly turned into the library (put bookshelves around all the walls) had a table that could serve as a Christmas breakfast table (literally the only time it was used) Lately that table is gone and a stainless steel gurney type table is a desk...and a linen slipcovered down loveseat is wedged between ceiling high bookshelves.

I have been collecting bookcase insp pics for years...that's the next plan...built in's.

Living It At Home said...

Thank you for these wonderful images. I live in a colonial in the Boston area which was built in the 1940's. So you can imagine that it is all cut up. I would love to knock down walls to get a more updated look. We hardly use dinning room and I would love a family room/kitchen.

Check out my blog at "Living it at Home" to see what I mean and maybe you can give me some advice!

Thank you and I love your blog! jamilyn

trendoffice said...

Great post! I like very much the idea of having a library/dining room if you have the space. Several years ago I found a very extraordinary idea in a French magazine - a tub used as a dining room within the bathroom! Of course, the bathroom itself was with a suitable design so when you need a special place for meeting guests for dinner - just put a top on the bathtub and cover it with a beautiful table cloth! But I cannot find the magazine to scan the pictures - may be s.o. else has seen it?