Another dining room question

lavender_lassSeptember 23, 2012

I've been thinking about the 'separate' or 'formal' dining room. While I'd like to have a dining room, I also want a kitchen table...and do I really need to duplicate functions? Also, will the kitchen table get used everyday, while the dining table is reserved for holidays?

So, I started thinking...what if there was a half wall, between the kitchen and dining room? Maybe with a post and a bit of craftsman character, but still relatively open. And, if the breakfast table is a banquette, would that make them just different enough, to be used everyday?

I know we've discussed this more than a few times...and some people love the distinct rooms/function aspect, especially in older homes. But, do you think the dining room would be used more often, if it were more open to other areas of the home? Thanks in advance :)

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I think it depends on your family dynamics. In my house growing up, we had a breakfast table in the kitchen which might have seated the whole family-maybe. For dinner, we always sat together in the dining room (with toile wallpaper no less). We had cloth napkins and we kids argued over which napkin ring belonged to whom. My sister just unearthed those napkin rings as we're cleaning out Mom's house. We learned civilized manners and conversation. I recall one dinner in 1963 during the Cuban Missile Crisis when my youngest brother at 6 proposed solving the whole problem by blowing up Cuba. Most dinners featured much more mundane issues and we were all impressed as Dad blew smoke rings for us as he enjoyed his after dinner coffee. We all were required to sit and talk and be nice while our parents had their coffee.

My own house is much smaller, and we never had toile wallpaper, although we did have chickens once. Our breakfast and dining table are/were one and the same. When the kids were growing up, we all ate at the table and learned table manners and civilized conversation. At both the old and new conversational ripost was learned and practiced.

The kids are gone now and DH and I generally watch something on TV while we eat in the living room. One of the nice things about new TVs is the pause and rewind buttons. One can actually go back and clarify what someone said, or point out the really cool whatever in the last frame, or discuss a plot point. For guests, we move back to the dining room. You, as I recall, have little kids. If I were you, I'd just be sure that whichever you choose matches the needs and style of your family on an everyday basis.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 3:42PM
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In this house we are currently living we have a pretty large dining room and use it almost every night. It is really a great space. We usually eat breakfast and lunch at a counter in the kitchen. The last house we lived in had a nice dinning room - but kind of tight even though we did not have a lot of furniture. We never ate in there and I always felt I would rather not. So to me I guess it depends on the rooms themselves. I do see your point and wonder why some new homes have rather small dinning rooms and small kitchen areas to eat and also islands to eat at as well. I would rather have one great dinning area then two small cramped spaces.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 4:09PM
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I think the question revolves around what you want to do, more than anything.

If you see value in eating in a DR, then you should consciously use all design cues to reinforce the practice and make it easy.

Would you eat all meals there? Few people do, in these days. What about lunch - do you eat at home during the week, or only on the weekend? What about in the summer, do you tend to eat outside to enjoy a long twilight?

Assuming you eat most dinners at home, and most of them inside (on an annual basis, as I know you live in a rugged climate!) then plan the DR for evening use. Make it feel attractive and cozy. Think about when you go out to eat, here there are often fireplaces in restaurants and I know we (and most patrons as far as I can tell) are drawn to those tables closer to the fire.

What if you have your little w/s in the DR? (I know you a FP in your sitting room, so you have hearthside seating, already.) Then in the evening before you begin to cook you could light your fire and when the meal is ready the DR is warm, cozy-feeling and ready for you. If you linger at table afterward it will still feel fine, but after your move on to other things you can just let the fire go out naturally (a big improvement over open fireplaces which have a long draw-down period when they are sucking the warmth out of the room, but the damper can't, yet, be closed.)

For your need for a modest power-outage cooking a w/s in the DR would serve two purposes both cooking and as a hearth to keep you warm as otherwise you wouldn't have heat.

Plus, and you know this would M-O-T-I-V-A-T-E me, you'd have the darn w/s out of the kitchen! Glory hallelujia, may it some Blessed Day happen for me, too! We plan to add a small w/s hearth to our eventual DR for exactly this scenario (while, of course keeping the main house-heating w/s in the present-kitchen/hopefully soon to be sitting room.)

Another thought is what exposure you want to have for any windows in your DR. I like SW windows since that captures the tail end of light in the cooler Spring and Fall when evenings are light enough to still have sun at supper, but puts a solid barrier between me and the hot, harsh NW light of full-summer evenings which can make eating inside a drag.

I have been sending you good thoughts, and hoping your world gets back to normal as fast as can be. I can recall spending a lot of time on GW when my DH was ill in hospital. It helped to immerse myself in other things - refreshed me for the seemingly endless medical slog. I wish your DH as complete a recovery as mine has enjoyed, - and soon!


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 6:49PM
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I feel a dining room is a great feature in a house if there is room for one and it fits in with the lifestyle of those who live there.

We have a hex shaped breakfast room that we use as our only dining area and for 2 people it works fine. More than that and the space always feels cramped.

In Mule House we will have a small dining room (only 10 X 7) because there is no room for dining in the kitchen.

For your needs I do feel that opening the space between kitchen and dining room will make it (DR) seem more tied to the kitchen and therefor be more inviting for regular use.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 9:12PM
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We like to use our dining room to eat, but usually are helped in the choice by the kitchen table being full of remodeling samples, lol.

I think taking a wall down or part down esp if there is an interesting column or wall of short built-ins is neat. Reminds me of the features in some of those Sears kit houses.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 1:32AM
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Suzanne- I love the toile wallpaper! I can just picture you all in the dining room, with the kids arguing over the napkin rings :)

Archie- I think you're right...the size of the dining room does make a big difference. Too many are a little small to be comfortable.

L- LOL! Yes, I know you are looking forward to moving your wood stove! Actually, a wood stove in the dining room is a great idea, but ours is too small. I am thinking about moving it to the den, which will be next to the kitchen. You've made a good case for having it in another room, besides the kitchen. And, thank you for the good thoughts. My husband seems to be getting better...we'll know more in the next few days.

MuleHouse- I like a dining room, too. It seems the holiday dinners may get moved to our house, after a nice dining room (out of the middle of the kitchen) might be used more often, than we originally thought.

Deedles- I found this picture and really like the detail over the doorway.

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

And this one, too :)

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 11:59AM
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I agree that it all depends on your space and how you choose to use it to meet your lifestyle. Growing up in an old foursquare, we ate in the kitchen every night; it was so tight it was hard to open the fridge, but we never minded and often had guests. On special days - birthdays, holidays, etc, we ate in the dining room, on the good dishes and we knew it was special! As adults in our first home, an old victorian, we ate our breakfast and lunches in a similar kitchen, but ate nearly every night, by candlelight, in the dining room. I loved being able to get away from the food prep and make it a bit more of a ceremony.

When we moved into our current house, a 1950's split level, there was a formal dining room, as well as an addition off of the kitchen which was used for informal dining room and as a family room. After a number of years, we realized this was a duplication of space - and the dining room table was used too often as a desk. We turned the formal dining room into a small family room, and use the large space behind the kitchen as a dining rooom. We bought a huge unfinished table that my husband finished to match our hitchcock chairs, and we eat all our meals here - still by candlelight at dinnertime - and have hosted many, many birthday parties and family events here. It is more casual, but a very useful space still separate from the main kitchen (divided by a peninsula) that works very well for us.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 12:47PM
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Molly Phillips

I am going through this dilemma right now. We have a formal dining room that is right to the left (??) of our front entrance. The previous owners left their fancy silk drapes and there is lovely metallic paint on the's waaaay too pretty for our casual family of 4 (including a 3 year old who still thinks it's funny to throw food on the floor). There is also an elevated gas fireplace in the room, which we never use because, although the ambiance is beautiful, it's not so nice when everyone is shiny because they're sweating - those fireplaces heat up small rooms QUICKLY.

So, we only use the room when we have guests - and then it feels formal and stiff and not like us at all. However, when I think about opening it up to the kitchen, I wonder if I'll be happy once that wall opens up more, because then the kitchen will be on display as soon as someone walks through our front door.

I'm almost-for-sure-positive-I-think that I'm ditching our breakfast nook table, though, so if I do, that will force us to eat every meal in that square dining room. If my research goes as slowly as it's been going, though, hopefully my 3 year old will learn some manners by the time we're in that room regularly (even if it is designed more casually then, which I hope it will be) and will appreciate cloth napkins like susannesl did when she was a kid. :)

So, to make my point, I want to open it up to the kitchen to make it more casual, but am afraid to knock down any walls so that the kitchen isn't on display the minute someone walks through the front door. Not sure what the answer is yet.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 3:00PM
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Those brackets are beautiful! Glad to hear your DH is on the upswing. Do you have a timeframe for your remodel?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 3:14PM
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That's my exact plan for our new build. I actually posted about it last week seeking opinions. I thought I wanted a totally open kitchen/dining/living space, but that's what we have now and I am so tired of seeing a messy kitchen simply because it's in use.
Here's my inspiration photo:

Not exactly a half wall as you described, more of a large buffet/hutch made from cabinets. I think it will serve the same purpose though, a separation of the kitchen/dining while still being somewhat open.

I plan to put in a cute banquette for a quick breakfast and to keep the kids nearby if needed.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:18PM
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I feel banquettes are wonderful for the right space (and if wonderfully, comfortably constructed!) but rigid and confining if the only reason for one is...oh, make sitting there feel "different"? To make up for what they can't be, there should be something important gained. That's wide open, of course. For someone I knew long ago, that was simplifying life by eliminating screeching dirty chairs that had to be swept under all the time (4 kids) in favor of something dirt couldn't get under or behind.

I've mentioned it before, but our dining "room" is a central hall with bookcases on 2 walls and all household trafficways, up and down, across, and front and rear, crossing through it. Our mahogany dining table is a drop-leaf that open with extensions seats 12, but most of time it stands, sides folded down, against one wall with paintings above and a lamp, stacks of books, and candy dish or whatever on it.

We also have small tables for DH and me, and occasionally another couple or two, in both the kitchen and living room (view of TV), and I specifically did not want a large table we only use 5 or 6 times a year taking up a bunch of space and being conspicuously unused the rest of the time.

(I just realized it's time to bring out the 9x12' rug that cozies up the open center all winter.)

Long way of saying I'm wondering why you are calling that front space a dining room instead of a ______ room that occasionally works wonderfully for sit-down dinners. Maybe it just isn't talking to you, though, the way some of the other multifunctioning spaces you've mused over so clearly have?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:33PM
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Why reserve the dining room for only holidays? Our kitchen is open to our family room. We have a small table in the family room that my husband and I eat at every day. We can watch the news and watch the birds at the backyard feeders. We have a formal dining room that we eat in whenever we have someone over. From the dining room table we can look out at the front garden. My brother usually visits once a month, so the dining room is used more than just for holidays.

Doesn't your mother come over often? Perhaps you can use the dining room when she eats with you, so it won't just be used for holidays. That would also allow for a smaller kitchen table as it would only need to be big enough for you and your husband.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 10:17PM
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