How to plan your dining space
People have all kinds of theories on what dining should be. Some individuals prefer to dine on the run, and aren’t particular about what they eat, where they eat, or even how the food tastes. To them, eating is merely a necessary fact of life, a biological requirement.
Others enjoy taking the time and effort either to prepare or seek out gourmet-style meals. Good meals to them are to be slowly savored in the company of others, in carefully structured atmospheres at home or in fine restaurants.
A typical household leans toward a happy median between the “fast-food” meal and a candlelit dinner. That’s why there are often two dining areas in a typical home—one for quick breakfasts, lunches, and children’s meals, and another for more formal dining, which, though less frequently, still plays an important role in holiday celebrations and special family events. In any event, a dining room should have direct access to the kitchen.
In many households, a third dining area consists of an outdoor patio or deck with a gas grill. All three areas, however, should be located near the kitchen food preparation site for greatest convenience.
You have several basic choices to make when deciding upon informal and formal dining space: quick, easy meals and snacks can be served either at an attractive utilitarian bar, which is simply an extension of the kitchen work counter, an overhanging portion of counter that can accommodate three or four bar stools or a table/ chairs or booth/bench arrangement included as part of an extension of the kitchen—often referred to as a breakfast room or nook.
If you don’t want a formal dining room, you should probably opt for a table/chairs set that’s placed right into the heart of the kitchen, yet out of the cook’s way. This arrangement is referred to as an eat-in kitchen. Formal meals can still be served in an eat-in kitchen when special attention is given to items such as appropriate lighting, ventilation, and mood music.
The kind of kitchen dining space you prefer also depends on if you plan to use the table, booth, or bar for other purposes. Certainly, you can hardly play cards at a breakfast bar.
If you want more than a breakfast bar and eat-in kitchen, and you have the space and resources, then go with a formal dining room too. This can be footage borrowed from a living or family room, often delineated by special interior decorations or furnishings such as vinyl flooring, wallcoverings, or a chair rail. Or it could be a separate room of its own.
For ultimate privacy, doors can be installed to completely close off the dining room from the kitchen and living or family room. This can come in handy for special events such as birthday or graduation celebrations.
A dining room implies both enclosed space and service at the table. For this you’ll need plenty of table space, chair space, access and serving space, plus room for any china hutch or side table server you want. When laying out your dining room, consider space for extra furniture and guest seating. One way to achieve this is to have the dining room connected to the living room (or family room) area. This will make the home seem larger and allow for relaxed seating before and after dinner. Also, in case you need to expand the dining room table for extra seat‑ing, furniture could be arranged for temporary dining-table expansion. A chandelier or other suspended lighting fixture, preferably one controlled by a dimmer switch, makes a lot of sense. The ability to lower the lighting level, at little cost, will provide a relaxing and classy atmosphere.
While a separate formal dining room is more traditional, an open-style dining room can fit nicely into an active family’s lifestyle. Without the walls of a formal dining room, communications between the kitchen and living or family room are greatly improved. And due to the additional cost of a separate dining room, plus the overall reduction of square footage in many of today’s modern houses, the open-style dining room situated directly between the kitchen and living or family room is becoming increasingly popular.