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Inside Design: Do You Still Need a Dining Room? |

Inside Design: Do You Still Need a Dining Room?


Photo by Toby Weiss

Dining rooms have long served as mainstays of American homeowners, but at some point in our recent history, we stopped using them with any frequency. In that light, in the remodeling world, we often ask homeowners whether they still need a dining room.

 Our lifestyles have radically changed regarding the traditional notion of a family gathering, eating together at a set time in the evening. It’s now easier to do grab-and-go meals or stay in the kitchen to eat and chat with whoever’s around; there’s just no need to go into the dining room on a daily basis. People also eat out far more than they did even 10 years ago. When they do entertain at home, they congregate in the kitchen and casual living spaces open to the kitchen.

The dining room, in short, has become a victim of its own isolation and formality. Even its placement in older homes creates a barrier from the kitchen, and when that room opens onto a seldom-used front living room, it’s close to dinosaur extinction!

The remaining purpose of a traditional dining room is to accommodate large, infrequent gatherings of family and friends, typically at the holidays. So how do you expand a dining room’s life beyond Thanksgiving dinner?

Making the dining room a multipurpose space is a useful option. Create a home office or library that can easily convert into a dining room when needed. Built-in bookcases can hold a combination of dinnerware and books. A large dining table easily becomes an excellent desk or work surface with a change of accessories. Dining chairs needed only for large gatherings can be placed in other areas of your home, such as a pair of dining chairs creating a conversation area in an empty corner of a great room. Or you can completely change the function of a dining room. If you remove the dining table and chairs and simply view it as an extra room in the house, what would you do with it?


Becky Trent

In a recent project, my colleagues and I knocked down a wall between the kitchen and the living room, and the dining set moved into that new open space, which left the dining room empty. We conferred with our clients about what type of room they always wanted but couldn’t have, and the answer was a fully decked-out home office. They now have a room they love which gets used every day rather than just a few times a year.

Just as our lifestyles have changed, so must our thinking of what to do with a dining room. It’s just too much valuable square footage to let go to waste.

Becky Trent is a designer and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (through the National Association of Home Builders) with St. Louis remodeling and design firm Mosby Building Arts. Her passion for kitchen and bath design has resulted in several local and national remodeling awards.

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