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Interiors Q&A – creating a dining space

October 20, 2010

Dear Andrew, with winter approaching I would like to entertain more at home but I need to make my dining space more welcoming.  How can I do this?

Dedicated dining rooms have gone out of fashion in recent years in favour of open-plan living arrangement, however with more people choosing to entertain at home the desire for a defined dining space has grown.  By combining decorating tricks and good furniture a warm welcome is easy to achieve.

If you do still have the luxury of a separate space use a rich bold colour on the walls and it will look spectacular, especially if well lit at night.  Also as you may not use a separate dining room often you can be braver with your choice of decoration as you won’t tire of your choice.  This is the room to go for the red walls and the tartan carpet, be brave!  Colours from the hot palette stimulate the appetite so are great choices for a decorating scheme in your dining room, and a rich coloured paint or a bold wallpaper will also can add to the sense of drama – especially on a cold winter’s night.

If the dining area forms part of a larger open-plan living space the decoration you choose will help to define the area.  If you have tiled or wooden flooring consider using a rug under the table to create definition, though do remember to make it large enough to fully pull out any chairs.  A different colour on the walls can also help to give your dining area it’s own personality in a large open-plan space. 

Lighting does play a major part in setting the correct mood for dining so plan it carefully – a feature pendant over the table will add a dramatic touch and create a nice pool of lighting onto the table.  The feature light shown above helps to define the dining area in a large open-plan space.  Remember to make sure the lighting for the dining room can be dimmed and you can supplement this low-level lighting with candle light in the evening – just remember to have adequate lighting or your guests won’t be able to see each other or what they are eating!

Round tables are generally more sociable and suitable if you expect to entertain up to 6 people.  An extendable table is great options if you want to regular entertain large numbers but generally require a small table day-to-day.  Glass or wooden extending tables are available and can often double the amount of table space.  A more cost-effective choice is to simply use a large piece of wood that you can keep under a bed and dress up with a nice tablecloth when needed.

Dining chairs not only need to look good but equally importantly they need to be comfortable.  Before you purchase any chair sit in it for at least 10 minutes to test the comfort factor – remember that you could easily be sitting in it for 3-4 hours over a leisurely meal.  Upholstered chairs will soften the look and a bold fabric can be used to add colour and a dramatic touch to the dining room.  If you have a young family or are worried about spillages remember to ensure that any fabric used can be easily cleaned. 

If possible include some practical storage near to your dining area for crockery, cutlery, glasses and table-linen.  Sideboards are very on trend at the moment and will provide a good amount of storage.  Do remember that whatever furniture you choose adequate space should be allowed for movement around the dining area.

Whatever decoration, lighting or furniture you choose remember your dining room is for entertaining and sharing food with family and friends – don’t be too precious about it, don’t forget to make sure you can relax and have fun!

This Interiors Q&A first appeared in an abridged form in CityAM

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Claire Thirlwall permalink
    October 20, 2010 8:33 pm

    Great advice Andrew. The 10 minute chair test is a good tip. I’m sure that some restaurants have deliberately uncomfortable seats so that you don’t stay too long!

    • October 20, 2010 8:42 pm

      Thanks Claire – the comfort of a dining chair is so important, this is one place Design doesn’t always rule – some of the most beautiful dining chairs are also the most uncomfortable 🙂

  2. October 21, 2010 11:14 am

    Lovely post Andrew.
    Can’t agree more with being in a comfortable chair at the dining table. When your husband’s family is Italian you linger at the table for a long time!
    I love red for a dining room. At night with the lights dimmed, it is romantic and casts a soft pink glow on everyone.

    • October 21, 2010 12:09 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post Catherine. The comfort of dining chairs is paramount … dining should be about lingering, though it sounds like you already know that with your husband’s Italian family – they certainly know how to love their food!

  3. February 28, 2013 5:35 pm

    A really good post, you have given some really good advice. As you have said, the dining room is an important room when it comes to entertaining and there are lots of different aspects that go into making the room perfect for purpose. As you have said, it’s good to have practical furniture for storage, you can always get made to measure furniture to make sure that you make the most of the space you have.


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