Formal Dining Rooms

- Monday, August 01, 2011

I love to entertain by hosting dinner parties in my home. Unfortunately, with my hectic schedule, I do not get the opportunity often enough. Inviting people into your home and providing them with a relaxed evening of food and conversation is both a labor of love and a wonderful gift of hospitality. Memories are made and celebrations happen around a dining table. While it can be daunting to cook a gourmet meal if you are not a professional chef, setting the scene for a special dinner is easier than you think.

One of the reasons I enjoy having dinner parties is because I get to use one of my favorite rooms in my house, the dining room. I have a small kitchen with just enough elbowroom at the center island for my household of two, so even an invitation for one extra diner dictates a change of venue. My formal dining room makes a dinner gathering feel special, whether it is a simple supper for four or a full-blown fancy feast for eight.

Dining rooms are evolving with our changing lifestyles. With the growing popularity of open-concept living, formal dining rooms are becoming a thing of the past in home design. Consumers often think of it as the least-used room in the house and one of the most expensive to furnish. Naturally it is one of the first rooms due for a “re-think” about its design and decor. A dining space does not need to be a separate room or big in scale in order to have a wow-factor. However, since it is an entertainment space, you may want to infuse it with a more dramatic décor. Why not take it up a level?

Consider the number of people you want to easily accommodate. Do you typically host small, intimate affairs or do you frequently invite 12 people? Maybe a combination of both? Then think about the size of your space compared to the scale of the furniture. Select pieces that offer flexibility.

The dining table usually takes center stage, so choose it carefully. They come in many different shapes and sizes and many can expand with center or perimeter leaves that allow you to provide room for a varying number of guests. I am a personal fan of the round table, if space and the shape of the room allows. I find it more intimate and conducive to conversation.

With the amount of furniture needed in a dining space it is important to employ different materials, so don’t match everything! Create a timeless look that will last for years to come. Gone are the days of matching sets of furniture. A dining room suite with Queen Anne-style cabriole legs on the table, chairs and sideboard will overwhelm the space and look like a furniture store vignette. Two highly ornate or stylized chairs make great host and hostess seats, but any more than that just gets busy to the eye.

Keep a common theme but have fun with it. Complimentary wood tones or styles will add layers of interest. Remember, you have to live there so you don’t want to get bored with it. Glass, wood, metal. rattan, fabric, and leather offer myriad possibilities to mix-it-up with the materials and the combinations are endless.

Remember to provide serving and storage areas. Where will you store china and serving pieces? Is there a space to lay-out a buffet or dessert?  Consoles, buffet tables, and sideboards present yet another opportunity design-wise for nuance and sophistication.

Color, lighting and accessories provide finish and set the scene. Formal or informal, bold or subdued, bright or subtle, you can create a backdrop that works with your style of entertaining at home. Colors can evoke a mood and wallpapers with luxe textures and tonal contrasts lend an aura of elegance to the background. A unique light fixture will cast a welcoming glow upon the table while a gilded mirror can add the illusion of space and reflect the glimmer of candlelight.

Selecting the right ingredients for your dining room will ensure the creation of a magical place to be enjoyed by your family and friends.

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