DINING ROOMS OR NOT FOR THE WAY WE LIVE TODAY?

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to host a dinner in our home or attend a dinner at someone else’s home. It doesn’t have to be a formal or fancy affair. However, I believe that the intimacy of sharing a meal in our homes simply cannot be duplicated to sharing a meal in a restaurant. 

The question that remains to be answered for homeowners today is asking if the dining room is obsolete? This question is especially relevant for the 50+ers because the majority of us are empty nesters or will be soon. This  change in lifestyles affects how we live in a whole new way, or does it?

In our open plan home, the dining area worked perfectly for many dinners, meetings, and events.

Currently, with moving to a downsized home, this has definitely changed our lifestyle and the need to have a dedicated dining room. Our three families live in various states so the odds of us all being together in Ohio is going to be a very rare occasion. We now gather at one of the adult kids homes where the hosting is for at least 17 of us if not more. And I do not have to cook!… 🙂

But even if single, widowed, divorced, or remarried, life today is drastically different on so many levels not only for entertaining but how we cook and eat in general.

Side comment on how we live today, in over 50% of our homes a single person lives there. I know, shocking. 

Here are the considerations to have or not to have a dining room today:

LIFESTAGE

You all know my philosophy on sharing our homes or apartments or condos with others. Sadly however, I observe more and more people that rarely even cook for themselves. Often then, these  are the folks that rarely have anyone into their homes for a meal, happy hour, or dessert.  I think this is a major loss of sweet fellowship opportunities! 

We now do casual entertaining on our patio frequently.

Now let’s look at the 50+ers. You know that I am correct on these observations of the way we live today. Therefore, why have a dedicated dining room to be used once or twice a year if that? Before you kill the messenger, I accept that there are those traditionalists that do indeed use their dining rooms beyond the Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings. But you super hostesses out there with dining rooms are the ones we all wish we knew to be blessed with your generous hospitality.

ALTERNATIVES TO DINING ROOM

Without a dining room there is a need to have a plan B in our homes to entertain on whatever level is the answer. We use our hearth area off of our kitchen that serves 6 – 8 comfortably. Since I truly love setting a beautiful table, our family or guests appreciate my efforts to give them the ‘’dining room experience’’ sans an actual dining room.

And a wonderful plus of our hearth area off our kitchen is the fireplace. What adds more initimcy than a fireplace?

This high quality Italian table purchased in 1990 for our family home has 2 24′ leaves. Bob’s idea for entertaining 8 is to move the table on the diagonal to add more comfortable guest space. Another tip for alternative dining options is to have exceptionally comfortable chairs with the correct pitch.

Outside entertaining

Everyone loves eating outdoors whether on a patio, screened porch or decks. This works perfectly for the casual way most of us live today. When the weather permits, why wouldn’t we savor this experience? However, I see so many outside spaces void of an eating table, another lost opportunity to “break bread together”.

Using kitchen islands for entertaining

This is why I am so opposed to having an appliance such as a sink or a cooktop on the island because to me it disturbs the aesthetics of the dining experience to see the remains of dishes or pots and pans. And yes, it is so possible to avoid this…see my other posts.

The Christmas table setting of this post’s feature photo is the dining area in our Wichita home’s open floor plan. Again, even without a separate dining room, this is a perfect example creating the dining room experience.

BTW, this image was in the book, Christmas by Design where our home was featured with other designers, where I was honored to work with Patricia Hart MacMillian.

ACTUAL USAGE?

Our former dining room is now our TV/Den room that is used almost daily. It is an intimate space that envelopes us with a cozy smaller space rather than sitting in our larger living room. (this space will soon be even more intimate with the ‘’afters’’)

It was definitely a no brainer for Bob and I to convert this room to a den since we knew we would rarely use this dining room. 

OTHER ALTERNATIVE USES FOR THE DINING ROOM SPACE

Home offices

‘’Study Hall’’ for now online homework

Sewing or craft rooms

Library

Sitting room

Perhaps you have other options for your rarely used dining room, and if so, please share with us. 

Regardless of the standard floor plans of the past or maybe even the present in larger homes, the wise homeowner, in my opinion, does not keep their rarely used spaces just because this is what once was the tradition. 

DESIGN SMARTS is just this, designing lifestyles and homes with the wisdom of how we actually live today, not how we wish we were living. To this end my beloved readers, what or how could your lives be enhanced by having your own space to be whatever space is lacking in your home today. If you take this opportunity to implement alternative uses for your rarely used if ever dining room, I believe that you will be enriched beyond expectation. 

Living and Loving Life Together,

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14 Comments

  1. Leslie Carothers November 14, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Hi Mitzi ~

    I really enjoyed reading this post because it shows your *real life* and how you, personally, have made the transition from a large formal dining room in your former home in Wichita, to your new, more intimate breakfast/dining area with its cozy fireplace there in Ohio.

    I can only imagine how nice that is, now, in the winter – as you and Bob sit there and enjoy a hearty soup.

    Thanks for all the imaginative ideas about how we can use space in ways that suit our lives now vs. what they were originally used for or *named* by the former owner/occupants or the builder/developers.

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 16, 2020 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks Leslie and yes, breaking the assumed purpose for dedicated rooms as the dining room is now “so yesterday”! We all realize that our homes more than ever require adjustment to meet the ever changing needs of life stage transitions, especially for the 50+. Most of us do not have home school happening but defintely working from home is common place. Therefore, the unused or rarely used dining room needs to be transfomed without a doubt, especially for those that never cook or entertain.
      Yes, we love the intimacy of this hearth area. I actually have the fireplace on right now while doing these comments. My right brain has to move to various areas as I regain my motivation to keep doing what I want to do like read these wonderful comments and blog posts.

      Reply
  2. Janet Lorusso November 14, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I am totally envious of your fireplace, Mitzi! What a wonderful spot to dine…or just sit! Your table settings are beautiful and I totally agree with both your philosophy on kitchen islands and on always assessing to make sure you are actually USING all the spaces in your home and adapting them if you are not! We have a dining room that is open to our living room and we still eat in there almost every night. I love setting a beautiful table and celebrating an ordinary day with healthy and delicious food. We have 3 adults in our household right now, so it is perhaps more rewarding, but even when I lived here alone, I hosted friends often for dinners, so keeping the dining table makes sense for me. It is also a nice surface to spread out on when I need to for a project, and I have a great view of the bird feeders from our dining room, so nature provides endless entertainment! Right now, I’m hosting friends on the patio for dessert or coffee under Percy the patio heater as long as I can! Looking forward to your dining room conversion pics when it’s all done!

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 16, 2020 at 4:02 pm

      Thank you Janet for understanding my point of view on how we use our homes to meet our ever changing needs. You definitely are the one who needs, uses, and loves her dining room area. How wonderful it is for your adults living there and for your firends to enjoy not only your delicious foods but your beautiful table settings. I tell you what, if we lived close, we would be friends!

      Reply
  3. Amy Wax November 15, 2020 at 8:37 am

    What a great topic. How we use our homes is changing these days and every space should be used to it’s fullest. After not using our dining room at all for quite a while, we are actually using our dining room more than ever with small dinner parties, and I highly recommend it. Great article about a very timely topic!

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 16, 2020 at 3:55 pm

      Good for you Amy to be using your dining room for others during this difficult period of time. As you know however, many homeowners have not used their dining room for years and years even during these times so why have a dining room? Understanding how our homes either support our lifestyle or not is the root of understanding for having our homes be all that they can be for all of our changing needs.
      And congrats on being quoted in the NYT!

      Reply
  4. Lisa A Peck November 15, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    I really like the flexibility you have designed into your down sized home. You have so many great options for entertaining and they are all so beautiful

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 16, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      Thanks Lisa but you know so well that out of necessity, we designers come up with solutions to the challenges we face and this downsized home is definitely an example of just this very situation. However, I must tell you that we are beyond happy in our last best nest now. And after this winter with the remainibg projects completed, there will be even more reasons to enjoy this wonderful home and life stage.

      Reply
  5. Mary Ann Benoit November 15, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    Great ideas and you surprised me. With all your cooking and entertaining, I expected you to say of course you must have a dining room! I am one of those single people that hates cooking so doesn’t entertain much but wishes I did ….and don’t have a dining room anyway so am always envious of the beautifully set table and gorgeous meals people create.

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 16, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      Love your comment Mary Ann since you have seen all my cooking and entertaining posts leading to a bit of confusion on your part of what the heck is Mitzi really saying here/
      However, it is in my DNA to cook and entertain so stay tune to how I manuver this new life stage in our smaller downsized home. I am kicking myself that twice I negelected to photgraph my hearth room tablesetting for guests, but not next time. Thank you Mary Ann, I appreciate you.

      Reply
  6. Deborah Too-Newell November 19, 2020 at 12:02 am

    Loved reading this post, since I have been recently considering repurposing my Dining room. We do eat there daily because it is right off the kitchen. Our den was repurposed into a working office for my husband, but my daughter’s piano remained. Trying to accomade a new dining setting with a piano in the same space has been foremost on my mind!!

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 20, 2020 at 11:21 am

      Thank you Deborah for your insightful comments on all the issues of to have or not to have a dining room. But yours is at least yours is used all the time not like some that maybe see action yearly or so.
      Now, a piano in your new space reallocation, hmmmm…I bet you will figure it our and I would love to know how you do it!

      Reply
  7. Sheri Bruneau November 19, 2020 at 11:02 am

    When my parents downsized, my mom really wanted a space for a formal dining room. They are big entertainers and have friends and family over often. My mom’s dining room definitely gets used more than twice a year (well, maybe not this year). I know when we downsize, I most likely will not see the need for a formal dining room.

    Myself, we are huge outdoor people (when it’s not winter). When we re-designed our backyard and deck this past summer, I insisted on having a dedicated dining area. This past summer, that space was used almost daily!

    Great advice as always, Mitzi!

    Reply
    1. Mitzi November 20, 2020 at 11:17 am

      Love hearing about your way cool parents who entertain often, you are very fortunate to have this awesome role model. When this crazy virus is over, I will definitly be back to more entertaining. But now, we are having one or two couples over using our outdoor space or our hearth room area.
      I am so with you Sheri on insisiting on having a eating type table outdoors, as I cannot imagine why anyone would not!
      And entertaining outdoors today is so in line with how casual most of us are in the way we cook and entertainl,I would love to be your guest sometime! Imagine our conversations…:)

      Reply

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