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If these walls could talk

The dining room as the favorite family gathering place

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02/01/2008 - Twenty years ago we thought of family sit-down meals as an everyday occurrence. Now, over half of the average household food budget is spent eating out. Breakfast has become an individual grab and go affair. Lunch is nearly always eaten away from home. Too often, even if dinner is prepared at home, once plates are filled, family members scatter. When home size is limited, the dining room has often been the first space eliminated.

911 caused a trend toward spending more time at home. This "cocooning" has finally brought with it a welcome reemergence of the dining room as an important home space. Relearning how to design this area for use is worthwhile. A dining area can be a separate formal room, or a part of the kitchen or living room. Wherever this eating area is located, there are essential elements that make it functional and pleasant.

The dining area should be easily accessible to the kitchen and dish storage. The pathway to, from, and through the area should be clear. One should not have to squeeze past seated diners. The table, for greatest comfort, should be between 27 and 30 inches tall. It needs to be solid, and the ability to extend is a plus. Seating should be comfortable to encourage lingering. It should be scaled to the height of the table, and be easy to move--- casters are great. A buffet or serving counter should be within easy reach of a seated host/diner. Ventilation is a must for keeping a fresh atmosphere. Lighting should illuminate softly and without glare. To achieve this, use more than one bulb. The fixture should be placed about 36 inches above the table. A dimmer for intensity variation is a good idea. Once the practical considerations are provided for, emotional mood enhancers can create a beautiful dining experience.

If one thinks of their favorite restaurant, the food is only one of the things that make it special. The scents, sounds, and visual elements all matter. Lighting, music, service, are welcoming. Our home dining areas should be warm and welcoming also.

One of the best places to begin creating atmosphere is with color selection. Warm tones of reds and yellows stimulate both appetite and intellect. A combination of these invites great conversation and food appreciation. Soft yellows and creams, earthy oranges, elegant mahogany, and subtle apricots are all of this family. Ambience is created with a beautiful natural view or with interesting artwork. The best dining areas feel rich with visual detail, but use restraint in decoration. Always stop short of excess. Leave "scope for the imagination" as Anne of Green Gables would say.

Create a dining area that is a family gathering place by insuring easy access, emotional and physical comfort, and decorating that inspires appetite, conversation, and warmth. Perhaps the dining area will once again become the most important room in the house.

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