In your house - make the most of your dining room

Whether your dining room is large or small, or simply an area within the living room or kitchen, by choosing the right furnishings and decorative scheme you can create an atmosphere entirely conducive to eating and entertaining.

Modern open-plan living tends to dispense with the notion of a separate dining room in favour of eating areas that flow seamlessly between all the living areas. The open-plan living trend has developed for a number of reasons: modern homes are smaller, with just not enough space for a dedicated dining room, the modern lifestyle prefers a space where the homeowners can entertain and mingle with their friends and families while preparing meals, and lastly, because of the fact that most families prefer to eat casual meals in the kitchen, leaving the dining room largely unused for the majority of time.
Today’s open-plan dining areas are not just used for eating meals – they are multipurpose areas used as a makeshift office, homework room, craft area, gathering place, as a preparation area, and so on. This is important to keep in mind when you are planning the d├ęcor and layout of this particular space.
Basic planning
Any dining area needs careful planning – tables that are too small for instance, with cramped space for pulling back chairs, and inadequate surfaces for serving, all add up to unnecessary mealtime frustrations. As a rule of thumb, each person sitting around a table requires around 600mm of space on either side, and about 500mm from the table edge to the back of the chair. It is best to experiment yourself to find the amount of space you feel happiest with both for sitting at the table and getting in and out of the dining chairs. Also, make sure that there is adequate knee room underneath the table – be particularly careful when matching an antique table with contemporary chairs, or vice versa.

Choosing dining furniture
You can buy dining furniture as a set or you can make up your own combinations. However, if you opt for the latter, it is essential that you ensure that both the height of the table and the chairs work comfortably together. Visually speaking, some of the most stunning results often come from an extreme contrast in styles. For example, heavily carved antique wooden chairs can look impressive when teamed up with a minimalist glass dining table. Transparent Perspex Ghost Chairs work exceptionally well with antique wooden tables. Such unusual combinations take a bit of decorating nerve, but do create exciting effects.
Remember that dining chairs are often subjected to rough treatment, being pulled back and forth, and tilted on their back legs. In the long run, it pays to buy well-made chairs. Look for stretcher rails between the chair legs – these add to the strength of the construction – and inspect the joints to see that they are well made.
Benches are sold as an alternative to chairs, and are particularly useful in areas with limited space. Benches do not need as much space to pull back, and they generally can seat more people in the same amount of space than chairs. For example, in a corner space – a built-in upholstered bench running around two or three sides can save a great deal of space. However, he disadvantage of any bench is that everyone seated at the same bench has to get in and out at the same time.
Where space is limited, it is a good idea to choose rectangular or square-shaped tables, which can be extended to fit extra people. Other suitable space-saving alternatives include those tables that fold flat against the wall or the drop-leaf styles that fold down to take up very little space. Otherwise there is the popular traditional gate-leg style – but if you opt for this style, make sure that it is well made and sturdy.
A sideboard is a traditional way of providing more storage and many styles are available to match every conceivable style of table and chairs. However, if you are short of space, a floor-to-ceiling unit will provide more storage in the same amount of space as a traditional sideboard. Remember that it is useful to incorporate a surface for serving food into your storage arrangement, which can hold extra dishes when entertaining. A conveniently placed electric point is also a very useful addition, as this will allow you to operate various appliances, such as a hot plate, a coffee percolator, a toaster, and so on.

Lighting is an important consideration – it is essential that people seated around a table should to be disturbed by the glare from any unshaded bulbs. Pendant lamps hung low over the table are always effective, as recessed spots. However, arguably, the best fittings of all are the rise-and-fall-type models, which can be lowered for an intimate atmosphere, and then pulled up to provide a better overall light. – Antonella Desi

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