Not too long ago, one of my daughters-in-law (blog handle "Preciosa," wife of son #3) and I were talking about whether or not a dining room is even necessary or practical anymore in this new age of mostly casual entertaining. She was trying to decide whether or not to transform her formal dining room into a play room for her three kids who are three-and-under. She and my son have a roomy eat-in kitchen, and their dining room is a rarely-used space. It is quite lovely, with a Pottery Barn table-and-chairs set scored on Craisglist, walls painted a deep navy blue above the chair rail, and a gallery wall filled with their eclectic collection of decorative crosses. But did they perhaps need a play room more? They have one in the basement, but having one on the main floor would be so much convenient...What to do, what to do?
In the end, my daughter-in-law decided that although my son was more than ready to pull the trigger, she was not ready (yet, anyway) to give up her dining room. And I totally get that.
I have always loved having a dining room. The one we had in our old house in NH (where we lived for 26 years before moving to VA in 2017 to be near our kids and grandkids) was enormous. Even though it had lots of furniture in it--including an antique buffet painted red, an antique reproduction pine pie safe with a punched-tin door, an antique sideboard that matches our oak dining set, and a lighted china cabinet--there was still plenty of room to navigate around the table. And we're talking about a table that can comfortably seat 10 or 12. In fact, I once set up two tables for eight in there, for a St. Patty's Day dinner party with neighbors, and it wasn't that tight.
To give you an idea of how much space we had, here are two photos from our Christmas Eve dinner in 2016, when our five boys, our four daughters-in-law, and the seven grandchildren we had at that time all came to NH for one last Christmas before our move. We had to angle the table and add a smaller one at the end to extend it, but we all fit!
I actually considered selling my large antique oak table-and-chairs, which my mom had bought at an estate sale when I was in middle school and had always been in our house when I was growing up. Mom had bequeathed the set, with its matching antique sideboard, to me when she and Dad downsized to a condo. My husband and I were about to downsize now, and I thought maybe I should think about getting something smaller, something that would look better in this sort of room. But I just couldn't do it.
The old owners, who took a minimalist approach to this room, might look at what we've done and think it looks mighty crowded, and it kind of is; but I think we've been able to make it work. The only piece we couldn't use in here is the lighted china cabinet that used to house some of our good china and crystal, which I repurposed as a display case for my porcelain dolls and put in our new master bedroom.
This old table was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law. I refinished it and gave the
beat-up top a painted faux-marble finish years ago. The pig is from my sister-in-law,
who recently bought a restaurant and found it left behind.
(I collect pigs. Does that make me weird?)
Okay then, what about you? Do you think a formal dining room is a necessity? Do you like open-concept homes, or do you like separate rooms where you can go to escape the noise and the mess every now and then? Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from you!