Debating the future of the dining room

Is the dining room dead?


Los Angeles-based interior designer Lori Dennis thinks so, and explained why during her panel at the Pacific Design Center’s recent Fall Market.

But home furnishings sources like Arteriors see a promising future for the dining room, and its panel at What’s New, What’s Next at the New York Design Center a week earlier took a different approach.

How do designers and brands servicing similar demographics come to opposite conclusions? Initially, they may seem at odds, but they’re getting at the same thing:

Homeowners are re-evaluating how to best use their spaces, starting with the rooms they use least often. The formal dining room, as we’ve known it, is dead. It’s being converted into a variety of creative, often casual, flex spaces for daily use.

The end of formality

There is what the kids (or, really, adult millennial homeowners) call a “vibe shift” happening.

Many people want to relax and have a little more fun, and that attitude is reflected in the products and aesthetics consumers are seeking. Other furnishings are moving into the dining room now, besides the traditional dining table, eight chairs and a buffet.

Consumers are asking for tables that can be dining tables but also work desks. Then they want to flip them over so they become play space, like the sleek custom game tables designed by brands like 11 Ravens. Formal dining rooms are becoming game rooms with pool tables and home bars. Some people are keeping the space open as a dance floor with disco balls, fun lighting and art. 

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A flex space

Harlem, New York-based interior designer Sheila Bridges, creator of the Harlem Toile de Jouy brand, describes today’s dining room as the new “workhorse of the household.” She recently designed a versatile table with several leaves, allowing for different seating configurations. It can seat four to 24 people, depending on whether the space is being used as a home office or to entertain dozens of guests.

To accommodate such diverse uses, dining room lighting needs to change, too. Dining rooms have traditionally been lit with moody, ambient dinnertime lighting in mind. With these spaces being used day to night, they demand more flexible lightings schemes.

Fine dining at home

Many of these dining room shifts are a result of people spending more time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic and discovering that their homes didn’t always fit how they want to live now. Unable to — or uninterested in — dining out, some consumers are recreating the atmosphere of a restaurant at home.

One of designer Greg Roth’s clients had him do just that. Roth, who is senior interior designer at LA-based CarbonShack and Home Front Build, designed a long, narrow dining table to accommodate 24 people and designed the space to feel like a fine dining establishment.

Will this become a trend? I don’t know, but it’s yet another way consumers are rethinking the dining room.

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