Seven strategies to reinvent your dining room
Whether it's a formal space for fancy feasting with relatives on holidays or a more casual area where a big table, cabinet and hutch hog most of the square footage, the dining room has outlived its usefulness for many homeowners, serving instead as a spot where dust gathers and people don't.
But with available living space valued more highly since the onset of the pandemic, plenty of homeowners are reinventing this room to better accommodate current needs and wants.
"Dining rooms are often wasted space in many homes. They look pretty as you walk in the front door, and you may use them a couple of times of year to dine. But the truth is that, when family and friends get together, nobody wants to be segregated to the dining room; they want to be where the action is," says Laura Suglia-Isgro, principal designer for KAS Interior Design in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Fernanda Bertrand, co-founder/owner of Seattle-based Upstaging Seattle, agrees.
"Formal dining rooms are no longer enticing for today's homebuyers and owners. There is a new sense of intentionality about square footage and creating spaces that reflect their lifestyles without being tied to formality," she says.
Other nails in the dining room's coffin? Many Americans eat meals in the kitchen at a smaller table or kitchen island, people are hosting fewer guests for meals because of the coronavirus, and serving in a formal dining room often prompts homeowners to use fancier dishware and silverware, which is a hassle.
These are among the reasons why folks like Brent Lovett, a homeowner in Las Vegas, have transformed or flexed their dining rooms for fresh purposes.
"Instead of knocking down or building walls and doors in the space, we split our dining room into two portions separated by floor-to-ceiling curtains," he says. "The lion's share of the room went to a meditation space formerly occupied by the dining table, which I customized to be able to collapse or set up quickly; that table is now concealed behind another decorative curtain in the room. On the other side of the curtain, I installed workout equipment for a home gym."
Love Lovett's spatial ingenuity and design derring-do? Here are seven ideas for repurposing your dining room/area:
1. Turn it into a hobby haven.
"I wanted a craft room off the kitchen that would enable me to work, watch the kids playing in the backyard, and access the kitchen to cook meals," says Shannon Peel, a Vancouver homeowner. "The dining room was the perfect solution, as I had lots of room to set up organizational shelves with doors to hide all the pieces of my hobbies. When we had a big family Christmas dinner, I set up my folding craft tables and put a large tablecloth over them so that we could flex the room back into a dining area."
2. Convert it to a home office.
"A closed-off dining room could easily be turned into a home office for those that may need it," suggests Suglia-Isgro. You can even use the dining table as a workspace or desk and remove your equipment when it's time to host a meal. The challenge here, as with other ideas on this list, is ensuring privacy, which may involve building a wall with a door, or perhaps installing French doors that can be more easily removed later, if necessary.
3. Create a study or library.
"Add a few bookshelves, some tastefully chosen furniture, and perhaps an electric fireplace and you have a great spot to read and get some quiet," notes Jeanette Chasworth, a certified interior designer in Pasadena, California.
4. Fashion a yoga/meditation sanctuary.
"Take most of the furniture out of the room and get some salt lamps, yoga mats, candles and calming pictures and you'll have an ideal place to reset and rejuvenate," Chasworth says.
5. Craft a kid-friendly zone.
If you have younger children, empty the room, bring in the toy box, and let playtime happen. Or, reinvent it as a gaming room complete with TV, game console, beanbag chairs, foosball or air hockey table, and board game/puzzle table.
6. Make it a multi-task space.
"Using walls and partitions, I've divided dining rooms into multiple spaces such as a powder room, cloak closet and pantry, which can help add additional needed spaces to the first floor of the home," Suglia-Isgro recommends.
7. Build a new bedroom.
Wall up the room with a new door, insert a bed, nightstand, small desk, and wardrobe cabinet and you've got instant living quarters for a boomerang child or in-law.