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Beyond the dining room

Beyond the dining room
The dining table is near the work/buffet/breakfast island in thi
Where Do You Really Eat?

This is not a trick question. The truth is that most of us seldom eat in the dining room these days. We are all too busy to “dine”, and, of course, mealtimes are much more casual than when we were growing up.

As you plan your new home, creating a dedicated dining room may be a little moral dilemma. If you only use your existing dining room for holiday dinners or entertaining 3 to 4 times a year, then is a dining room necessary? Maybe you simply walk through it on the way to elsewhere. If this is the case for you, perhaps, there is a better way to integrate an eating space near the kitchen which serves both your entertaining and family gathering needs. [One possibility is shown above, at the top of this post in Plan 928-9, and below 
in Plan 901-11, with a dining table

near the kitchen island.] 

You may have already committed to a formal dining space. If so, consider how else you might make effective use of the space on a day-today basis.  With a little advanced planning, dining rooms have been converted to hideaway home offices, a reading room, or even a place to listen to music. That way, this double-duty space becomes used more frequently to fit your family’s own lifestyle. Convert them back to rooms for infrequent feasting, and then you have the best of both worlds.

If you elect to forego a formal dining room, then plan adequate space for entertaining adjacent to your kitchen or family room.  Your table is the biggest piece of furniture you have to deal with. How many can it comfortably accommodate? Do you want to expand its seating capacity from time to time?

[This dining area sits between a home office (see the book shelves) and the kitchen and is adjacent to the living room with its two-sided fireplace, Plan 924-4.]

Chairs should be comfortable and not crowd the table.  If you need extra chairs for larger parties, where will you store them on a day-to-day basis?

The next issue is dish and glass storage as well as table linens. Can they be stowed in the kitchen or do you need a proper cabinet or buffet for this purpose? This piece of furniture or even built-in cabinetry may require

wall space.  Place this as conveniently near the table as possible. [An example is shown here in Plan 481-5.]

Lastly, think of serving and clearing space in planning where you eat.  How far will you have to go to serve your meal? Then think about how far the return trip is. A stylish cart can multitask in bringing out and removing food, wine, plates and glasses. However, remember you need a convenient place to store it.

The whole point is to create comfortable eating space wherever you locate it.

Eating Area Planning Guide
A few guidelines to get you started with your new eating room:

-- Tables never exist without chairs, so allow an extra 30-36 inches for the chairs to fit comfortably around a table. This gives you passer-by space without squeezing or push-back space at the end of a meal without hitting a wall or nearby furniture.

-- Round [Plan 48-433, above] or large square tables are more relaxed than oval or rectangular ones. This is because there is no “head” of the table. A 54-inch round table seats 6, while a 72-inch one seats 8.
The equivalent oval or rectangular table is 36 inches by 60 inches to seat 6. Similarly, 36 inches by 72 inches table will accommodate 8 persons.

-- Many tables come with an extra leaf or two. Consider where to store these leaves conveniently. Some new tables have leaves built in so the task of enlarging the table becomes almost effortless.

-- Lighting the table does not necessarily require a single chandelier or light fixture.  If your new eating space is near the kitchen, you may want to coordinate the style and finish with the main lighting.

“Bottom test” any chairs you select.  Take time to sit a while and seriously evaluate their comfort level. Chairs should be easy to move or push away from the table after eating.

-- Not enough room for a table and chairs? A long counter with bar stools is the next best solution [Plan 928-13, above]. Measure the height of the counter or table. To sit comfortably allow 10 to 12 inches between the top of the seat and the bottom of the eating surface. You will also need 25 to 30 inches from the center of one stool to the next.

-- How many stools can you fit at the counter? Divide the length in inches by 28, and that’s how many stools will fit.
For a collection of plans with eat-in kitchens and great rooms click here.

Gale Steves is the author of Right-Sizing Your Home: How To Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle, and former editor-in-chief of Home.        

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