It’s the time of year when our dining room rises to the forefront of the most used room in the home. With Thanksgiving and Christmas entertaining, we prepare for many houseguests, welcomed and unwelcomed, as well as family and friends. There is so much advanced preparation for the perfect menu, the perfect centerpiece, and the perfect outfit. But, how many homeowners give the proper attention to the room that will host their “perfect” event?
Over the years, I have found dining rooms decreasing considerably in popularity. With the rise of the “open-plan” concept in architecture, living has become much more relaxed and people want a less formal feel. However, this has created less pageantry for presenting the most traditional Thanksgiving feast. This is a discredit to all the pain-staking preparation many home chefs provide to their guests. So I have created a short list of “must-haves” for the most beautiful and hopefully celebrated feast.
Dining Room Must-Have #1: Wallcovering
If you have been living under a design rock for the past five years, you may have missed the fact that wallcovering is back and at full tilt. Gone are the days of simply stripes or staid damasks. Patterns continue to get larger and more jubilant. But, why is it necessary or, as I say, imperative that it be in the dining room? Well, dining rooms can be visually hard with all the casegoods one typically finds in a dining room. There is typically a large table, a china cabinet or sideboard, perhaps even a linen chest. Most dining chairs are largely wood with a possible padded seat. So, in order to instantly create visual softness I like to place a floral or arabesque design on the walls. This helps skew the hard corners of the room, as well as the hard edges of the casegoods. One other great benefit is the acoustic benefit you get from placing paper, or even more luxurious, upholstery on the walls. This helps catch sound and create a more cocooning effect to offset the clink of crystal and porcelain. Also, if it has a metallic finish, it picks up the glint of candlelight beautifully.
Dining Room Must-Have #2: Multiple layers of lighting
Please, for the love of all that’s holy to the design gods, do not simply place a single chandelier in the center of your dining room and consider it complete! Most rooms I create have multiple layers of light. What this means is you have light from the ceiling, as well as mid-level, such as a sconce or lamp. Another level would be candlelight, which is a must for a night meal, especially. (Everyone looks good in candlelight.) The goal with lighting in a dining room is to create a mood, not to just light a table. If you want people to linger, put the chandelier on a dimmer so you can have more control on the main light source and then place smaller wattage bulbs in lamps and sconces to create pools of light around the room. Your guests will be put at ease, stay longer and look better. Everyone’s a winner in that scenario!
Dining Room Must-Have #3: A beautifully set table
When so much effort goes into create a beautiful dining room, don’t forget to fit it with proper china. Now, here I use the term “china” liberally to mean dishes. It doesn’t have to be formal, but it must be visually cohesive. Look for colors that can complement the rooms color scheme, or be bold with a contrasting color to create a more dynamic effect. Coordinating china for your dining room actually enhances and draws more attention to your room’s décor. Also, you want to keep in mind that food will be on the plate, so avoid too much pattern as to not take away from the real star—you, darling!
Dining Room Must-Have #4: A statement chandelier
Just as a bed is the star of the bedroom, the chandelier is the star of the dining room. I mean, it hangs from the ceiling, suspended as from the sky for heaven’s sake. So, it inherently draws attention. This is why I replace so many chandeliers. Homeowners usually select a sad standard model that fits into their lighting budget. Or, they are just afraid to take a design risk so they settle for the ordinary. Be daring! Crystal, brass or stones—we are seeing everything from shells to antlers on chandeliers, so anything goes. Just make it a showstopper.
Dining Room Must-Have #5: Beautiful and comfortable seating
Let me start with this fact: dining chairs are expensive. This fact is lost on many clients. They want a beautiful dining room, but when I design and price the cost, they hyperventilate on the cost of the dining chairs. Two things are at play here.
1 . A domestically made upholstered dining chair is expensive. Why? Well, a craftsman has carefully placed springs (for comfort) and many times nail-head trim (lots of time to put these on) and beautiful fabric (also expensive) on one item.
2. Now, multiply that expensive single chair by 8 or 10! Wowzers!
This stops the dining room train, or derails it. Either way it takes a couple of weeks for the client to get back on the track after understanding the expense and necessity. The chairs really are the only upholstery in most dining rooms, so they must be beautiful since they are one of the only fabric covered items to look at. And, they must be comfortable in order to keep your guests at the table. Don’t skimp on great dining chairs. They are worth the investment and you’ll have them for years to enjoy.
Bonus Must-Have: Delightful conversation, of course!
No dining room is as beautiful as it is when it’s filled with the company of family and friends actually enjoying the room. By following this list of must-haves, you and your dining room will shine for all to enjoy this holiday.