17 Mar 2015

Top 9 things to consider when planning the perfect dining room

New Homes | Renovations | Tips and Advice

There is no doubting the charm of a well appointed formal dining room.

In days gone by dining rooms use to see plenty of action. Evening meals, weekend roasts or entertaining family and friends were far more commonplace.

But today many meals seem to be eaten on the run or in front of a television or computer and family sit down meal times seem to be far less frequent. But does this mean the end of the formal dining room?

Well, thanks to various cooking shows like My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef, dining rooms that had been lying dormant are suddenly back in vogue. But even if you’re not into formal entertaining or cooking up a storm, there are design tips and tricks that can increase the functionality of this often underused area.

So here are the top 9 things that you need to consider when planning the perfect dining room:

1. Do you need one?

Might sound like an odd question, but do you actually need a dedicated dining room? Do you plan on having a lot of sit down meals with your family or friends, or would a dedicated dining room be a wasted space within your home?

Modern designs often turn the dining room into a multi-function, multi-use space allowing it also to be used as a study, reading room/library or even a home office when not being used for meals. Separating dining rooms from the busier living areas of the home are particularly useful for these other functions.

2. How will you use this space?

To get the perfect design for your home, you must first work out how you will use this space. Will it be used for family meals, or for entertaining guests? If the majority of the use will be for your immediate family, a more connected, less formal design might better suit your needs – along the lines of an open kitchen/dining room.

However, if you intend to use this space more formally, then it’s hard to go past a dedicated dining room that can be shut off from other areas of the home. It’s great at the end of an enjoyable evening’s entertaining, to have the option to simply close the doors and leave the clean up until morning.

3. How many people do you need to cater for?

It is common today to have your dining table next to the kitchen. While practical it creates a different atmosphere to a separate formal dining room.

This is more easily answered once you have decided how your dining room is to be used. Often family meals are eaten at a table in the kitchen/living room area rather than the dining room itself. However, with a well-designed dining room, you might find yourself using this space more often for family dining.

If you intend to use this area for guests how many are there likely to be at any one time including yourself and your family? Will younger children be dining as well and if so, will they be dining in this area or the less formal setting in the living areas? Unless you intend to entertain large groups of people regularly, it probably pays to cater more for your predicted average number of diners utilising clever design tricks to allow the area to cater for larger groups if and when needed.

4. What dining table is best going to suit your needs?

The answer to this is two-fold, given there are both practical and aesthetic considerations. From a practical point of view, extendable tables can be very useful when it comes to catering for larger groups. This allows you to keep the table to an intimate size for smaller gatherings with the flexibility to accommodate more should the need arise.

Personally, I like round tables for smaller spaces and smaller groups as this enables all people to engage in conversation equally. However larger spaces often lend themselves to oval or rectangular tables and suit larger groups.

The style of table comes down to your taste and should ideally suit the level of formality that your dining room is designed to cater for. There are limitless options available, but those options may be limited by the size of table you require.

5. What size table do you need?

If there is one main reason why you should have an architect design your dining room – particularly an architect that also offers interior design  – it is because your room needs to cater for the size and style of furniture that it will have in it. Too often I see dining rooms become crammed to the point of becoming unusable simply because the room has not been designed to accommodate the size of the table, chairs and other furniture that the owner has purchased.

It’s important that your table comfortably accommodates the number of guests you intend to entertain. Each guest should have around 60-70cm of eating space width-wise and between 50-70cm of distance across the table to allow for any centrepieces or serving platters. Based on this we would suggest rectangular tables be around 2-2.5m long and 90-140cm wide for up to 6 people. Allow an additional 60cm for each pair of additional guests (i.e. 2.6-3.1m long and 90-140cm wide for 8 people etc).

Round or octagonal/hexagonal tables are calculated somewhat differently with a table for 6 people ideally being 1.4-1.8m in diameter and an additional 30cm of diameter for each pair of additional guests (e.g. 1.7-2.1m for 8 people).

6. Which chairs to choose?

A friend of mine told me that his father would often say ‘Don’t make them too comfortable, the bludgers will never leave’. Not sure who he was inviting around, but choosing chairs can be a tricky business. They need to look good with the table and the overall design of the room, as well as being comfortable enough to sit in through a number of courses.

One option is to simply buy a dining suite where the chairs and tables come together as a set. But don’t be frightened to stray from this predictable path and buy tables and chairs separately. Some stunning results come from thinking outside the square when it comes to dining room seating.

7. What size room?

If your dining room is to reach its full potential it needs to allow easy movement in and out of the space.

To allow people to comfortably get in and out of their chairs and move around the table when required, you should ideally allow between 110cm and 120cm from the wall to the edge of the table. Of course, if you have other furniture in the room, such as sideboards or buffets you will need to allow this distance to the edge of those features rather than the wall that they are sitting against.

If this isn’t practical given the space available, we can potentially assist you with design options that can cater for larger numbers. For example sliding, or concertina doors might be an option to allow more space on one side of the table when required. Built in seating under a window or along a wall is potentially another option. This is why tailored solutions by talented, experienced architects make such a big difference to the functionality of any dining room design

8. Where in your home will your dining room be positioned?

From a practical point of view, your dining room needs to be easily accessible from your food preparation area. Dining carts are an option for transporting meals to and from your kitchen; however, you still want to keep this distance to a minimum.

It is also desirable that your dining room is closely related to your general entertaining area. The ability to open up the spaces or close them off is also highly beneficial. Allowing you to keep the area intimate during the meal but then still keeping the two spaces connected once the meal has concluded should you choose to do so. External access to a suitable outdoor area such as a balcony or courtyard can also be an asset particularly if you’re entertaining smokers.

9. How will you make your dining room a comfortable place to entertain?

shorncliffe workers cottage renovation interior view

There’s a wealth of tips and tricks that I could share with you, but the main ones are good lighting, good temperature control and good acoustics.

Lighting should not be bright and harsh, but nor should it be dull. Dimmer switches and separate switches for overhead and wall mounted lights allow the flexibility to get lighting levels just right. If you wish to go with an overhead feature light, like a chandelier I would strongly recommend having it connected to a dimmer switch to avoid casting harsh shadows.

Dining rooms filled with plates of hot food can become uncomfortably hot very quickly, and nobody wants to sit in a stuffy room perspiring through a number of courses. Nor do they want to freeze to death. Windows that capture refreshing breezes are excellent when those breezes are blowing, but I would strongly recommend a quality reverse cycle air-conditioning system for those times when external climatic conditions are less than ideal.

There is nothing quite like the buzz of a dinner party in full swing, but the quality of sound is what makes it so enjoyable. The correct type of insulation in the walls and ceiling can result in the perfect rich tones, without harsh echo’s that make even the rowdiest of gatherings music to the ears. While it might be a little thing, it’s the little things that make the difference between a good dining room and a great one.

Additional hints and tips

  • If possible have your dining room designed so it captures a desirable view. There is nothing like sitting back at the end of a meal taking in a beautiful vista.
  • Consider various storage options. Buffets are popular, but something like wall to ceiling shelving can also work well.
  • As a general rule narrow tables work best in long, narrow rooms, round tables are better suited to square rooms.
  • Keep centrepieces like floral arrangements or vases low so they are not obstructing the view of people sitting on either side of the table.
  • Change your centrepieces regularly, along with any table coverings, art or feature pieces on shelves or side boards to reinvigorate your dining room.
  • Mirrors can look magical in dining rooms, but their positioning is crucial. They should be at eye level when standing but positioned so that people are not watching themselves eat. Mirrors can enhance the lighting effect within a dining room.

If you are considering renovating your home, please give us a call (07 3899 9450) at dion seminara architecture, and we will explain our architectural services to you.

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