Most people agree there is an art to designing a beautiful, welcoming, and functional room. But once you’re in the thick of designing the perfect-for-you dining room, you might find yourself bumping up against traditionally left-brained subjects like science and mathematics. (Even interior design is ruled by the laws of time and space.)
As much as the art of dining room design is foremost in people’s minds, the science of it must be respected and researched first to have a truly functional space. If the room looks beautiful but is uncomfortable to live in, the design has failed.
Begin with the practicalities. Ask yourself why you’re considering dedicating a space in your home to formal dining. Do you have a more casual kitchen area dining table for everyday lunches and dinners? How – and how often – will you use a formal dining room? In a smaller home, you may decide to forgo a dedicated formal dining room altogether and use this room for something else – like a home office, playroom for the kids, an exercise area, or – even as a place for the family to play pool tournaments!
If you entertain frequently, a dedicated formal fining room makes more sense. But even in this case, explore the possibility of a duo-use for this room. A dining room/library is one elegant multipurpose solution.
Once you’ve decided to move forward with a formal dining room, ensure its adjacencies make sense. It should be near the kitchen (or catering kitchen if you have that amenity). As well, more than one entrance into this room avoids guests having to form a line to file into the room. Consider which other rooms you also use frequently when entertaining. Perhaps the other doorway in the dining room could lead to your living room.
It's surprising (to my childhood self quite skeptical of my teacher’s claims that “Math is used in all of life.”) how often in design math comes to the rescue. Here are some of the key numbers and formulae needed to create a truly comfortable dining room:
Tables: - The right size table should allow for at least 30” between the edges of the table and any obstructions, like walls, sideboards, and doorways. This is the minimum space required for diners to pull out their chairs and set themselves. Ideally, your table will allow for 48” between it and obstructions for maximum comfort. - If there is more than six feet between the edges of your table and your walls, it will appear too small for the space. An easy solution if you prefer a more intimate table is purchasing one with leaves to install when the table isn’t actively in use.
Chandeliers: - There is a formula for this: Add the length and width of your room together (in feet). Then convert this number to inches and you have the ideal diameter for your chandelier. - Another chandelier number: Its bottom should be between 24” to 36” above your table. - The exact center of the ceiling isn’t always the best place for your chandelier. They should be centered over the table, which isn’t always centered in the room. The one in the photo is 36” above the table.
Area Rugs: - The edges of your area rug should be at least 30” away from the edges of the tables. Otherwise, guests will have a difficult time sliding out their chairs.
Sideboards: - These should be 12-18” deep ideally, and as wide as your room can comfortably fit them. Here’s a built-in example:
Place Settings: - Ideally, table settings should each take up a 30” width of the tabletop, with no less than 24” allotted. If your table doesn’t allow for this, you might want to add another table elsewhere for your guests.
Centerpiece: - Keep the candles, flowers, or other centerpiece decorations low enough to not inhibit conversation between guests.
This blog hopefully will get you started on planning the ideal dining room for you and your family. It is by no means an exhaustive list. Books have been written about this topic that go into far greater detail than is possible here. As with designing any other room in your home, begin with the practical functions of the space and then use your imagination to turn that practical beginning into graceful beauty. If the thought of all this boggles your mind, we can help with the design of this and any other room in your home. Call or email us to set up your complimentary Discovery Call.
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