“There are many buyers who are absolutely seeking a formal dining space,” says Cara Ameer, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker. “Living rooms are on the wane, but people still want one space in the home where they can celebrate the holidays.” That’s the dining room all the way!
“We encourage clients to keep their formal dining room rather than knocking down those walls,” says Kerri Pilchik of K+K Interior Design. “In fact, clients who are renovating or building new homes are opting to include formal dining rooms.”
I can say from personal experience that having a formal dining room is square footage well spent. Let me count all the reasons why dining rooms deserve major props.
Reason 1: A formal dining room makes every meal feel special
Virginia Woolf once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
For me, dining well doesn’t mean standing around a kitchen island with the TV in the adjoining family room blaring in the background. For many, the kitchen might be the heart of the home, but for me, the dining room is its soul.
There’s an elegance to this separated space, and that, in turn, makes your conversation more lively and your crème brûlée that much richer. Friends and family prove to be a bit more mindful of their manners when seated around a well-set table as opposed to snack trays in front of a flat-screen TV.
While even your most basic takeout tastes better in this refined setting, dining rooms are particularly great for meals prepared with thought and care that deserve a room worthy of the cook’s efforts. You don’t need to go all “Downton Abbey” footman-in-the-corner, but you can add plenty of interest to the space.
“We love to decorate formal dining rooms because they allow for a very special treatment,” says Pilchik. “The room can be glamorous, fun, or luxurious. We always use wallpaper, floor-length curtains, and unique lighting in dining rooms. Because you don’t use it every day, you can have more fun decorating this room that you might not in others—walls, fabrics, or ceilings can be metallic, highly patterned, or dark. Lighting can be moody and romantic.
“You might love it so much you’ll want to eat every meal there,” she adds. “A formal dining room can elevate your everyday life.”
Reason 2: Formal dining rooms allow you to hide that mess in the kitchen
While I’ve stepped up my game from my old grilled-cheese days, I tend to make a mess when I cook. Sauté pans are browned, garlic skins and lemon wedges litter cutting boards, blenders and food processors are freckled with herbs and slashed with sauces.
This is where the phrase “No one wants to see how the sausage is made” is perfectly apropos. And when I close the old-fashioned swinging door that separates the kitchen from the dining room, I also shut that mess out of my mind while I enjoy my meal. I know a serious cleanup awaits, but at least I won’t lose my appetite from looking at it while I eat.
And even though I’ve improved my culinary skills, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a serious mishap or two in the kitchen from time to time. When these occur, it’s best to suffer the humiliation in private. If you’re trying to act like your masterpiece was no big deal, you definitely can’t let your guests know your roast slid onto the floor moments before you served it.
Reason 3: Keeping the kitchen separate helps you focus
Though those Food Network pros make it look like a piece of cake, it’s easy to get distracted if you’re talking with guests and slicing and dicing at the same time. Who wants to lose a finger just because they were maintaining good eye contact while splitting an avocado? Keeping the kitchen separate allows you to focus on the task at hand and save the chatting for the dinner table.
If your home lacks a distinct dining area, that doesn’t mean you can’t designate a private spot that serves the purpose and then some.
“If you don’t have a separate dining room, you can create an area in your living room by defining the space with an antique screen, beautiful area rug, or mirrors and art on the walls,” explains Kristina Phillips, Pilchik’s partner. “Lighting also can differentiate the space from the living area. Sconces on one wall and a gorgeous chandelier above the table will add to the ambience.”