Out of the blue, a realtor contacted me the other day. She wanted to show a couple our home on the coast of Rhode Island. (We’re a ten minute walk to the beach). While, we are planning on down-sizing in a couple of years, we thought, why not?
There wasn’t time to do a full home over-haul, but my daughters and I did a massive konmari purge. That sure felt good!
Okay, I’ll get to the point. Here’s the feedback:
- The colors need updating.
- The house felt a bit too lived in for the family.
- The dining room should be a living room or a family room– People don’t do dining rooms any longer; maybe stage it with some other seating.
Am I the only idiot who serves 25 for Christmas dinner? Hosts 40 women for a baby shower or makes dinner on a Tuesday night and serves on china with linen napkins just to be civilized? I want and need a dedicated dining room!
So I am thinking, maybe dining rooms are out?
Sorry, I kind of needed to just get that off my chest. Even though I am happily living here, I have taken your advice to heart: when you are ready to sell, it isn’t your home, and just prep it to sell. So while I am not giving up my spaces just yet, I may have to budge when the time comes.
I’d love to see a blog post about this if it works for you.
Hold on a sec. I was rolling my eyes so hard that one of them popped right out and I have to go and fetch it and see if it’ll go back in.
Oh never mind. One eye is fine. ;]
I think that you know what’s coming.
Of course, you’re not an idiot or nuts or anything. And your home is gorgeous!
The realtors remark that dining rooms are passé can’t be completely true!
In fact, I find it a little sad that somebody wouldn’t want a dedicated dining room in a home your size. And furthermore, I can’t recall ever having a client in over 20 years who didn’t want a separate dining room.
Of course, some will have to have a dining room and some won’t want it at all. Can’t please everyone! And don’t the buyers have enough gray matter to figure that they don’t have to use the room in the same way as the previous owner?
However, there is a trend to use the dining room for more than one purpose in some homes.
It all depends on the size of the home and how casual or formal it is. And the lifestyle of the owners.
Sorry about the poor quality image. We had these two back to back settees and the rest of the furniture were chairs. The settees could be used for seating at 5 card tables she stacked together with a large table-cloth. There were two occasional chairs for the ends and everything else got pushed into the corners or in the family room.
It worked beautifully!
These folks also put a pool table in their living room. That’s all that would fit in there.
A lot of people use their dining rooms as libraries and/or office space
I like the mix of furnishings.
I think that Mark Sikes just styled his dining room with books, but I like it.
photo from Milieu via Cote De Texas
Fabulous home of Caroline Sieber
Let’s go back to Anon’s home.
The prospective buyers weren’t digging the colors and thought it looked too “lived in.” That’s code for it could use a new paint job.
Full disclosure. Anon is a friend of mine and believe me when I tell you that her home is immaculate. Albeit, it hasn’t been painted in a while.
And it’s a coastal home.
- More blue and white.
While I think that the yellow is very pretty, it is a tougher color to use when selling a home, unless the buyer is me. haha!
Let’s look at some more coastal-type dining rooms
This dining room reminds me a lot of Anon’s. I could see her adapting something like this and it wouldn’t break the bank.
These are very affordable and remind me of the antique Indian Dhurries at Madeline Weinrib. But those are thousands.
Well, food for thought? Some are thinking about getting their homes ready for selling this spring. Here’s another post where I go into my philosophy of home staging.
And here’s another post where I helped the homeowners give a coastal feeling to their renovation.
I know this is an older post, but I had to weigh in a bit. Your friend’s dining room is lovely and her relator is absolutely nuts! I am 32 and I love love love my formal living and dining rooms! When my husband and I bought our home, we were 27 and the top item on the wish list was a formal living and dining room. And the number one deal breaker for me was…OPEN CONCEPT. Just yuck! I love a house with rooms. I also live in a coastal community in, you guessed it, FLORDIA! I cook almost every night (unless we go out socially) and we have dinner in our formal dining room. For us, it’s a relaxing time to unwind and talk about our day. My son is not yet one and he sits at the table with us (in a high chair, of course). When we have another couple or two over for dinner or card games it’s the perfect spot to hang out. And I can’t begin to tell you how many people admire the dining room and tell us how much they wish their home had one! Young or old, cook or not, entertainer or not, a space to spend time with the people you love will never go out of style!
Oh, this is so wonderful. And you know… I have never lived in a home with a separate dining room. There are a lot of things I’ve never had, but also I lot of things I’ve received that I never dreamed I would!
Thanks so much for sharing. I was just a little older than you when I had my first child. Please enjoy all!
I have to admit that the first thing I did when we bought our house was turn the dining room into a library. A dining room is just absolutely unnecessary for me (and we don’t even have an eat-in kitchen)but a library is a must. Our house is quite small, coming in at just under 1000sf (although our semi-finished basement adds another 200sf to the mix). With three kids, a room that is only used once or twice a day just doesn’t make any sense for our family. However, at least where we live, most people have dining rooms; so if we’re ever fortunate enough to be able to sell, one of the first things I would do would be to turn our library back into a dining room.
I always say to do whatever works best for you and your family. And it doesn’t matter if 99% of the rest do it a different way.
I have a library dining room with a 9 ft farmhouse table in a converted sitting room (fireplace on one side, windows on the other). I call the table my “thinking table” — if it’s empty, I can think, otherwise wait until I tidy up! There is something about that empty table that wants to be filled — with people, with projects. I adore that room.
This is the first house I have with a small enclosed (original 50s) kitchen, just big enough for a table and a bench seat in the corner. I thought about opening it when we moved in, but then I realized it’s a cook’s dream. Perfect setup, amazing amount of cupboard space for size, no wasted movement, and 5 people can somehow mill around without actually impeding the cook. Magic! I don’t care if it will be a resale issue, nobody touches this kitchen.
I love that. “Nobody touches this kitchen!”
I had a terrible neighbor come into my home for the first time shortly after we moved in. We were sitting in the front living room after getting a “tour” of the 1st floor (entryway, office, kitchen, family room, living room, dining room, sun room). She had the audacity to say that we had 3 rooms that were “wasted” bc we’ll never use them (office, dining room, front LR). She was very wrong and I smiled and waved when she moved!
Like it’s any of her business to begin with! geeezzz
I’ve heard the rumor about dining rooms being passé for 20+ years, and the converse as well. I don’t understand why it makes any difference since it’s so easy to convert a room from dining to living or exercise or office or whatever. I concur that a 5500 sf home should have a formal dining room. The realtor seems like she’s nit picking. . Lovely pictures, by the way.
Thanks Susie and I agree completely.
I’ve read the post and comments with great interest. Sometimes the privacy, utility and beauty of a dining room is sacrificed to a reno in order to provide a more functional kitchen, closet, mudroom or powder room or laundry. These elements are often already in present in homes where the dining room is considered wasted space. Sometimes it’s not money that keeps homeowners from enlarging the footprint of a home. Many older homes cannot be bumped out in the front or sides or even the rear due to lot dimensions or zoning.
I hope Anon in RI continues to enjoy her light-filled, comfortable, cozy New England year-round home just as it is until she decides to move. Sounds like realtors will want to market it as a coastal second home. They should stage it using your suggestions above plus your staging post for guidance.
Laurel, have a wonderful time in Orlando. Great way to kick off the year. Kudos!
Well said Libby! And thanks so much!
I think her dining room is beautiful. Im 31 years old and I don’t think dining rooms are out. I love separate rooms. I’m not a big fan of yellow and I do think yellow will be a hard sell. I think it would be easier to sell if she just repainted the room. I love love love her dining table and chairs.
Thanks Amy for proving that young people also appreciate fine things like beautiful architecture and classic furnishings.
Hi Laurel and others!
We live 30 minutes from Williamsburg, VA and the traditional look is prominent here. We renovated our house a few years ago, added on a master bedroom and our old dining room became our master bath. Our old living room became our “new” dining room. I have lots lamps now for lighting since we don’t have a chandelier. We plan to put our house on the market this spring, so we will add a chandelier to help “specify” the space as a dining room. My thought: Perhaps dining rooms are a “regional” thing. Even condos in nearby senior living communities have separate dining rooms. I think around in these parts, dining rooms are here to stay.
Yes, Williamsburg is epitome of traditional! But the entire east coast, (except for FL) New England is heavy on colonial and cape style homes. Or at least, homes with separate rooms. I love walls and coziness. I don’t want to live in a barn. I don’t get it.
I think your friends house sounds lovely and as long as she loves it she shouldn’t change a thing about it unless she wants to sell. We use our dining room for every lunch and dinner (and I also use linen napkins). We renovated our kitchen which now has two islands. The back of the larger island has counter chairs which my son and I use for breakfast (my husband takes a handful of choc. chips for breakfast which doesn’t warrant sitting down). I enjoy cooking and frankly, when I’m done, I don’t want to see the mess of pots and pans while I’m eating, nor am I hosting a cooking show so I dislike it when guests hang around the kitchen talking to me when I’m cooking (timing, organizing etc.). Love your blog – it always makes my smile and I’ve learned so much.
Thanks so much Sarah! And I agree. Anon’s home is incredibly lovely and the right people will come along and love it too!
Anon’s dining room is just beautiful, and I’m hoping that you can maybe persuade her to share (some of?) the rest of the house — please?! Love all of the windows and the lovely greenery outdoors. And I adore the yellow, which always looks so warm and cheery, but then I have a yellow kitchen, dining room, and bedroom.
Our original eat-in kitchen was quite small and narrow, so we several years ago we (gasp) added on a dining room, open to the kitchen. It’s terrific and we now wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.
The coastal and blue + white photos you posted make me think that prospective buyers for Anon’s house might be expecting something along the lines of Nancy Meyers/Something’s Gotta Give style, so that might be something to keep in mind when/if the time comes for Anon to ready the house for a sale.
I was thinking about the SGG house too! I was drooling the entire movie!
Will be down-sizing in a few years so I-m trying to see our house through the eyes of a young person. I don’t think many of them cook, much less use a formal dining room. When we bought our first house I actually used the family room as a dining room. I had been dreaming of a huge table where we would gather with family and friends. Our next house has a dining area off the living room. When not used for dining it has been used for puzzles, various homework projects, Boy scout meetings, and a travel planning space where we can spread out maps and books for weeks at a time if we wish. I guess it is a not-too formal dining room that has served many meals, bridal showers, and birthday parties.
That sounds like a well-loved/used space. I think that there really is no one-size fits all and that probably goes for just about everything.
I’m young (I think! 36 with 2 young children:). And I love to cook and so do most of my friends. We use our dining rooms for holidays but also book club, tea parties (that’s right, we’re silly and throw fun tea parties!), playing board games and cards, and play rooms. My dining room is very stark with just a table (we pull in chairs from all over the house when needed). The kids use the table as a fort most days but I wouldn’t want a house without a dining room. 🙂
Yes, you are young! I think that tea parties are the best!
My daughter recently sold her home and used a stager, painted over all the deep color with a soft white and purged big time. She said it was like living in a model home which is hard with three young ones but it sold quickly. Now they’re in a much bigger home for their growing family.
I gave up my dining room when I downsized. I love my eat in kitchen and don’t miss a room that is little used, except on Sundays. In a bigger home, it doesn’t make any sense to change it to something else. And, surely a new home owner can picture it otherwise, if they don’t desire a formal dining room.
Yeah, the more I think about it, I find that remark by the realtor to be incredibly bizarre. The only thing is that it’s a coastal community and inherently that implies perhaps, a more casual lifestyle, but still.
About a year and a half ago, we purchased a 1910 Colonial Revival fixer (see money pit. No-cavern). Slowly, it will become what the old girl once was…majestic. iIt was built by direct descendants of the town’s founder, here on the northshore of Long Island. The house comes in at just over 6000 sq ft, which is good for my herd of daughters and a dog. The dining room is more like a half ballroom with a beautiful fireplace. You will have to break my kneecaps before turning the dining room into anything but what it was intended. I want and require a space for celebrations and memory-making. Our two year old was baptized last year and I will forever hold dear the memory of all of my family gathered around that table in that room, celebrating and dropping pieces of curried chicken sandwiches on the 14″ wide pine planks. Give it up? A thing of the past? That’s just silly, my friends. Just plain silly.
Herd of daughters. lol That sounds like fun!
The house must be beyond amazing! Were you on your hands and knees scraping out smooshed in curried chicken salad from the grooves?
I was on hands and knees, post celebration. During, I mostly shot panicked looks of disdain. Couldn’t they tell these floors were a treasure?! Animals. 😉
We’ re in the middle of a major DIY with the main floor kitchen in the servants’ wing. It’s become our white whale. We’ve taken down three layers of ceiling, two unsalvagable layers of floor, and two layers of walls. We’ evicted a condominium of squirrels. They weren’t happy that they lost their lease. We’ve prioritized saving the built-ins and all the windows. We removed pretty nasty porcelain brick that encased the real chimney. Alas, we also discovered that there had been so much water damage that it was a miracle that the second floor was being held up! And up, up, up goes the budget. Such is the fate of an antique home. My husband just retired from 30 years in the Navy. This was supposed to be a fun project in his spare time from his new career. SUCKERS. We’re doing nearly everything ourselves but are fortunate enough to have a small kitchen upstairs in the old servants’ living hall so we don’t live on pizza. Fancy, right? Not so much. The herd of daughters (ages 2-25) are basically free labor at this point. I’m old timey like that. I’d love to send you some images of the before and after, when we’re done. You have flawless taste, even when your tongue is in your cheek. If it’s a train wreck, I can take it. Maybe.
Thanks for your ear, love your blog and sensibilities. Enjoy your day!
You are so funny! Enjoy your comments a lot!
Laurel your blog is an inspiration to me. You taught me so much, especially that you can do timeless classic interiors that never really got out of style.
We recently bought a single story home in the San Diego area. During our search we saw countless houses, new and old and I noticed that many of them came with dining “areas” adjacent to the kitchen, especially the newly built ones. According to the realtors people live a more casual relaxed livestyle. For me though a comfortable dining room away from the kitchen was a must for all the obvious reasons. Now I can have very relaxed dinners with lots of guests and/or my children and grandchildren without having to look at the pots and pans in the kitchen. And everybody comments on how comfortable these gatherings are.
Was no easy achievement as I interviewed three different designers and finally ran out of patience and put the room together myself. Looking back I wish I had found the right interior designer or your blog sooner.
Thank you for your excellent advice and fabulous pictures in your posts.
Thanks for such a lovely note. It’s very common for folks to not find the right designer. If one hasn’t done it before, it’s perhaps assumed that they’ll give the right advice/recommendations based on your wants and needs, but not always.
I just got an email from someone– samea problem and last night on the plane home from Orlando, sat next to a lovely woman who happens to be a high-level exec at HGTV/Food Network. She had worked with a designer who didn’t meet her needs in several different ways- including budget.
At my grandparents’ house (a 5-bedroom house on the lake), there was only one eating area which was complete with two built-in china hutches. We had a dining room table in there plus a huge
buffet/sideboard. We ate ALL our meals in there. Again in my 1250 sq. ft. condo, there is only one eating area. It makes life pretty simple. Usually formal dining rooms only get used for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I think it is good to find a way to use the space the other 362 days a year. Hope everyone is having a good start to the New Year…Packer fans are!!
Of course, a home of that size is not apt to have a designated dining room. Our 2,000 sq foot townhouse didn’t have one either. But the home in the post is 5,500 sq ft and has a separate dining room that most here think should be used as a dining room. In fact, I could see some saying if it was set up as another living space, “where is the dining room?”
Some people do use their dining rooms on a regular basis. I’m sure that you’re right that it isn’t the majority, but a lot of people here have commented that they use theirs fairly frequently. I think it should be whatever works best.
Hey, I don’t care if you eat your dinner in the bathroom! lol Some bathrooms these days do look like living and/or dining rooms!
We bought our home in Florida a few months ago. It seems like even tiny houses here have a formal dining rooms. I have a pretty farmhouse table that I use off the kitchen. I’m not a formal dining room type of person. We eat outside on the patio or at the farmhouse table. A fancy table seems like a waste of space in our small house. We use the dining area as an office for now. When one of our children move out I can see moving the office and having four comfy chairs around an ottoman or small circle table. It has a pretty view of a pond. We are in our 40’s and no one I know uses those type of spaces. Maybe it’s a generational or regional thing?
I hate when people buying houses can’t visualize a room other than what is right in front of their noses. Baffles me!
Definitely regional. But it’s fine. We’re not formal people either.
When we purchased our house, we had three things that were not negotiable: a dining room that connects to the kitchen in a meaningful way (i.e., is easy to use); a room that could become a dedicated library/music room to house our many books and our baby grand piano; and a dedicated room that could be used for our son’s projects and play, as well as for our family-oriented activities. We looked at 30+ houses before we found one that we love, and I’m glad we held out for the perfect place.
A dining room is a must for me because we like to entertain, and because I want a more formal space where we can practice nice manners and eat dinner together. We use it at least several times a month for various purposes, and we use our rec room and library/music room daily.
Sorry, I didn’t moderate your comment sooner. It didn’t show up until just now. That sounds lovely. My sons are musicians too.
My husband and I downsized fairly recently. It was very hard to find a smaller house that had a decent dining space. We have the kids and their little ones over every Sunday for brunch, so that was our number one concern. We settled for a combination great room area that houses our dining area, grand piano, and our living area. We had to nix the existing gas fireplace to make room for everything, but I’ve never been fond of gas fireplaces.
If that realtor is real, she needs to get out more.
As a professional Home Stager, for the last 7 years, I have learned that clients expect and respect the value a seasoned Home Stager can offer. I agree with you –Dining Rooms are NOT out of vogue, especially in a home this size! However, the styling/colors in this room are out of date AND the painting, sideboard and table are a bit out of proportion with the room. (Ouch, I would have said that a little nicer in person.) What the realtor could have said was “we need to portray a lifestyle that allows home buyers to imagine themselves dining and entertaining in this room.” I like the direction you were going with color and style!
(Realtor + Home Stager) = winning combo for homeowner!
P.s. —so Happy to have found your Blog
Thanks so much Lorrie! I’m heartened to hear that the vast majority not only value their dining rooms but cherish them, as well. It must be a challenge sometimes to get folks to make changes that will ultimately give them a better return.
As I’ve said before and Anon mentioned, when one goes to sell their home, “it’s not your home any more.” I don’t think that means turning it into a soulless, sterile clone, but fresh paint in colors that will appeal to the greatest numbers is a very smart idea, for starters.
I dunno..if I was a buyer I’d concentrate on these amazing windows, great light, and wonderful view of the garden outside, rather then on furnishings that are not for sale anyway. I don’t find it hard to do, at all. i think other people don’t as well-but they are continuously taught they can’t, and get these expectation of getting some magical place decorated to their liking. It’s not a real life, sorry; it’s a game. Not very interesting at that too, if you ask me.
If somebody’s looking for such a huge, obviously high end house-I believe he’ll find money to repaint the room to his liking, if yellow is not his thing.
I have a very nice and very experienced realtor whose mode of work is to bring stager..I didn’t find it a winning combo at all. They just killed my house. Soulless and tacky. And killed half of the plants too-since all the live orchids etc. were put outside to create more garden-like patio, and silk orchids were brought in. And believe me, my house was much more beautiful before they came to “give an illusion of blah blah”. Nobody needs illusions of blah blah. People need to feel the good vibe, the life, the love. For tacky hurricanes etc, they can easily visit the local Hobby Lobby.
Of course it might be that you personally would do things differently. And it might be somebody else does need some advice and staging. But i right now don’t understand why I agreed to that, and payed close to 1500 for staging, additional touch ups that had to be done since all my art was pronounced “too personal” and was changed to cheap prints, etc., and whatnot.
The only thing that I gained from that experience is that a) it was much easier to go through “separation process” since instead of being house-proud I became house-ashamed, and b) I learned about myself, once again, that I have no idea how to handle situations when I try to clearly say “please don’t” but nobody listens.
As for “out of date”..who sets this mysterious date? The room is either nice, pretty, beautiful, cozy, striking, homey (insert your own)-or not. Has nothing to do with some date. Has everything to do with the context.
The color of the walls IS a bunch of crap. You should see some of the hideousness, I’ve had to cover-up over the years that clients had just purchased.
One good thing, the after is such a dramatic improvement that it makes me look good.
And some people LOVE yellow!
Out of date or dated, in my book stands for: it was a bad trend that didn’t stand the test of time.
But to say that a classic piece like an antique Sheraton server is out of date would be absurd in the extreme. It might not be someone’s taste. Fine. I’ll take it!
Good morning, Laurel:)
I must say I was full of guilt after having written the comment; it probably sounded like I’m mad, which is partially true:)
I agree: I looked at the lot of listings and houses, especially when we were looking for the home to buy, last time. Some colors ARE hideous. These are probably mostly suitable for painting furniture, they seem too flat and jarring on the walls. One of the homes we briefly considered had a huge, huge, two storey living room-half dark red, half dark khaki green..very war like feeling lol. I believe 99% of the buyers over there would choose to repaint, and it would cost good several thousands too. But if I liked the house enough anyway-I’d still buy the house. And wouldn’t ask for an allowance to repaint-it’s strange concept to me. It had a couple of other important issues though. A little bit further from the downtown that we preferred, I didn’t like the facade(I’m a superficial person-the facade is very important ))..and the toilet somehow was planted-in the nicely remodeled master bathroom, claw foot tub and all- with no separation whatsoever, no doors at all in the suite-so you could see it right from the bed..:) Now, that’s more than just a decor issue.
They still sold, and pretty fast I believe. Nice neighborhood, nice backyard, saltwater pool..somebody liked it enough, regardless all the issues.
PS my MIL loves yellow:) no, she LOVES yellow.I know several other people who love yellow. I love yellow but mostly as an accent; and still I lived for six years in the home that was at least half yellow, and didn’t even think of repainting-it was a very nice yellow. I believe the light plays a huge role though. Downstairs, with huge windows, orientated south east, that yellow was great. Even though I wouldn’t call it an evening color-it was clearly glorious in natural light and less so in artificial. Upstairs, in the darker master bedroom, same yellow irritated me to no end. When I fully realized it, we repainted.
Thank you for the another amazing post, and for bearing with my long comments..:)
Oh my. I love your comments! No need to feel any guilt whatsoever. And I love your story of the house that sold quickly despite the ugly decor.
Exteriors are important to me too.
Our home is about 2600 sq ft and we don’t host many dinners, so when we moved in, we went with a big dining table in our open family room space and made our dining room an art room for our minis. This has worked out pretty well for a couple of years now, but interestingly enough, it’s worked out a little TOO well. In other words: my children constantly destroy that room in a creative frenzy and it’s one of the first rooms my guests see.
Common Scenario: Mini’s show mommy a picture/creation and mommy says “Ohhhhhh, this is so wonderful! It’s a masterpiece! Mommy is so proud of you!” “CLEAN THIS ROOM UP YOU ARE NOT BACHELORS AT A POKER PARTY…WHO THE HELL WAS SMOKING A CIGAR?!”
Ok. Maybe not the cigar part.
So I think we will soon be going the route of the dining room/office option.
PS- Anon’s house is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. And the people who left the feedback have little to no imagination. And if I had a house that big, I absolutely would expect to have a dining and furthermore, the whole extra living room thing is just dumb as balls. What? A formal room like granny had? We gonna break out the furniture plastic to go with it?
I’m sure that your kids will have fond memories of their art room. I think that’s fab, because this is what you need at the stage of your lives. But, you are also seeing that it’s soon going to be what you don’t need.
I live in a 40 year old “Williamsburg” style center hall…with designated rooms…near DC…let’s take a page from the original colonists…they painted the baseboards shiny black because rooms had multiple purposes…and black hid the dings…so smart! Declaration writing one day, a fancy dress ball the next…all in the same room! The only thing my house needs is a MUD ROOM- a place to drop all the stuff we all tote around!!
I can relate to the no mud room. Our townhouse that we lived in for 22 years had the coat closet by the garage but since it was built into a hill, it was at the basement level and never used except to store stuff we didn’t use on a day-to-day basis.
Happy New Year, Laurel! Your instincts are spot on. I’ve been a professional home stager for almost ten years. One of the primary tenets of preparing a house for sale is that each room must serve its original function. That playroom with the fancy chandelier? That’s fine when you’re living there, but you’d better get a dining table and chairs in there if you want to sell it! That said, I do love the library alter ego. Annnnnd, we also use our sunroom as a dining room on Thanksgiving to seat 36 people! (We rent the tables and chairs.) Thanks for this lovely post, Julia
Thanks so much for the professional input.
36 for Thanksgiving. It must be a pretty large room too!
Many newer open concept homes have one dedicated space for kitchen, eating and entertaining, so another dining room is really not needed. I had a recent client who chose to put her huge farmhouse table in the kitchen entertaining area and turned the adjacent dining room into more of a project room/study for the kids. She loves it! The project room is used on the daily for computer time, studying, crafts, etc. She uses a bookcase / credenza combo to coral the clutter. We styled it with a reading chair as well as a desk. It functions quite beautifully.
The key is to do what functions well for you. However, I wouldn’t advise getting rid of a dining space unless there is another area of the house (kitchen) that can function as an eating/entertaining area.
Great post, Laurel!
That is an excellent point and I have seen that too– in newer homes mostly.
Hmmm…I love my dining room but I can sort of see the realtor’s point here. My dining room used to go largely unused because it felt boxy and tight and I was always afraid of scratching my “nice” table. I made some modest changes, like moving the chandelier to allow better flow around the table, threw a glass top on the wood table to protect it, and now it’s my favorite place to sit down and eat weeknight dinners with my family, even though we have an eat in kitchen. It’s EXACTLY BECAUSE it’s a separate dedicated space that it never collects clutter the way our kitchen table and island do so it’s always available for a meal. I also have really comfortable upholstered chairs that you can sit at for hours over coffee or a puzzle and remain comfy. As an added bonus, you’d be amazed at how letting little kids in the “nice room” lead to more civilized dinners.
All that said, I can maybe see what the realtor was driving at here. Anon’s room is simply stunning with the beautiful windows and fireplace. From the pics, though, the chandelier gets a little lost and the table is nothing to write home about if it’s not your style. I could readily see why someone thought that room would be better suited to a sun room or library–even if that meant using the exact same furniture as she already has but styling it to look more like the examples in your post and maybe adding some club chairs by the windows.
But to simply say “dining rooms are out,” I think, is too simplistic. Having now lived in an “open concept” home since it was built in 2005, all I can say is that I miss walls!!!! Where do you hang art? Pictures? How do you get area rugs that “go” next to each other (before Laurel wrote a fabulous post on that very subject)? I’ve spent a significant amount of time tying to “create a sense of space” out of these large boxes—give me walls and rooms any day.
Over-all, what I’m getting here is that your vote is to have the separate dining room.
Ironically, my last home did not have a separate dining room. It was a townhouse with an L-shaped living dining area. But it was the prettiest part of the home because it also had a view of the mostly open wrap around staircase and landing. You can see the living room in my portfolio third row from the bottom – with Peaches on the coffee table and the landing with the green settee from the staircase. The dining room is just out of sight to the right of the living room.
We didn’t use the dining area a lot as a dining room, but when we did it was special.
Wow. I was fairly disappointed that our home we purchased in 2015 didn’t come with a dining room. Having a dining room was so important to me, in fact, that I turned our sunroom into a dining room, too. Now we (and guests) get to appreciate the beautiful view out the windows every evening. I turned the windowless “dinette” into a sitting area with our piano. I feed my kids breakfast and lunch at the countertop bar. And it works beautifully. We’re in process of hiring someone to connect it to our heating system so we don’t have to use space heaters out there in the winter. It’s really not that expensive.
Oh, I love that you turned the sunroom into a dining room. I bet that it’s gorgeous!
I live in the South, and when my husband and I were planning our home, we included a dining room as well as a small breakfast room. I’m a messy cook, and I don’t want to be looking at mess during meals. We also lovee to entertain. An older friend remarked she thought every house should have a dining room, even though it might be used mainly for larger gatherings. “Everyone needs one room that is beautiful and quiet where you can just sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy the beauty,” she said. Mine is fairly large, but a dining room need not be large. It is where one gathers friends to share the oldest kind of hospitality in civilization. A private little world that shuts hosts and their guests away from the outside world for a few hours. I have always loved the idea of library walls in dining rooms. Those shown here are really beautiful.
I love the idea of a separate special place that separates friends and loved ones from the outside world for a time. And I love the libraries in the dining rooms as well! It makes it extra cozy. Oh, and a fireplace too!
Umm..I find it hard to believe that most buyers have no vision etc, and need staging, depersonalization(did I spell it correctly?), all that jazz. Put these same buyers in a country with a very different buying and selling practices-or maybe even twenty years back in time-and they’ll be able to see the space perfectly well, lol. I worked with people all my life, of all ages-one thing I can say, the huge majority of them is born very imaginative and perfectly able to multitask. They work? They drive a car? They are able then to mentally separate a house from its decor. If they can’t-well..so they won’t buy this house. Somebody else will.
As for the dining room-I’m not objective, coming from the “kitchen conversations culture”. My guests never leave the dining room, lol. Sit there for hours. Talk and talk. Well, unless they decide to dance or smoke outside. Really hard to lure them to go somewhere else.
We finally moved-so the dining is kinda less separate..close to the living area, since the place is (much)smaller. So I have a modest hope they’ll sit in the living sometimes..if I put drinks there, for example))
Library plus dining is my dream! Well, library plus everything is my dream. Who said ” I always imagined the paradise would be a kind of a library?” Anyway,I agree.
As for the yellow..we’re trying to sell the old place right now, and all big downstairs with huge ceilings and all is yellow. Like, really yellow. Happy yellow, somewhere creamier and lighter, somewhere deeper, with more gold in it. Strangely, no one has a problem with it. not one negative feedback about colors.
Strangely again, the buyers mostly are hesitant to be too close to the community pool..:) which is pretty quaint, but they don’t know that. That, I couldn’t predict-I loved being right next to the pool. It’s pretty. Blue water among green palms and flowers and all that. And-you get to know things others don’t..for example that a couple of ducks come and swim there every morning..:)
OK cutting myself short here..because one needs to stop talking at some point..just to add-I don’t even count anymore how many times I moved. Five times internationally, that i do remember exactly. Not easy. But gives one a lot of perspective. There are no forever houses. There are though forever conversations in forever dining rooms. Be they separate and amazing-or just a table in a small eat-in kitchen. That thing stays, wherever you are. So cheers to that, and let us all have people in our life we can share these very different spaces with.
I love this Jenny. “There are no forever houses. There are though forever conversations in forever dining rooms.”
I love my dining room and will want one in any future homes for me. However, there are those who are so into the open concept house that they will not buy a home that cannot incorporate a dining area with living/family room and kitchen. A separated dining room not an option in place of that arrangement. So if a house does not have such an open area, such people won’t buy. How many in that category these days I do not know.
I think that there are a lot of people who *think* they want an open concept home until they have one. We can thank HGTV for that one.
And I am not talking open kitchen/family room, but basically living, dining, kitchen, family that are all one room.
We spent 10 years in a 900-square-foot home that, through the magic of remuddling, was open concept with two bedrooms and a bathroom running along the side of the family room/dining room/kitchen/mudroom. It was fun for about a year, but as our kid got older and we had pets and toys and everything else, it became a nuisance. Everyone could see everything, and we couldn’t get away from each other.
We saved our pennies and when it came to buy a house, we bought a historic home in our village that has separate rooms and a wonderful dining room/library right in the middle of our home. We can all disperse to different parts of the house and not see each other if we don’t want to. Plus, when someone comes in the front door, they can’t see the dirty dishes in our sink.
900 sq ft is tough with a family, no matter what. I mean, where does the drum kit go? LOL (and yes, we had one– in the basement that was played on a daily basis for 7 years!) Your new/old home sounds wonderful!
I love my dining room! There is nothing better than being at table with the people that I love (although half the time I eat in the living room sitting on my yoga mat watching Star Trek). My kitchen is not eat-in as I don’t see the need for two tables in adjacent rooms in my smallish house. I love that the dining room has become my everything room. I push the table aside to host my ukulele group (ukuladies). My upstairs office sits abandoned while I do all my bookkeeping and paperwork in the dining room. The table never looks like a magazine shoot – it’s always covered in projects…. But when company’s coming, I shove everything in a drawer in the built-in hutch and TA DA! I feel like I’m at a nice restaurant when seated in the dining room. I never feel that way in the kitchen or at a kitchen island.
Hi Laurel…If that realtor is right, then I’m about to be “out of style”. I live in one of those open concept, you can see everything from everywhere houses…and it is very convenient to be in the kitchen and still be a part of the “action”. But I entertain a lot, and I really miss having a separate dining room where you can set a pretty table ahead of time and close the door. I have 2 long-haired white cats. Since I’m sure no-one wants their dinner served with a side of cat hair, setting up ahead of time isn’t practical with my current arrangement. So long story short…I’m in the process of converting my guest bedroom into a dual function dining room / guest room (apparently heading in the direction of obsolescence). And my next house will definitely have a formal dining room 🙂 Thanks for the entertaining post!
I think the realtors watch too much HGTV because they think it’s REAL? And I think it’s fine to have an open kitchen/family room situation, but it is rare that my clients don’t have a separate dining room. Part of it may be a regional thing. I can relate to the cat hair. I miss my Peaches terribly and would give anything for a mouthful of his soft fur!
I could not live without my formal dining room. Besides it having such beautiful furniture and draperies, we have made so many wonderful memories in that room, eating and laughing with our family and friends. Some traditions should be embraced and not discarded. Having a formal dining room is wonderful not outdated!
I agree Karenann. I love the part especially about the memories.
I live in South Carolina the trend in new homes here is one dedicated living/entertaining space so to speak. Open floor plans – kitchen with
huge island open the dining area plus a great room. It’s all one open space.
It all depends if you are looking a homes built in the last 7 years. Homes older than that have more walls.
I am a designer and I have also moved over 15 times built 11 homes. From my
experience if you have 5000 sq ft obviously you have room for a dedicated dining room. However many 35-45 households today want a more casual open
concept space. I think it’s because most women work outside the home today so they want to be with the family while preparing meals. At least my clients do
they can monitor the tv or laptops and homework.
As for the realtor’s opinions she should have kept that to herself IMO.
Love your blog and your writing style. I did laugh out loud reading today’s post.
Thanks so much Victoria,
Actually Anon’s home is somewhat open but not totally and the kitchen is quite large with a generous eating area.
A couple years ago when I was on the market to find a downsize home to retire in, I liked the EMPTY homes the best because I could see the real house – didn’t have to wade through decor. It also allowed me to envision using the home to suit my lifestyle. So Okay, I’m not the average home buyer, but given the nontraditional lifestyles of people today, I would think any home buyer would understand they can do whatever they want AFTER they buy. My lifestyle has substantially changed as I near retirement – I no longer entertain, eating at my house is very casual and happens on the deck, patio, the lower level and yes, occasionally in the living room, at the kitchen island or in a small eat in area in my kitchen. But that’s how I live. A future buyer of my home may use the house very differently – I don’t care. So I’d say to Anon, keep your dining room and enjoy hosting all those gatherings. I wouldn’t pay attention to the realtor’s unsolicited comments. And when you list your home, get a couple professional recommendations.
Too funny, but I like empty homes better too! In fact, when we put in our hardwood floor, I hated to move the furniture back!
Ha, we moved into our 5500 sq. ft. home about 13 years ago and I ditched the dining room as a dining room. Mainly because it was so small at 10 x 10 feet. My kitchen table seats 10 and I have hosted holiday dinners there. We actually call our dining room the reading room and it has four leather club chair and a central ottoman with two glass cabinets filled with extra wine glasses, books, linen napkins, etc. It’s open concept right off the family room which has the tv. Funny, the room we don’t use and that is barely furnished is the formal ‘living room’ on the other side of the house and foyer. Because like Anon said, we don’t need another seating area. I’ve always felt when we do sell I would have to turn my reading room to a dining room. lol.
Once when I had a “go see” the woman was having a problem with one of the rooms and I suggested that she swap the living and dining room. She looked at me like I had six heads or something. But, to me it made a lot of sense and solved her problem. I don’t remember what it was. It was at least 10 years ago.
i love the idea of the dining room being used for a “temporary” whatever you want. There are no rules that say that room must be totally dedicated AT ALL TIMES to a dining room. If you use it as a meeting room, reading room, sewing room, etc….it’s your room.. do it. When you need to use for a dining room, then clear it out and have your dinner.
Sounds good to me Teresa! Our old dining room in our townhouse was really part of the living room and I used to do my work there. We didn’t use it as a dining room that often, but when we did, it was very nice.
Is this really up for discussion? Are you kidding me? If you want a dining room, for God’s sake, have one. If not, then don’t. It’s pretty simple! If I’m looking at a home with 5,500 square feet, it better have a formal dining room area. I can do what I want with it when I buy it, but it NEEDS to be there! As you know, there are very few people with any vision at all. If they don’t walk into the perfectly painted and staged home, they’re not interested. They can’t see through the scratches or the colors or the mis-matched furniture or anything! But for those with even a hint of creative flair, you can see through the mess! And no, dining rooms will never be “out”, any more than a den, or bedroom, or office, or living room or great room will ever be out. It’s all about what the buyer thinks he wants until he actually sees what he really wants! And for those with creative flair and those who help the buyers find what they want, (thank god for designers and architects!),there will always be someone to buy a property. Thank goodness every single property doesn’t fit the needs of everyone. That would be dreadfully boring! So, tell your friend to keep the dining room an tell the realtor that she’s not going to be getting the listing! HA! Maybe she’ll completely change her tune and actually agree with your friend. Honestly, this is the kind of nonsense that just needs to stop! If the home is clean, well maintained, fairly and accurately priced, and, yes, even staged, there’s no reason at all that there won’t be a buyer!
Well said Michael!
Great comment and right about people having no vision. I always consider furniture placement before I purchase a home. I can you right now many people do not. I find that very odd but then I am designer.
I totally agree. As for me, I can’t imagine a house without a dining room as I entertain a great deal. People have actually come to me to ask if I could host a party, shower, or study group because I have a large dining room; I’m glad to oblige. Guess I’m just old school but I love setting seasonal displays and making things look festive. Guests do enjoy it.
I think that sounds very lovely. And nothing wrong with old-school!
With a house that size there is no reason not to have a dining room! Is the realtor a decorator/designer? I bet not.
We have moved 16 times and we have never not bought a house because of the way it was furnished. We once passed on a house because the little carpet cleaning machine was set out like it was used often though! They say houses with yellow doors sell but I agree that yellow would be hard for many people in a main room.
I had one thought, when you sell perhaps change the large painting for something smaller. My art is all from my family and I take the large pieces down when we sell. Your painting is lovely but it commands all of the attention and when I looked at your photo my eye stayed on the painting. You want people to see the house not your stuff. Hope that didn’t sound bossy!
I would paint this room Benjamin moore Ivory white which is the same as Acadia or Laurel’s cottonballs if isn’t stark white in the room. While I love simply white it may be simply too white for some people. My husband said it looked like our walls were primed when i tried it.
You are so lucky to know Laurel! I would abuse her for sure but I would bribe her with coffee and cake.
I can definitely be bribed with coffee and cake! haha! Great advice! And you’ve moved 16 times!?! I can’t begin to imagine that.
We always end up back in Wisconsin. : ) This was mostly 15-20 years ago when companies transferred ppl every few years. We did get to live in Holland and England, that was fun but the kids were little and thought the drive to Stonehenge was so long to see a pile of rocks. : (
Uh oh. Don’t get me started. Dining rooms are in, in, IN! People want separate dining rooms now. They have finally come to their senses. Every single one of my friends and acquaintances have dining rooms, and they all use them. I wouldn’t part with mine for the world. Civilized people eat in dining rooms. If it happens that your space is small and one must creat an ad hoc dining room from a library, then so be it. But if there is an actual dining room in the house, then it should be used and enjoyed. What is the point of having lovely china, crystal and linens if they can’t be displayed! There is a great satisfaction to eating a proper meal at a proper table. That realtor was clueless, and I have heard such nonsense coming from the lips of realtors that it doesn’t surprise me at all. Look at any design blog or shelter magazine and you will see dining rooms featured. They are a very important room in the house, as well they should be.
Thank you Cynthia! Well said!
I am so tired of hearing the words open concept and seeing all the tv shows tearing down the walls so the kitchen is in the living room and seen from the front door. I like to cook and do not want my guests to see the kitchen mess. If you have nice China, crystal, linens I like to be able to set the table in a more elegant, separate dining room. I guess everything is much more casual now but I think you have to do what is right for you.
I think that sounds lovely Nancy!
I think this is such a sign of how our culture is changing. A realtor is not necessarily an expert it’s just her opinion just as this is mine. I grew up with my parents having beautiful dinner parties and have continued this with my family. When our children were still home we ate ever meal with china and cloth napkins, we said a prayer and you had to ask to be excused from the table. My children now do this. As a designer I encourage my clients to use their dining room. It is typically the prettiest room in the house. Get rid of you grandmothers chairs and get comfortable upholstered chairs on casters. After we have dinner we typically sit at the table for hours talking, reading, working puzzles or checking our computers. As mentioned earlier, this is only my option but it has always worked for us. Thank you for all your advice, love your blog!
Right you are! That sounds so lovely. I wish that could’ve even been an option with us. We don’t have to go there, but I have a son with special needs… meals. very difficult sometimes.
Interesting, my husband and I were just having this discussion this weekend! We just built a new 3500 sq ft home that has a dedicated, formal-ish dining room (with tray ceiling, crown moulding and picture frame moulding), however we haven’t picked out furniture yet. We have a large, eat-in kitchen with a big farm table that seats 12. We already have a great room, living room and playroom, so we weren’t sure what else we’d do with it! I think it would look silly as anything else, but my DH wondered why we even built a dining room!
Maybe you’ll use it sometimes and be glad that you have it?
Sounds to me like the “perspective” home buyers were looking at Anon’s decorating style and not the HOUSE! Unless the house would be sold furnished and as is, they have absolutely no business commenting on how she chooses to decorate HER home! Once they purchase the home they can do to it whatever they wish. “Too lived in”? A home people actually LIVE in? Wow-what a concept. Some nerve, really! As far as whether dining rooms are ‘out’- again, I think the secret to making a house a home is making it work for you and your family. Sounds to me the ‘buyers’ just wanted “in” to see that house because it appealed to them from the outside on a drive by. It’s actually an insult and invasion of Anon’s privacy even though she agreed to the viewing. When Anon is ready to sell she will de-personalize her home-it’s part of the saying goodbye process- and I’m sure you will advise her accordingly- and someone will absolutely fall in love with it and make it work for them. If not they can build their own custom home without a dining room. Great ideas to update it her space though- IF she wants to!
I’ve been to Anon’s home and there is nothing in the slightest objectionable in the decor. Who knows? Maybe when they see the rest of the crap out there, they’ll come around. It happens.
I would be sad to have no dining room. I currently ONLY have a dining room, our kitchen is like..60-70 sq ft.
i like something separate, with a pass through. Shout out to my Henredon dining set, you’ll always have your own room, boo boo.
I just got a vision of the Henredon chairs cowering under the table in abject terror! And then breathing a huge sigh of relief when you said that!
Drooling over those library-dining rooms! I dream of having one someday, and covering most of the table with hardcovers. Of course, RE agents also say that hardly anyone has books these days, but we sure do.
But I’m old-fashioned. I’m the last person left in America who wonders why on earth anyone would want a kitchen island or breakfast bar when a nice table would do….
No, not the last one by far! I think my point is that there are some people who absolutely must have a separate dining room.
AAMOF, this is the room they were the most excited about. These folks USE their dining room. And I admire that because I love the idea of having a dinner party. I just hate to do the work!
These clients for instance.
Hello Laurel, love you and all you do, but the realtor is right dining rooms are out.
I host 23 plus 2 high chairs for Thanksgiving, and we don’t even fit in my dining room. We move or should I say drag the table and it’s two giant leafs into my kitchen area every year.
So we are building now, and do you think I asked for a giant dinning room. Heck no! I used that square footage for a huge his and her closet, the original master closet is now my lien/every thing you ever wanted to store in a walk in closet but couldn’t because, hey you have to put your clothes somewhere! I just made sure my kitchen can fit my two leafs when needed. What would be the dinning room is now my office/library with a couple of chairs for book/wine club!
I’m sorry but I wasn’t able to follow all of that. But if you’re happy with it, that’s all that matters.
Great question! I’m struggling with this myself. We only use our dining room for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve! But, we’ve already downsized once, are nearing retirement, and want to move again to be all on one floor. However, my house is only 2300 square feet, my dining room is small, and is a walk through. It’s about 40+ years old, in a Mid-Western suburb.
I want to add a wall of built-in shelves on one side to increase storage space. This would also fit into using it as an office. But, should I do it with a smaller house? We have a small living room which we use for TV, and a larger family room off the kitchen. The big issue is that the kitchen area for a dining table is quite small. Hmmmm. What do you think?
I think that it would be a good idea to get a pro in there for a consult!
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