Helpful Hints, Occasions

Gather ‘Round: How to Create An Inviting Dining Room

Halloween is sadly over, but that just means it’s time to start preparing for the next major holiday (in the United States anyway) – Thanksgiving.  If you’re going to a friend or family member’s home for Thanksgiving you’re probably not that stressed out about it.  But if you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your place, you may be starting to worry about having enough space for everyone.  Whether you already have an established dining room that just needs some sprucing up, or are putting together a dining room for the first time, we’re here to help.  Here’s how to get an inviting dining room any time of year.


Work with the Size of the Space

Just because you can fit a big table into the dining room, that doesn’t mean it will look good or function well.  On the flip side, a large room with a small table floating around in it will look cold and uninviting.  Before buying any furniture for your dining room, always measure the room, remembering to leave enough space around your furniture to move through easily.  This may mean making compromises to your original vision, but it will be worth it in the end to have a truly stylish and useful room.  An extendable table is a good choice if you normally have a smaller amount of people using it but will occasionally need more tabletop space for holidays or other gatherings.  Another space saving compromise is to use dining chairs that don’t have arms, since it will give guests a little more space between each other.  Depending on the style of the space you could even substitute benches for chairs.


Pick the Right Shape

Related to the size of the space, you also need to pick the best shape for the space and your needs.  Rectangular and elongated oval tables work well in larger rooms and narrow spaces, allowing you to seat the most people and still keep them close enough together to have conversations.  Square and round tables are best suited for small spaces or open concepts.  These shapes are often found in more casual dining spaces since they seat less people but promote easy conversation.  If you have a large space a square table should really be avoided, since in order to accommodate a lot of seats, those across from each other will be too far apart to try to talk.  Rectangular is the most popular and traditional dining table choice, but oval can be ideal if you frequently have to squeeze in a last minute guest.


Select Good Materials

Is the dining room going to be used every day, or is it more of a special occasion space?  How often it’s going to see use can make a big impact on the materials you use in the room.  If the dining table is going to be used every day, wood is likely your best option.  A wood table will add warmth and comfort while not showing regular wear or fingerprints easily.  If the table is only going to be used for occasional gatherings you can opt for a table that’s a bit more high maintenance, like glass or marble.  Tables aren’t the only aspect of the dining room this advice applies to however.  If you’re placing a rug in the dining room the material selection for that is important as well.  A high traffic dining room should have a rug made out of durable and easy to clean fibers such as cotton or synthetic.  Dining rooms that see less use can have slightly more delicate rugs.  But remember that it is a dining room, and there is always the chance of a food or beverage spill.


Have Proper Lighting

People can’t enjoy their dinner and conversation if they can’t see what they’re eating or who they’re talking to so proper lighting in the dining room is very important.  You spent all that time preparing the food, make sure people can see it!  Consider getting lighting that can be dimmed so you can adjust the amount of light with the occasion.  Chandeliers are the traditional choice for dining room lighting, and with lots of modern styles are still a good option.  If chandeliers just aren’t your thing though, a pendant or a couple of pendant lights over the dining room table works just as well.  The general rule of thumb when hanging lighting over the table is there should be at least 34″ inches of clearance space between the fixture and the table.  You don’t want people bumping their heads when they get up or while sitting down.  If your dining room is in a large space you may want to layer the lighting a bit by also including wall sconces or a floor lamp.  For more information on choosing proper lighting, check out our lighting guide post.


Don’t Forget to Accessorize

It’s hard for a space to feel welcoming without at least some accessories.  Already touched upon, rugs are a traditional addition to the dining room.  When choosing a rug, make sure that the chairs will either be fully on the rug, or not on the rug at all.  Guests don’t want to feel lopsided while sitting down to dinner because the back legs of the chair are off of the rug.  If you have the space, a sideboard or credenza is a great addition to the dining room since it adds storage and surface area, leaving more of the tabletop free for food and place settings.  A bar cart can also be a fun dining room accessory, especially if you throw a lot of dinner parties.  Plants are a nice addition to any room, dining room included, whether in the form of potted plants or fresh cut flowers in a vase.


Now you have the basics for putting together a dining room people will love to spend time in.  while it may seem stressful, especially with the holiday season upon us, it can be fun setting up your dining room and creating a space that reflects your style and welcomes in others.  And once your dining room is squared away, you can focus on the real main attraction – the food!


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