Have you ever been invited to a dinner party and when you sit down you’re sitting too low, straddling a table leg, in a chair that is very uncomfortable, staring at the ball on the bottom of a completely outdated chandelier that is catching the sun precisely by the crystal prism and casting it directly into your eye, all while bobbing your head back and forth to see past the table arrangement to the person you’re trying to avoid having a political or religious conversation with???????? 

Yeah, me neither – Let’s avoid this!

Lorele’s Rules for a Smashing Dining Room

The dining room is a special place in the home, but honestly, we are doing less and less of the room that always looks perfect but visited rarely.  I love a dining room but if space is limited don’t give it up for this.  Designated real estate for this room should only be if:

  • you have the space to give up
  • you actually eat there as a family
  • you entertain formally and often

The dining room is our topic today but if it doesn’t apply to you because you joined the current trend to make the dinette big enough to entertain in, hang tight- we will get there when we do the kitchen.  For those of you who want, need or have a dedicated dining room, let’s talk. 

General Lighting and “The Chandelier”

The Chandelier – this is the narcissist of the dining room!  It thinks the whole room revolves around it.  It is the jewelry of the room but it’s not the only player, so here are some of my “rules” regarding this room and this feature. 

 

Make sure your chandelier fits the design of the home and specifically the room.   It should be to scale for the table and the space.  One trick for gauging the right size chandelier for your dining room is to measure the length and width of the room in feet and add those figures together. For example, if your room is 20’ x 10’ your number would be 30.  This is close to what the correct size chandelier in terms of the diameter would be, 30”, but don’t be a slave to this rule-sometimes it doesn’t work in the room so listen to your designer. Obviously when it comes to the height, the taller the ceiling, the taller the chandelier can be.  However, you never want to have the chandelier in front of you when you’re trying to have a conversation.  To avoid blocking anyone’s view, the lowest portion of the chandelier should hang no lower than 27 to 30 inches above the tabletop.  If you choose a chandelier too large, it will overpower your room and if it is too small it will get lost and look insignificant.

Speaking of the chandelier, let’s address lighting in general.  If you have the ability use a room with all windows as your dining room- it’s gorgeous!  But let’s face it, most dinner parties are in the evening, so even if you have an amazing wall of windows, they don’t always provide the lighting required to see what you’re eating.  Make sure you have overhead or task lighting that works with the chandelier.  In addition, sconces can be a fabulous and dramatic addition to your lighting plan.  Although, most of the time these only provide accent, or a secondary layer of light so don’t rely on them for function.  I just had to have my sconces- they move.  The marble piece is like a pulley system that allows you to alter the height of the piece – too fun, anyway I digress.  In addition, if you’re building, I love a door to the outside from the dining room.  I am a fan of having an after-dinner drink close to those still gabbing at the table and provides more natural light.    

 

   

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS put a dimmer switch on your dining room lighting.  This will give you absolute control over the light and the mood.

I love my chandelier although my mother once said it looks like it belongs in a brothel.  One of the reasons I like it is because it has one yellow half-moon crystal on it which someone always inevitably notices and asks about.  It was added to the chandelier as a conversation piece and it works!  I tell them it brings luck to the person who spots it and all their friends. 

Furniture

When you entertain you want guest to be comfortable with plenty of leg and elbow room.  When diners have a great meal, in great furniture with great conversations- it is remembered.  Isn’t that what we are trying to do here, create great lifestyles, great spaces and great memories? 

The table is the main focal point and should be striking, however it is also where you eat so make sure there is enough space to do it comfortably and a surface that is functional.  My table is solid wood but topped off with a burl wood veneer that is so pretty!  Almost any surface can be problematic so just be careful.  For example, a marble top can etch with acidic food or drink, a concrete top can stain if it isn’t sealed, and a wood, glass or metal top can scratch.  I had a dinner party where my friend’s napkin got too close to the butter warmer candle at their place setting and poof, new finish needed (you know who you are).  My point is – get what you like and live – we can fix it!

When it comes to room, each guest should be able to stake claim on 24” width at the table.  Make sure they have room for their elbows as well as their table setting and the chair.  Make sure you allow at least 3 feet from the edge of the table to the wall or any other furniture.  Make sure your chair is dining height which is 19-20” off the floor and pay attention to arm height to ensure it clears the table.  There is nothing worse than having to lean in to get to your plate because chair arms won’t go under the table.  You don’t want chairs that you sink into at a dining table, and you don’t want unfunctional fabric.  I had white linen chairs around my table, and I found myself constantly scowling at small children over holiday dinners and pushing white wines to friends.  People need to be able to relax, spill and be silly.  I switched to a trendier chair this year.  With all the cane coming back in style I found this was a way to update my room and not care what landed on the seat.  

 

If you have a rectangular table, host chair/s can be a fun way to mix it up and establish whose party it is!  However, if you like round either mix up all the chairs or keep them the same- no head at this table.  I love my round table because it seats 10 comfortably and I can see everyone’s face.  I love the conversation aspect of a round table, but it takes the right size room to pull it off.  

If you have the room to do a long buffet that stores your linens, candles, and vases- more power to you.  I maximized my table size to seat more people, but it’s a trade off.  I did do a closet next to my dining room that houses all my entertaining dishes, candles, vases, wine etc. etc. so just think through this when planning or building.  

Flooring and walls

My floor is stone.  I don’t want to pick up food off carpet or a rug.  But……….I love a rug in a formal dining room!  They add warmth, ground the table, and can be a huge design feature- I just wanted my floor to be bare.  So, I have no rule here.  If your friends and family are not barbarians and behave themselves rugs are great, but at my house I want to be able to mop (tells you something about who I hang out with huh)?  If you do decide to do a rug, always make sure to keep the chair legs on it.  It should be at least 2 feet bigger than the table.   Rugs without borders can be cut down inexpensively and we do that all the time.  We can help you find one that is perfect.  

My walls are a shiny black Venetian faux finish and my draperies are black sheer with satin banding.  I love the drama of this and the shock value.  But the black is broken with bold and vivid colored artwork.  My floors and ceiling are very light, so it is not a dungeon and this theme is not repeated anywhere else in my home.  Again, this is an area that isn’t “lived in” so it can have a bold statement.  Go for great finishes on the wall, draperies that frame the window and bring the outdoors in, art that starts a conversation, and sconces that serve as a statement piece. 

 

Blown Glass Wall Lighting

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Go for the WOW!

The dining room is your opportunity to add a unique stamp of your personality. It does need to blend with the rest of your home, but it can be a bit more sassy.    This is a room where you can play with trends because you don’t have to live in it.  Finally, my plug for THE LOFT by Lee Douglas Interiors  – Entertain….. life is short.  Add fun unique napkins with great sayings on them, use numbered napkin rings or wine glasses, throw in some cute plates and change them for every dinner party.  I didn’t want fine china because I wanted to always do different settings.  I love setting a table and layering the parts and pieces.  Give each setting its own petite vase or candle;  place the napkins in different spots ie: on the back of the chair, in the wine glass, tied around the flower vase etc.  My favorite part of entertaining is the set up.  I try to do it a few days ahead of my event so I can tweak or grab any last-minute items I need, (just ask Elizabeth at THE LOFT, she often is chasing me out trying to keep her inventory accurate). 

We are starting to form a few small educational events on different topics such as fun table settings, creating the perfect charcuterie or making floral accents if this appeals to you give us a call at THE LOFT on 402.480.7080 or email us on theloft@leedouglas.com. 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU 

  • What size and shape of dining table suits you and your room?
  • Does your chandelier need updating?
  • What catches your eye in your dining room?
  • Do you have the right type of dining chair?
  • What type of statement do you want your dining room to make about you?
  • Are your guests given enough room where they sit?
  • Do you want your dining room to be sassy or traditional?
  • Do you need or want accent lighting?

Click HERE to download and print the questions listed above. Then when you are ready, stop in to one of our stores or call and schedule a design consultation with one of our interior designers, or me. 

Read more in the An Interior Designer’s Home series  – 

Inside the Laundry & Closet, Inside the Bathroom and Inside The Bedroom