DESIGNING DINING ROOMS

Your dining room may be separate or part of the general living area; in either case, you should plan it with great care. Whatever scheme you choose must be practical, comfortable and adaptable so you can use it to the best advantage.

Many older homes – and some newer ones – have a purposc-buill dining area; if your home has one, you must first decide whether you want to devote so much space to a room which is used only at certain times during the day.

If the dining room is next to the living room or kitchen, you may prefer to knock down a wall, thus forming a living/dining or kitchen/dining room for a more open, larger effect. If you like the idea of having a separate eating area for dinner parties and special occasions, consider sliding or folding doors between adjoining rooms which will make it possible to have the best of both arrangements.

Before making structural alterations of any kind, however, check with a builder or architect to be sure no load-bearing wall is removed without being replaced by a suitable support system. Any work of this nature must comply with Building Regulations

Try to make sure the dining area you choose is easily accessible from the kitchen; you will not want to carry hot, heavy dishes of food very far or push past guests when you are laden down with cutlery, glass and china. If possible, cut a serving hatch through from the kitchen to the dining area to save a lot of walking backwards and forwards and ensure food can be served quickly and efficiently. A well designed serving hatch should be at least 600mm wide and 450mm high – and ideally its base should be level with the kitchen work surface. On the dining room side, it is a good idea to havca serving counter-possibly a small table or the top of a sideboard, if suitably protected to take hot dishes – or a hinged flap which can be raised or lowered when required.

Since a separate dining room is normally used for one purpose only, planning here is more straightforward than in other areas where many activities must be catered for. Essential furniture – dining table and chairs, plus some form of storage – should be positioned according to your family’s requirements and the size and shape of the room. If you prefer to keep such items as cutlery, crockery, linen and place mats in the kitchen, you might be able to get away without a storage unit; but try to have a trolley or serving area which you can use to put out other courses of food or stack dirty plates.

If your home is small and generally short of storage space, you may find a built-in corner cupboard in this room will hold a great many items without interfering with the room’s main function or taking up valuable space.

TABLES

The size of the table will be determined by the number of people in the family, the amount of entertaining to be allowed for and, of course, the size of the room. The shape of the table is another factor affected by the dimensions of the room, although there are some practical guidelines YOU should consider before buying a tabic.

Since each person needs approximately 700mm elbow room and 300mm knee space, a small square or round table is comfortable for only four people: the average family would probably need one which extends to a rectangular or oval shape capable of accommodating at least six people. If you have a large household or are in the habit ol entertaining a number of guests at any one time, go for a larger version which will seat at least eight. The extra money you will have to pay for a table which includes a drop end or a removable leaf is well worth the convenience it provides.

When considering the size of your dining room table, always keep in mind the fact that you will need at least 900mm corridor space between the table and the nearest wall more if you plan to have an adjacent sideboard or serving area. Also make sure the legs of the table are not in an awkward position where they might get in the way of those sitting nearby. This is often a problem when an extension is in use, so try OUT any table fully extended before you buy it. Those models with a central pedestal base avoid this kind of problem altogether, but they do not usually lend themselves to extension systems. Whatever its style and size, your table should be about 750mm high for most to eat comfortably at it.

Chairs

In addition to having enough chairs for all the family, be sure to allow a few additional ones for guests. They do not have to be part of a set or even situated in the same room, as long as you can press them into service easily when visitors are expected. Chair scats should be about 400mm above the floor, with backs at least 400mm high to give adequate support. Some people find dining chairs with arms more comfortable than ordinary ones, but these tend to be too bulky to slide under the table and therefore take up more space. If you have a very small room, look for chairs which stack neatly when not in use – some can even hang on a matching wall bracket which will hold up to four chairs. One solution could be to have bench seating, if you have a long table; but make sure the people who are going to use it do not object to this rather informal type of seating.

One of the most practical lighting arrangements for the dining room is a rise and fall pendant over the table. This type of lighting will usually retract fairly close to the ceiling when the table is being set and can be lowered down over the table to create a warm and intimate atmosphere while still providing adequate light during the meal.

Make sure with any lowered pendant that the lamp cannot be seen by those people seated at the table and that the pendant is not at eye level so it does not interfere with conversation. If you have a very long table, you may need two fittings one at each end.

An informal atmosphere can also be created by using candles instead of electric lights. Candlesticks not only help to dress a table, but can also set off a sideboard. Make sure they sit firmly and are not placed where they could be knocked over.

Alternatives to pendants are surface-mounted or recessed downlights; the quantity and strength of the lamps used will depend on the size of the room and the effect you want to create. If you prefer something more ornate, choose a decorative chandelier; a typical version will contain six lights.

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