Decorating a Formal Dining Room Layout
The Dining Room is a gathering place where meals are shared with the family and friends. Family meals are ordinarily quite informal, with the exception of special holidays meals. However, meals with guests can run the gamut from informal to quite formal.
Because a very formal dining room can feel uncomfortable for casual meals, most people only decorate a formal dining room if they having a second dining area such as a breakfast nook or eat-in kitchen. However, if you only have one dining area and you want to accommodate both formal and informal gatherings, there are some tricks to achieving the best of both worlds.
The Core Elements in a Dining Room
The dining table and chairs are the most fundamental elements of a dining room. Selecting the right table will set the tone for the room. First of all, consider the shape, round tables are less formal. They give all persons equal status and facilitate easy conversation amongst the entire group. Rectangular tables are more formal and tend to elevate the persons at either end to a more prominent role, such as the host or guest of honor. Ideally, choose a table that allows the addition and deletion of table leaves to adjust the table size to match the dining party size.
Traditionally, armchairs are used on at the ends of a rectangular table. The seats along the length of a rectangular table are typically without arms. Armless chairs allow easier access getting in and out of a seat and are especially nice when seats must be somewhat crowded. Typically, cues such as upholstery and the level of detail in the chair construction influence the feeling of formality. Small, simply decorated chairs feel less formal than high-backed, ornate chairs with elegant fabrics and patterns.
From a functional standpoint, tables with a pedestal are the easiest for taking a seat. The legs at the corners of some tables, limit the space for seating and interfere with easy entrance and exit from the table. Table size should take into consideration that each seated guest should have roughly 25-30" for their place setting. Make certain that the table is sized so that each chair has at least 27" of space from the edge of the table to the wall to allow comfortable access.
Beyond The Table
Other furnishings in the room, such as a sideboard, hutch, serving table, cocktail service will also increase the formality of a room, depending upon the style of furniture. Dark woods and ornate details, as well as size all tend to make a room feel more formal.
Making a Dining Room More or Less Formal
If you have furnished a room to give it a formal feel, you can soften that formalness for casual meal by adding elements. Casual table linens can turn a large, ornate table into a simple palate for a friendly meal. Select linens in and bright colors, possibly with light seasonal themes with patterns like flowers, or autumn leaves. A simple vase with flowers from your garden also will add to the casual but elegant effect.
Choose place settings that are colorful but not overly fancy and silverware with simple lines for casual elegance. Set the table with a beverage in a clear glass pitcher as another way to reinforce a casual atmosphere.
The Walls, Floor and Ceiling
The wall color should be stimulating and warm. In fact, colors such as reds, brick, orange and warm rich yellows stimulate the appetite as well as create a comfortable space to sit with friends and converse. Excessively bright colors can actually unconsciously encourage lead people to eat quickly and leave; not the goal for any meal with friends.
Rugs and carpet are a matter of personal preference. Some view maintaining a rug under a dining table as too much of a challenge. However, the huge selection of rugs using new, easy to clean materials make keeping it looking new, much, much easier. A simply patterned dark rug can work to make a room feel both formal or comfortably casual depending upon other decorating cues.
Lighting in a dining room can be tricky. Under ideal circumstances you will have more than one lighting source, each with separate and dimmable controls. The primary lighting piece is ideally a chandelier. However, it does not need to be the primary light source. In fact, a chandelier makes an excellent source for mood lighting. It can be dimmed as needed to add an accent to the room, without causing eye strain, from over bright or dim light. A good source for general, ambient light are recessed can lights. these too, should be dimmable in order to match the lighting to the mood.
Wall hangings are not a requirement for a dining room. The colorful tones of the walls, ideally accented with complementary mouldings, can create more than enough interest in a room, especially when the focus should be the guests at the table. However, given a spacious wall in need or added interest, consider selections that blend with colors of the room, that add texture and interest, without being distracting.
For more information and ideas on arranging specific rooms in your home, see our other articles;