Recently, a friend at one of our Friday Night Meatballs dinners remarked as we set the table in the dining room that I must be a real adult because I have a dining room that I don’t use every day. It made me laugh.
I thought of his comment when I saw a post on Apartment Therapy called “Is the Formal Dining Room Dead?” Many of the 91 comments seemed to agree that the formal dining room is a thing of the past, with many folks preferring to eat at counters, breakfast nooks, in kitchens, and in other “open-concept” multi-function rooms.
Here’s the thing: my “front room,” sort of a living/dining room, is my favorite room of the house. I guess you could call it “formal,” since it’s full of our nicest things and is a space I keep free of kids toys, and, in fact, where my children are rarely allowed unsupervised. But that actually makes it “work” great for us. While we eat most of our meals around a four-seater table in our breakfast nook, any time we have one or more people join us for dinner, we eat at the dining table. And more and more as we host not just Friday Night Meatballs but also things like: a baptism brunch, baby showers, a Christmas party, wedding showers, and other gatherings, having a large “formal” dining table that expands from a small circle to a four-leaf oblong table that seats up to 12 has made having a “more the merrier” attitude about hospitality quite easy.
I also just love how the space has come together now that we’ve been in our home for almost two years. What at first seemed like a strange room with a freestanding closet and an ugly builder-grade iron chandelier has become a space that I really love. The front window is huge and looks over the whole street. The light is gorgeous in the afternoons and evenings. There’s art that I love on the walls, and we covered the largest wall in a blue and white plate collection that I inherited from my grandmother. My husband has a real piano to play (instead of the keyboard he used for years), all our books have found a home, and my great grandfather’s china hutch houses china inherited from Jon’s family and all the prettiest things we’ve been given as gifts.
I watch all these HGTV shows where people are knocking down walls for one big living space and I think, these people are nuts. Our house is a nice balance of open and separate– the main living spaces flow into each other, but you can’t see a sink full of dirty dishes from any of our sofas. And I like that we have a den/play room on the back of the house, the kitchen in the middle, and the “front room” just off of that. I get to preserve a nice grown up space (which is also where I hide out with tea and books during nap times or when the girls are playing, so I’m not looking at kid clutter when I want to relax) for entertaining.
I guess the difference is: our formal dining room is not a show place, but a room where we do a particular piece of our living. We had Christmas morning there. We eat our Friday Night Meatballs there. We play the piano there. We eat meals with friends there. We hide from our children there. We look out the front window there. The cat basks in the sunlight there. We often park our stroller there. There are no chairs you can’t sit on, no surfaces I will yell at you about if you put down a glass, no books that can’t be put back on their shelves. It’s a living, breathing room for us. It’s not dead at all.