Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Most of us fondly remember dinner parties and special gatherings with friends or family around a carefully set table in a formal dining room. However, are dining rooms even necessary with the rise of diverse home layouts and casual get-togethers?
Dining rooms are not obsolete. However, the specifics of this answer are very nuanced. Many factors can determine if your dining room is still valuable for you or if you’re better off using the area for something that might better fit your lifestyle.
In the rest of this article, I’ll give you all the information you need to decide if your dining room is necessary or a waste of space.
What Defines a Formal Dining Room?
Before you decide if you need a dining room, it’s important to understand what defines a formal dining room.
By definition, a formal dining room is a designated space in your home specifically for meals. This area differs from other eating areas like a kitchen table or a breakfast nook because it is a room meant for eating.
Typically, it’s within proximity to the kitchen area, but there’ll be some structural barriers between the two places.
That means that, usually, there’ll be a doorway or two that lead into the room from other areas of the house.
All of this ensures that the dining room can be separated from all other spaces in the home.
That way, its purpose doesn’t get confused.
In short, when you enter the dining room for dinner, you’re going to eat, and that’s all.
Why Did We Have Dining Rooms?
We had dining rooms because they were a necessary part of any home during the mid-1900s until the introduction of TV dinners in the 1980s. During these decades, meals were an essential part of family bonding, so having a room dedicated for that purpose was necessary.
However, having a separate, casual dining area in a kitchen or living room isn’t new.
For families that preferred a less formal setting for their meals, dining rooms served as a place to host guests.
In these cases, having a dining room meant you had a place where you could serve meals to friends or family during special events.
If you were a person who took pride in hosting dinner parties, it was unthinkable not to have a dining room in your home.
Why Did People Stop Using Dining Rooms?
Dining rooms are much less popular than they used to be due to several reasons.
People stopped using dining rooms because many families started having their dinners closer to their televisions, especially when popular television shows began to air during dinner time. In the decades since, many people have started to break traditions from past generations as well.
That means, in part, the stuffy nature of dining rooms has started to make the room less useful to some people who opt to serve meals in a more open area.
For example, since the dining room is cut off from the kitchen, that means that often the person preparing the food, usually the wife, is less able to socialize.
Dining Rooms Are Not Practical for Smaller Homes
Another cause for the decline of dining rooms is the increase of smaller living spaces. Apartments, for example, often don’t have the space for a specific dining area.
Even individuals who move from an apartment to a house may continue to use a living room or kitchen area for meals because that’s what they’ve become accustomed to.
Dining Rooms Allow You To Hold Special Gatherings
Despite some of the population opting not to use dining rooms anymore, you still might need one.
If a dining room can be useful to you, it’s not a waste of space.
The following indicates if you might get a lot of use out of a dining room:
- You host a lot of “formal” dinner parties.
- You prefer to keep certain household activities separate (for example, no watching TV or working at dinner).
- You like having family dinners where you can bond and talk without distractions, and you need a specific place for that.
- You want a different dining area you can use for other occasions to make them feel special.
You Don’t Need a Dining Room if You Seldom Use It
While there are reasons to have a dining room, it can still be a waste of space if you don’t use it and don’t intend to.
It can be difficult to break the traditional idea of having a dining room in your home.
However, there are a few signs that you’re off converting your dining room into a different type of space:
- You haven’t used your dining room once since you’ve lived in your home (assuming you’ve lived there for at least a full calendar year).
- You don’t host parties or have people over for most special occasions.
- You prefer more casual get-togethers or formal events that are more like a cocktail party and less like a sit-down meal.
- When you’ve used your dining room, you (or whoever prepares the food in your home) feel isolated and cut off from everyone else.
- You feel any sort of stress regarding making sure your dining room looks nice and well-put-together.
- You enjoy family dinners, but you either don’t mind distractions or don’t need a separate eating area to keep distractions from interfering.
Are dining rooms outdated? The answer is more complicated than just a simple yes or no.
It’s an entirely subjective question that only you can answer.
While it’s true that, in general, dining rooms are becoming less utilized, they can still be a vital room in your home if you get enough use out of it for it to have value to you.
However, if you don’t use your dining room and you don’t particularly enjoy having it, you might want to consider using the area for something you’ll get more joy out of.
- LA Times: Is the dining room dead? See the fun ways other people repurpose theirs
- Million Acres: Dining Rooms: Still a Thing?
- The Globe and Mail: Ask a design expert: Our dining room seems like a waste of space. How can we use it more?
- Ladders: This study suggests that you’re wasting a ton of home space
- Daily Mail: So is the dining room REALLY dead? As fewer families eat together, has the room been made redundant?
- This Old House: All About Dining Rooms
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