Using Your Dining Room

Thank you to Wayfair for sponsoring this post.  All opinions are my own.

Formal dining rooms can sometimes sit alone – untouched and gathering dust – until a holiday rolls around.  I’ve been thinking lately about how we can make the space useful for our family instead of wasting that square footage…

I love this dining room! These are wonderful tips for finding ways to use your formal dining space, and the soothing neutrals, rich textures, combination of antiques and diy pieces, and family friendly set up is wonderful!

When we moved into our new home, we knew we were sacrificing some “public” square footage (you know, living room, kitchen, etc.).  Having lived in a tiny European apartment, I know that our Texas-sized home is large (size is, after all, relative), but this house simply devotes more space to bedrooms.  As such, I was determined not to let our formal dining room sit unused.

Though it had lots of “public” space, our previous home had no kitchen table area – not even a bar counter, so we ate every meal in our formal dining room.  In our new home, though, we have a perfect little spot in the kitchen for a small casual table as well as this formal dining space.

gorgeous formal yet casual dining space with a giant vintage map for wall art |

Since the dining room is one of the first things you see when you enter our home…

lovely neutral home and dining room |

I was obviously determined to make it lovely.

But I didn’t want to stop there.  I wanted to really use the space, not just have it sitting like a museum, and I’ve spent the last six months fine tuning that process.  So now, 6 months in, I thought I’d share with you some ideas for using your dining space.

1. Arts and Crafts and Games

My kids are still little, so I started last fall by making over a kids craft table for the space.

kids craft table in the dining room |

We use this big woven basket and a shelf in the china cabinet to store supplies, and this keeps our kitchen table clear for everyday meals.  And we love using the dining room table for big board games, too, keeping the tight kitchen table area free of extra clutter.

beautiful french country dining room |

2. School work

We actually homeschool, but even if you only need to do homework, I think the dining room can be a great space for that.  The formality of the room helps my kids to stay focused (and keeps them from asking for so many snacks since the pantry is not in sight 😉 ).

french dining room with diy vintage map |

I even went so far as to add this awesome little vintage desk I restored to the corner.  It may be a random fixture for a dining room, but I think the vintage look flows well, and my kindergartener loves working there.

vintage school desk and fiddle leaf fig

3. Family Dinners

We’ve instituted weekly family dinners in the dining room.  As you can see, my great grandmother’s dining furniture is rather formal (even after I refinished it) and a little delicate, so we balanced it out with a bench (also an inherited piece) for the kids.  This way, our whole family can enjoy the space.

beautiful french dining room with classic french country dining furniture balanced by a rustic bench |

We work together to set the table, light a couple of candles, and enjoy family dinners on Thursday nights.  We almost always eat dinner together even at the kitchen table, but there’s something about the dining room that lets us linger just a little longer.  The food doesn’t have to be formal, and it doesn’t have to take long… It’s just nice to devote the time (and try to train our children not to eat like barbarians 😉 ).

baskets and raw wood provide beautiful texture in this french country dining room |

4. Entertaining

I think a formal – but not too formal – dining room is so refreshing for guests.  We can expand the table to seat 10 or keep it intimate at 6.

gorgeous dining room with neutrals and lots of texture |

I think the bench helps keep it casual, while the upholstered chairs add class and elegance.

beautiful french chairs covered in a pale blue pattern

The china cabinet displays a variety of family pieces and fun textures (like the birch bark I added recently)…

love all the neutrals and textures in this french dining room |

And the buffet offers extra storage for those school books and craft supplies I mentioned.

tobacco basket and bushel lid provide beautiful rustic contrast to a more formal dark wood buffet |

Our new chandelier makes the room bright enough for schoolwork but elegant enough for a dinner party…

wine barrel chandelier provides a casual yet elegant look in this french country dining room |

And my diy Paris map is a perfect talking point since we lived there for several years…

giant diy vintage map is the perfect walk art in this french dining room |

And the space truly has become so functional for our family.  I can honestly say that we spend multiple hours a day in here, and it isn’t constantly a giant mess (having a place to put everything is obviously key to that!).

love all the wood tones in this neutral, french dining room |

We play games, eat meals, and enjoy the beautiful natural light.

stunning arched windows in this dining room

The sun sets over the hills just outside that window in the evenings, and it can be breathtaking.

But whether you have big windows or none.
Lots of space or little.
Fancy furniture or simple.
The important thing is that is a space well used and well loved by your loved ones.

And if you follow me on Instagram, you know that there are two little supermans and one little princess who have given their stamps of approval. 😉

gorgeous formal yet casual dining space with a giant vintage map for wall art |

How do you use your formal dining room?

Dining Room Sources:
dining set | school desk | bench – vintage | buffet – antique | chandelier | giant Paris map | tobacco baskets | table runner | teak bowl | copper mugs (similar) | white dinnerware | art supply basket (similar) | woven placemats | floors 

Disclosure: Thank you to Wayfair for providing the gorgeous chandelier!  All opinions are my own.  You can read my full disclosure policy here.

pin it image

I love this dining room! These are wonderful tips for finding ways to use your formal dining space, and the soothing neutrals, rich textures, combination of antiques and diy pieces, and family friendly set up is wonderful!

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Clutter Free Desk (sign)

gorgeous classic white kitchen renovation |

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  1. I very much like the baskets hanging over the server cabinet. And I also very much like the plant in the corner. Is it a Fig? Hard to maintain? What can you tell me about these things. Of course I think your home is INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL!!! You’ve done such a great job here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Beautiful room Rachel. I do not have a breakfast room so we use our dining room daily. Your dining room is what I consider functional elegance. Such a great place to do daily tasks and be surrounded by beauty!…love the chandy!!

  3. I’m OBSESSED with that cute little wood bench!! I’ve always loved the look of a bench paired with a dining tables & this is fab!!

    Happy Thursday!

  4. It’s a gorgeous space! Our dining room is basically the pathway from our living room to the kitchen, as well as out to the back yard. I have struggled to find a purpose for it because I feel like while my kids are young a formal dining space just isn’t practical. It’s been a toy area, an office area, and is now an extra sitting and piano area. Maybe one day it will be a dining room again :)

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Melanie!! Our kitchen table area is very tight (and right inside the back door), so I didn’t feel like we had the option of giving up our formal dining… but I understand the temptation to use the space for other things! It is so hard when spaces act as a pass through. I’m sure you’ll land on just the right thing eventually. :)

  5. Um, how stunning is that chandelier?? And your whole formal dining room, friend. I have to say, I’m a bit jealous- our house isn’t actually that large of a floor plan and we just have the one dining area between the kitchen and living room. It would be neat to have a more formal option like yours. And I really think I need to switch out my chandelier now. Yours goes so perfectly with every other element in the space- it looks like it was made to be next to your vintage map (Paris?!).

  6. So pretty, Rachel! That new chandelier is PERFECT!

  7. Your dining room is gorgeous, Rachel! I love even more that you are using it!! I’m the same way – I’ve made it my mission to spend more time in there!

  8. LOVE your dining room, and your new gorgeous chandelier! Everything looks so bright and crisp! Gorgeous!

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