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…
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.
Since the dining room is one of the first things you see when you enter our home…
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.
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.
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 😉 ).
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.
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.
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 😉 ).
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.
I think the bench helps keep it casual, while the upholstered chairs add class and elegance.
The china cabinet displays a variety of family pieces and fun textures (like the birch bark I added recently)…
And the buffet offers extra storage for those school books and craft supplies I mentioned.
Our new chandelier makes the room bright enough for schoolwork but elegant enough for a dinner party…
And my diy Paris map is a perfect talking point since we lived there for several years…
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!).
We play games, eat meals, and enjoy the beautiful natural light.
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. 😉
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.
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