Dining room design takes a special touch as the space is usually a feature spot in a home, yet it needs to be quite functional. At Hoskins Interior Design, we approach these design projects first by examining how the space will be used. How often do you entertain? Are you the central point for most family gatherings? How many people do you typically seat? Will you be using your dining room for other things besides eating and entertaining? Creating a design around the functionality you need will give you a space that is not only beautiful, but can also serve you well.
Dining Room Design Tips of the Trade
Designing for space is central to the functionality of a dining room. You need to make sure to create flow and comfort for you and your guests.
Dining Table Length: The size of your room along with your entertaining needs will help determine the best table length. To seat your guests comfortably, you will need 24” of table length per chair. So, if you would like to seat 10 people, you will need at least an 8-foot table. However, if your table has legs on all four sides, you will need a longer table as that design tends to push chairs closer together and you do not want to make your guests uncomfortable.
Dining Table Width: We suggest a maximum width of 48” to 52”, otherwise the table is too wide for guests to reach across it. A wide table also puts people so far apart that it makes interaction difficult.
Dining Room Seating: Dining chairs should encourage guests to linger at the table long after the meal is complete. Therefore, comfort is an important part of your seating choice. While expansive chairs may seem like a natural option, less generous dining chairs are easier to fit around a table, providing more room for each guest. We also recommend providing your guests with upholstered rather than hard seating. Your design philosophy will determine your upholstery fabric choice. Elements like lighting, food, table centerpiece, and music can set the magic of the dining space, or you can use the 8-10 chairs covered with a wow fabric to create the tone. At Hoskins Interior Design, we prefer subtly in the dining chairs unless our clients plan to change the fabric often. Something to consider is that while light-colored fabric offers a lovely look, it tends to become unsightly once mustard, gravy or béarnaise sauce has been spilled on it. If you are set on a pale color, we recommend using leather, applying a stain-resistant fabric treatment, or having slip covers made.
Lighting A Dining Room: It makes sense that the bigger the table, the bigger the light fixture you can choose. Two chandeliers can nicely complement tables that exceed 76-78” in length, as long as your ceilings are at least 9 feet tall. Chandeliers should be hung with the bottom-most ornament at a minimum of 60” off the floor. American tables are typically 30” from the floor, leaving 30” between the table and the bottom of the chandelier. If the fixture is placed much higher than that, it will not relate well to the table unless the chandelier is particularly large. Dining room lighting is more about ambiance than task, though canned lights are a nice addition for set up and cleaning. Make sure all of the lights are on dimmers!
Color in Dining Rooms: Some interior designers and chefs believe that the colors of a dining space should support the food. At Hoskins Interior Design, we are of a different mindset, feeling that your home is first and foremost a reflection of your personality. Separate dining rooms offer an opportunity to bring out your fun side, as the limited amount of time you spend in the space will keep you from getting tired of it. Consider bringing in more saturated colors, or hanging some texture on the wall through a large tapestry. Paneled wall coverings or wall papers with distinct patterns can add some pizazz as well.
Dining Room Floor Coverings: If you are choosing a rug to compliment hardwood or tile floors in your dining space, make sure it is large enough for the host and hostess chairs to be able to slide back and still be on the floor covering when the table leaves are in. For example, an 8-foot long table requires at least a 12-foot long rug.
Dining as Part of a Great Room: Many of today’s homes combine the family and dining room into one great room, which works wonderfully for entertaining. The flexibility of the space allows you to instantly change it to suit your current needs. Planning for the many ways you will want to use the space will drive the overall design, particularly the size and placement of furniture. There is no need to hang a chandelier in relation to the dining table in this type of space. Creating an overall lighting plan for the many functions of the room will allow you to move the table, or to expand it into the shared space. It is important to provide enough indirect dimmed light to provide pretty ambient lighting while ensuring your guests can see well enough to avoid eating their napkin.
The goal of designing a dining room is to create a space that encourages guests to enjoy the food and the company. While the room needs to be smashingly beautiful and welcoming, it also needs to function well for how you plan to use it. No one wants to have to sit at the children’s table unless they are really children! Planning for your lifestyle will make entertaining in your home more enjoyable for you and your guests. Looking for more tips on designing a dining room? Send us an email or give us a call at (317) 253-8986.
For many homeowners, moving from a starter house to a larger family home is part of the natural progression of life. After the hubbub of the move is over and it is time to decorate the new space, they may find that their old furniture and accessories are not quite right anymore. The problem is that those items were purchased for the scale of their previous home which means they are too small for the new space. We see this dilemma particularly in newer homes, which are built with taller ceilings, larger floor space and grand architectural details. Furniture show rooms have kept up with this design trend, but in their quest to fit the scale of a home, the scale of the human has been left behind. Finding balance between scale and comfort is the key to making the new larger home both beautiful and comfortable.
Tips for Decorating a Large Home
Create Intimate Spaces: In smaller homes, furniture arrangements tend to be oriented along the walls due to lack of open space. In a larger home, this design leaves much to be desired. There is now enough room to create floating furniture vignettes, which are actually more functional in that they allow traffic to move around rather than through the seating area. Once you begin to pull your furniture off the walls, you may find there is enough square footage to create multiple conversation vignettes in one space. You can read more about this design idea in our Designing a Living Room or Great Room article.
Embrace the Height: Larger homes need taller furniture to balance the ceiling heights and the grand architectural details. Clients of ours who moved from a nice-sized home to a grand lake house provide the perfect example of the need for this new scale. Their living room featured very tall windows overlooking the lake and a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. The new scale of this home dwarfed their old furniture. To balance the proportions of the new home, we brought in taller furniture pieces, including high-backed chairs to be placed in front of the windows. At first our clients were worried that the tall chairs would block the lovely view. However, our eyes can only see so much in these large expanses and naturally move beyond the furniture to the true show stopper—the view. Once the pieces were in place, our clients were convinced that they only enhanced the lovely lake outside the windows.
Don’t Skimp on Drapery: In smaller homes with appropriately scaled windows, we work very hard to cover the least amount of window space with drapery. However, in a large home with large windows, covering the glass is not as much of a concern. Our brains can only take in so much information at once, so designing appropriately scaled drapery that covers up a bit of the expansive view does not hinder the impact of the large window. In fact, well-designed drapery will add to the drama.
Buy Custom Furniture: Working with an interior designer to create custom furniture pieces is particularly helpful when designing for a large home. The large pieces found in furniture showrooms are scaled for the space, but not the person. Many homeowners complain that off-the-floor furniture is uncomfortable, swallowing them up when they try to sit down! Choosing custom furniture allows you to move beyond fabric and style choices to crafting pieces with seat heights and depths, as well as cushion fill and detailing, that perfectly suits you and your space. At Hoskins Interior Design our furniture arrangements are individually created to suit the larger scale of the home, while including pieces that also fit the smaller-scaled person.
Don’t Forget About Lighting, Accessories and Rugs: One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make in designing for their larger-scaled home is decorating with too many little things. It is important to consider the volume of space you are trying to fill with these items. A bigger impact is made with fewer larger pieces that are in scale with their surroundings. This idea applies to lamps as well. A stout lamp may be needed to fill a corner of a room, while tall and thin candlestick lamps may be needed to compliment a large buffet. When choosing over-a-table lighting, make sure to consider its relationship to the table, the room or both. Note that appropriately sized lamps can be difficult to find in lighting showrooms and usually have to be custom ordered. For rugs, take into account the surface area of the room in which it will be placed, as well as the scale of the furniture that will sit on top of it.
When a homeowner has moved to a larger home and calls us saying their space is not quite right, it is usually a sign that scale is out of balance. Downsizing homeowners also have the same issue, and it can be difficult to find smaller-scaled furniture in the showrooms. Our designers would love to help you create a comfortable and beautiful look for your new space. Send us an email or give us call to schedule an appointment.
There is a bit of confusion surrounding the difference between a family room, a living room and a great room. At Hoskins Interior Design, we define a family room (also called a hearth room) as the place used for family relaxation, TV viewing and together time. A living room (also referred to as a parlor or sitting room) is a more formal space, mainly used for entertaining guests. A great room is a mixture of both a family room and living room, and is usually found in homes that have just one large room dedicated to both functions – family time and guest entertainment.
Our focus for this article is on designing around the need to entertain guests, both in the living room and the great room. As each space has different functionalities, it makes sense to start with how you plan to use the space. Both are gathering areas, but understanding the other activities that will take place in your space will help you create a better design.
Designing A Living Room:
At the center of guest entertainment, you will want to begin your living room design by creating multiple intimate gathering spaces. When you are hosting parties, people tend to move off into small groups for conversation. Forcing everyone to interact in a big circle is more of a meeting than a party! At the minimum, you will want a vignette that includes a sofa and two chairs, centered around a coffee table. If your room has enough space, you can create one or two more conversation areas; perhaps two chairs with a lamp table between them, and an occasional chair with an ottoman or footstool and a small lamp table. While there may be a fireplace in the space that acts as a focal point, there is rarely a TV in a living room.
Living rooms offer a wonderful opportunity to share the more formal part of your personal style with your guests. Furniture should be chosen for scale first, as you are trying to fit many vignettes in one room. Consider the atmosphere you would like to create for your guests, and choose your fabrics, window treatments, accessories and finishes with that goal in mind. Lighting will be important since you will not want your guests sitting in dim space during the evening hours! Bring in pieces from a collection, or special artwork that reflect you and your family, as accessories. Finally, make sure you give your guests a spot to place a drink or plate – no one likes balancing either on their laps!
We also suggest including a comfortable chair and ottoman along with some good lighting for yourself in your living room, creating a place to escape the business of the rest of the house. By crafting a space for reading and reflecting, you are allowing your living room to double as a sitting room which you will use with or without guests.
Designing a Great Room
Designing a great room can get tricky due to the many functions it is meant to serve as well as its larger size. Space for entertaining guests is mixed with room for family time, TV viewing, game night and homework. As the main TV viewing area, the media center tends be the focal point. Depending upon the size of your family, you will need a comfortable seating area for the TV for at least 4-5 people. Conversation areas are still important in a great room, so make sure to include a small table and chairs vignette which can double as a homework, snack or paperwork area depending on who is using it. Many times you will find a fireplace in a great room, which will serve as another focal point for gathering spaces. Balancing these elements with the functionality you need is where an experienced interior designer comes in handy!
With the larger size of a great room, many homeowners are inclined to push all of their furniture against the walls all the way around the space. This design does not lend itself to comfortable conversation or to a balanced look. Create intimate spaces in a large area by arranging seating vignettes just like in a large living room. It will be important to purchase furniture that fits the multi-functional nature of the space and is comfortable for you and your family. Remember to create a peaceful space to land outside of your kitchen, breakfast room or study. Bringing this versatility to your great room means you will use it more, and your family will be more likely to gather together in one spot rather than spreading out to other spaces of the house.
As in all interior design schemes, understanding how you are going to live in a space will allow you to take full advantage of all opportunities the room offers. If you are building a new home or remodeling, bring your interior designer in during the blueprint stage, so they can ensure you are creating a space that truly suits your needs. After the build or renovation is finished, consider having your designer find custom furniture crafted around YOUR body and YOUR needs, not those of the average person. You are guaranteed to be more comfortable in your space with the personalized touch.
We are always happy to help homeowners create the perfect space for themselves and their family. Reach out to us via email, or give us a call at 317.253.8986 to schedule a consultation.