Is the dining room really passe’ or is there still room for it within our modern lifestyles, homes, and family needs?
A catchy recent article basically claims that the dining room as we knew it is no longer a viable need in today’s custom home. In other words, societaly and demographically, the formal dining room has gone the way of the dodo bird, venerable but extinct! The article stated that “For generations, families ate in their kitchens and only ventured into their dining rooms on special occasions. The dining room was a place for guests, where stiff-backed chairs and fragile china kept everyone on their best behavior. But new changes in family structure and family roles have changed the use of the once hallowed room to make it march to a new beat, or not at all.
“As our lives have changed, so have our dining rooms.”
We must ask ourselves what changes have caused this shift in expectations from a formal dining room complete with delicate china, lace curtains, a “do-not-touch’ table surface, and an unused carpet, to a more casual mode of family and guest dining which often includes the everyday china (or paper plates and pizza boxes), Something in our lives has diverted us from the hallowed social graces that demanded an invitation-only formal meal and switched us to a more casual home ambiance, complete with the room-and accessory- readjustments to reflect that trend.
A different experience of what constitutes “family” and “family meals” is partly responsible for the shift.
Because the ideal Leave it to Beaver family–featuring happily-married diferent-gender parents, an employed dad, a stay-at-home mom, and two relatively normal offspring–is the exception rather than the norm these days. The shift in the family is party responsible for the decrease in demand for formal dining rooms even in custom homes. In this new dynamic of family life, cooking and eating are typically mechanisms for quick family nourishment rather than elegant entertaining in most families. With the growth of purchasable, delicious, easy-to-prepare meals which are undistinguishable from their lovingly-prepared time-consuming counterparts of yesterday, families can now quickly reproduce favorite family meals which can easily be eaten with extended family and/or friends in a casual kitchen- or deck setting–no formal dining room needed!
The cost per-square-foot of housing has it made it impractical for a regular family to focus an entire room on something they rarely use.
Instead, that money is more justifyably used to build a game room, extra bedroom, or inreasingly, a home office in keeping with today’s telecommuting needs. People really do still use their dining rooms, but for things other than dining. A formal dining room may still be included in a cuatom-built home, but will be designed and decorated to allow it to more easily fit a dynamic, active family’s needs. The dining table might be designed to withstand conversion to a home-schooling location or to a crafts table for the family scrapbooking project. The capacity to be converted to a multi-use facility can never be ignored with today’s evolving lifestyles.
Thus, the answer to “Do People Even Use Dining Rooms Anymore” can actually be seen as a “yes, but.” Yes, but the use is oftem a non-traditional use and does not follow traditional family norms, like most modern families don’t follow them anymore. The family in pursuit of building a new home should question the best use of money allocated to the construction of their home and whether they would be comfortable using the “dining room” for such non-traditional uses as home schooling, science projects with spills or frogs, and a casual meal during a sleep-over for the scout troop complete with the family dog or hamster. Only if those new ideas don’t make them blink should they divert part of their construction budget to a little-used but beautiful formal dining room.
Ken Uhrich likes houses. In fact he lives in one. You can drop him a line at the Custom Home Group website.