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Is the Dining Room Becoming Obsolete?

March 05, 2014

How important is the formal dining room to the average homeowner?  Is this room even necessary for today’s buyer? 

Dining rooms were a necessity at the beginning of the 20th century.  Browse through home plans from this time period and you will discover microscopic kitchens with little counter space, let alone an area for sitting.  Meals were prepared in the kitchen, but that was the only purpose of the room.  Actual dining took place in its own room.

Of course, the kitchen began to become a more central hub in the following decades.  What started as the introduction of the eat-in-kitchen has evolved to include ample islands and built-in bar tops, allowing for the dining to take place right where the action is.  The modern kitchen is often an entertainment hub as well, complete with a television and computer.

My home happens to have a formal dining room, but if I had to give up a room in my home, it would absolutely be this seemingly useless space.  In the last 12 months, we have used the room only 3 times, despite my beautiful handmade dining table, and the super-comfortable chairs that accompany it.  My schedule just doesn’t lend itself to the family sit-down dinner that I grew up with.

As a 30-something busy professional couple, my husband and I don’t generally sit down to dinner until 8 pm or so.  By that time, we are totally “over” formality.  We either hover over our modest kitchen island or relax with our dinner on the sofa while watching television.  I imagine that dinnertime looks pretty similar to many of my friends and colleagues.

Certainly, there are still families who gather around the table to share a meal on a daily basis.  And good for them!  This is often the only time that families have to catch up.  But I would bet that the majority of busy families still prefer to eat at their kitchen islands, bar tops, and eat-in kitchen tables over the dining room.

Why would harried and hard-working working parents want to go through the hassle of setting up dinner in a formal room when everything is at their fingertips in the kitchen?   Do busy families even get together for dinner?  The rigorous schedule of school sports and extracurricular activities has probably contributed to the decline in popularity of the dining room.

Or course, there are plenty of empty nesters who, despite the impracticality of the dining room for serving meals, need a home with a formal dining room to house the cherished table, chairs, hutch, and buffet that they are reluctant to part with.  Clearly, buyers need to have options when it comes to the dining room.

Many people would probably rather use the space normally taken up by a dining room for a more functional purpose.  A recent article on Houzz suggests repurposing the dining room as an office, a library, or a secondary living space.

The McDowell plan by Eastwood Homes offers the option to convert the formal dining room into a study.  By making this change, the entrance to the room is transformed from a formal and open dining room entrance to a more private study entrance with French doors.  The breakfast or eating area, which exists as an extension to the kitchen, offers sufficient space for an eating table.  In addition to the eating area, the kitchen includes a counter-height bar that can seat two people comfortably.

There are several additional floorplans offered by Eastwood Homes that do not have a formal dining room, but instead an ample eating area off of the kitchen.  The Ellerbe, a flexible 2- or 3-story home with up to 5 bedrooms, does not have a formal dining room.  The eating area is big enough for a 6-seat table, plus the bar in the kitchen can seat at least three people.

Eastwood Homes will always offer plans with beautiful and spacious dining rooms.  But for the first-time buyer and many busy families, the valuable square footage that would have been devoted to formal dining may be better used for other purposes.

Eastwood Homes, New Homes, Buying a New Home, Dining Rooms, Kitchens

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