Are Formal Dining Rooms A Thing Of The Past?

Dining rooms used to be a quintessential part of the home, much like the living room and the kitchen. However, with the rise of open plan living, this once must-have feature is slowly becoming less desired by homebuyers. Typically, dining rooms encompass a separate space in your home and are therefore instantly more formal than the kitchen and family room areas. Viewed as a place to sit down and eat a meal with family, they're seen as less casual because of the setting and the expectations for a classy atmosphere. 

Interestingly, it could be the formality of the dining room that's causing its decline. In a 2017 study conducted by UCLA-associated researchers, cameras were used to monitor how often 32 dual income families used their dining room. It turns out that they weren't used very often, as the dining table was normally covered in items like bills and toys that made it impossible for mealtime use. Instead, spaces like the kitchen and the family room were typically used for eating. There are a few reasons why dining rooms have diminished in popularity. Further, these spaces may have other uses that could benefit certain families. 

Dining rooms used to have a different purpose

It could be that we simply have no use for a formal dining space anymore. Pam Kueber, founder of design blog Retro Renovation, thinks that the filtering out of dining rooms is a natural thing and shows how times have moved on. Dining rooms used to be a way to separate yourself from where the servants ate in the kitchen. Naturally, as Kruber points out, it's much more likely these days that we undertake the jobs servants used to do ourselves. Moreover, as dining rooms have a reputation for being more formal, you may feel like you can't decorate this room the way you want, turning it into a place that you don't feel comfortable in.

Further, a lot of kitchens now have tables, eliminating the need for a separate eating space. "As Mom began to do all the kitchen work herself — we wanted to hang with her and she wanted to hang with us, so the lines between kitchen and dining room began to blur and design evolved towards the 'open concept' kitchen so popular today," Kueber explained via HuffPost. It makes sense, then, that some people may have stopped using the "cook in the kitchen, then eat in the dining room" model in order to stay around the rest of the family. 

How dining rooms can be used today

Nevertheless, experts say that the dining room isn't completely disappearing. While these spaces used to be only utilized for eating, dining rooms are now typically seen as multifunctional spaces. As Jessica Rae Sommer, vice president of Wedgewood Homes and Maverick Design, told 21 Oak, "The new dining room is multidimensional — a place to gather for meals, a work-from-home desk, a virtual meeting spot, an art studio, a homeschool classroom, a home gym, a playroom, a [virtual reality] room, or a hybrid of any number of these." 

Therefore, while the formal dining room may be on the decline, the dining room itself has been reimagined as a room that the whole family can enjoy. Not just for eating, a dining room could be a temporary office, a place to help with homework, or even just a casual room you use to host fun dinner parties when family and friends visit. So, instead of not using your dining room, consider turning it into a hybrid area of your house that the whole family can use. This way, you're adapting with the times instead of letting the space gather dust.