Post by Liz Higginbottom
A recent survey by Lloyds TSB found that one fifth of homeowners had reduced the number of rooms in their homes to create a more open plan space. The casualty of this new trend was largely the dedicated dining room.
So should we be celebrating on the sofa or mourning the demise of this once most aspirational of rooms? Let’s look at the causes for the dining room decline, and what this means…
1. Every day dining en famille is fast becoming a thing of the past. This is due to a combination of factors including both parents working, longer working hours, the boom in after school activities for children and the availability of convenience food.
2. Smaller homes. As the trend for homeownership boomed and land became more and more expensive, houses became smaller. Dining rooms became tiny, box- like, characterless spaces and eventually were often dispensed with altogether.
3. Our requirements changed. Developers increasingly found that downstairs loos, utility rooms and en suite bathrooms all attracted more sales than the traditional dining room.
4. A less formal society. Our grandparents’ generation had very few friends round to their homes for meals. Entertaining among the middle classes only took off in the early sixties. Working women were still a minority and housewives found creative outlets by throwing dinner parties. We entered the era of the prawn cocktail, gammon and pineapple and black forest gateau. Today life is much less prescriptive and we can happily combine semi-formal cooking for friends with impromptu gatherings which might involve eating a takeaway on the sofa or like the prime minister sharing a “kitchen supper”.
1. People are bound to cite the demise of the dining room as one of the causes of the breakdown of family life. In my experience however houses large enough to have dining rooms tend to also have breakfast bars or kitchen tables which become the default dining options and the dining table gathers dust until the weekend. As this is obviously not the most efficient use of space, perhaps it is better to opt for a pool table, stick a plasma screen on the wall and all play together instead.
2. The disappearance of the dining room is also inevitably going to feature in discussions about the causes of obesity and poor nutrition but we must not over egg the pudding here. People are not getting fatter because of where they eat but because of what they eat.
3. It is probably true that an increase in poor table manners is collateral damage caused by the downfall of the dining room. Any parent knows that it is impossible to enforce traditional table manners when balancing a plate on your knee on the sofa. Those Sunday lunches at the dining table at least gave the opportunity to pass on a useful life skill.
Personally I mourn the demise of the dining room for a totally different reason. I see it as a loss of a creative opportunity. Dining rooms, for all their faults, were at least another canvas. They allowed you to have a sleek modern kitchen yet still house your inherited antiques or indulge your passion for French furniture with no incongruity what so ever.
Open plan living however, will lead us into the temptation of succumbing to bland simple furniture styles; opting for trends which will fit in with our fitted kitchen. If you are up for it, this could be just the moment to take on the ultimate challenge, designing a successful unfitted kitchen.