Formal dining rooms are giving way to more-flexible eating spaces with benches and banquettes that provide storage and a natural place for everyone to gather.
Let’s face it: Getting the whole family around the dinner table is not easy. Schedules are filling up again, office commutes look different, and a standard dinner hour can be hard to lock in every night of the week. In this respect, home design hasn’t kept up with modern living, and we often see neglected dining rooms used for toy and furniture storage, or as utility rooms for grown-ups, where papers cover an underutilized table.
We hear the same line from many of the families we work with. They love the idea of their formal dining room in theory, but in practice, they use it only for holidays and special occasions. In homes that predate the open-plan trend, dining rooms are often walled off from common areas like kitchens and living rooms, which limits family interactions and conversations.
More and more, our renovations HGTV include a solution to these issues: the dining nook. Some homes already have one, but with uncomfortable, dated seating and inadequate lighting. Some have a kitchen space just begging for one. We see them as opportunities for sharing space and time, not to mention storing your stuff under the built-in seating—especially when the table pulls double duty as a homework spot or home office during the day.
Dining nooks, typically set under or into windows, allow us to pair natural light with window treatments that adjust to a family’s needs throughout the day. Roman shades are versatile enough for most dining nooks, although solar shades can help cool the space and prevent furniture from fading. At dinnertime, a thoughtful, multi-bulb fixture will give off plenty of warm, inviting light.
The best part of dining nooks, though, is how easily they blend into the home, encouraging family members and guests to hang around, set the table, offer cooking help, or just enjoy one another’s company. Every family is looking for that togetherness, and more than ever, we’re helping them find it somewhere they might not look: the humble, ever-useful dining nook.
1. Before the remodel, this existing nook had no real purpose, with a couple of small pillows and dated lighting. Sprucing up the space didn’t take much, though: A brass light fixture and a dark statement table turn it into a feature instead of an afterthought.
2. With a new, custom dining nook, we always think about how much storage we can get into the space. In this case, storage was especially important for this foster family, to help keep their home tidy and welcoming.
3. Believe it or not, this light-soaked space was practically enclosed with another semicircular wall, which we took out as soon as we could. That extra space allowed us to create custom seating to complement the curves of a magnificent table that would look great in any dining area, nook or not.
4. Banquettes don’t have to stand alone in a room. In this Forever Home, we flanked the seating with floor-to-ceiling storage, which freed up a ton of space in the kitchen. Art is always a great addition to accompany the design. Just make sure to hang it high enough to avoid bumping your head!
What to pull up to your nook
Armrests and a rounded back make this on-trend rattan chair ($102) comfy enough for a leisurely meal or solving the Sunday crossword.
Perk up an all-neutral nook with this cheerful minty-green bentwood chair ($128).
A modern take on the classic Windsor chair, this version ($229) is plenty versatile and begging for a cozy cushion.
By Drew & Jonathan | Chair photographs courtesy of the brands | All other photographs courtesy of HGTV