Dining in

Who says the family meal is dead? Carol O’Callaghan muses on the style and placing of the dining room in our lives

The rectangular Avantgarde table is topped with lightsome, space-enhancing glass on a solid frame, contrasting with the traditional curves of the Wien chairs and non-traditional plastic detailing (table €638, chairs €255 each from Casey’s Furniture)

Sturdy and stylish, the Wardour table by Benchmark is four metres long and made of solid oak finished in clean contemporary lines (approx €5,500 from the Conran Shop)

Round table and softly upholstered chairs (Greenwich table approx. €999, Orchard chairs approx. €579 from M&S)

Denby’s Cosmic dinner set moves beyond minimal to inject some modern pattern (€172 from Brown Thomas)

NOT all of us have space for a dedicated dining room, but with the trend for relentless open plan, and even the less capacious kitchen diner arrangement, there’s always space to be found for a table.

It’s a practical necessity to have somewhere to sit and eat even if you succumb to the comforting convenience of a lap tray in front of the telly after a hard day’s graft. But it’s hardly convivial for times when you have guests round for a bite.

Unless you have oodles of space, the choice of table shape will be determined by your room proportions. Rectangles remain endlessly popular, but square versions seating four bring a refreshing shape change to a kitchen diner where the emphasis on kitchen cabinetry is firmly along rectangular lines. They work equally well in a rectangular dining room, allowing space to add in a sideboard or buffet table and helping to take the visual emphasis off the length of the room. Should space allow, and do take your measurements before you’re seduced by looks, check out squares that seat two on each side.

Start by thinking about how many people you want to seat on a day-to-day basis. You’re off your head if you have four people to seat routinely but then opt to squeeze in a table for eight because at Christmas and Easter you have guests.

Round tables have never been terribly popular and I’ve never understood why. Admittedly, if you have a long narrow dining room, the round shape may stretch so far to the walls that there’s no way of walking around it, nor space to pull chairs back from it. The round lines, however, are pleasing to the eye and you can always squeeze in a couple of extra guests without anyone being stuck with the discomfort of sitting at a corner. Like the double square, it’s also more conducive to good flow of conversation and keeping everyone included. It’s a good option too in a multi-functional room which, let’s face it, is likely to be part-kitchen, part-office, part-study, used by many and there aren’t any corners to bump into.

Think beyond wood and consider glass on wooden legs or even the ‘70s revival of glass on chrome. Maybe not the safest of choices if you have little ones bouncing around, but glass has a thoroughly modern feel and gives a sense of lightness that you don’t get with more oppressive solid wood. Try a rug beneath it for softness under foot and to absorb the noise of conversation which can bounce off wooden floors.

You might also like to try chairs in a contrasting material. Try plastic chairs with your mahogany table. Not those green and white garden uglies but elegant clear plastic with multi-faceted surfaces as near to glass as plastic can get but more appealing to the touch, finished in transparent tints which speak of aquamarine and yellow tourmaline stones.

If you are stuck with your table and chairs and changing them is not an option, there’s one thing that can transform your dining room and that’s lighting. Let’s face it, dining is done largely after dark for most of the year, so two considerations are paramount: function and ambience. A simple approach is to change the shade on your pendant light above the table. Go for something bold in bright yellow, red or green, but don’t be tempted to dim the lights, people like to see what they’re eating.

* Next week we’re in the kitchen


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