Open Dining Is Out—It's Time To Welcome Back The Formal Dining Room In 2023

We’re done taking the dining room for granted.

Dining room
Photo:

Haylei Smith, Design by Lance Thomas, Thomas Guy Interiors

In the fight to idealize our homes, dining rooms have been a devastating casualty. For many eager to embrace wide, free spaces and opportunities for family time, the dining room fell victim to open floor plans. For others, world events forced the dining room’s transition from a space for family dinners to one meeting newfound homebound needs like home offices, homework stations, or even makeshift home gyms. Before our very eyes, dining rooms have disappeared.

But enough is enough. We miss dining rooms, and we’re not afraid to say it. For too long, they may have been overlooked, but moving into 2023, we’re reclaiming the dining room. In 2022, we leave behind the fad of not having a formal dining area. As luck would have it, the reviews are in and designers agree: Dining rooms are trendy again. Can I get an amen?

Shaun Smith New Orleans Ranch Dining Room
Laurey W. Glenn

Welcoming Back The Formal Dining Room

“For a while, we’ve seen a lot of big, open floor plans where the kitchen, dining, and living fits in one big box, but I think we’re coming back to doing more traditional layouts with separate dining spaces that make things a little more intimate,” says the Louisiana-based principal designer of Thomas Guy Interiors, Lance Thomas. A dining room fan himself, he's noticed an increase in clients requesting formal dining spaces.

Like Thomas, we’re excited about this shift. We’re tired of eating in the kitchen, which is also the living room, and also the family room. And while the open floor concept had the best intentions of bringing family together, we’re tired of just seeing our loved ones more without really having quality time. While an open floor plan gets lost in the hubbub of everyday, a dining room is a place of coming together with loved ones intentionally and focusing on nothing more than a good meal and each other. 

"Bringing people back to more of a communal dining space allows people to reconnect. It’s the only space in the house where you’re not idling or just sitting around,” says Thomas. “Even a casual meal in a formal dining room allows you to reconnect with people and disconnect from technology.”

We don’t always agree with the trends, but this is one we can get behind. We’re firmly on the dining room train because it’s a special place with the power to shift interactions in the home. Plus, the design potential is downright exciting.

Nicola McLaughlin San Antonio, TX Home Dining Room
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Designing A Dining Room

“A lot of people don't realize that keeping rooms separate actually allows for more creativity throughout your home,” reveals Savannah McPartland, design partner at Haddy House Interiors in Houston. “In a dining room, you can really take things to the next level and bring in rich hues, wallpaper, or creative picture frame molding, as opposed to limiting yourself to one color palette like you would if you have an open floor concept. You can do so much more to make a space pop.”

Thomas agrees that separate rooms allow you to personalize your home more and be adventurous in your design. You don’t have to worry about rooms clashing with each other like in an open concept space. Go all out with bold paint choices, textures, wall moldings, and high contrast elements that suit your personal style, no matter what the room over looks like. Have fun with it.

“A lot of times people think the jewel box space—where you can make some bold choices— is the powder room, but I think the dining room is the next jewel box space,” says Thomas.

Florida Cracker Style Home Dining Room
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Barbara Schmidt

Creating The Effect In An Open Floor Plan

If you drank the Kool-Aid on the open floor plan fad but crave the intentionality and quality time afforded by a dining room, Thomas recommends doing everything possible to create “a room within a room.”

“It’s important to designate the space for what it is,” he says. “I would start by doing everything you can in your open floor plan space to make it feel special again.” Do this by anchoring that section of the open room with a rug to mark its separation, hanging a unique lighting fixture over the space that’s different from the rest of the room’s lighting, and strategically placing a sideboard or bar cart to section off the dining space. 

With physical barriers created, establish social boundaries as well for your newfound dining area. It’s now a place of connection and quality time to be appreciated. We’ve made the mistake of neglecting the need for a dining room once and we won’t be doing it again.

LAURA SUMRAK

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