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Say it isn't so!

By Melissa Locker
April 01, 2021
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If you have a habit of dropping in on open houses just for a quick peek or spending your evenings scrolling through house tours on Zillow, you may have noticed a trend among modern homes: There's no room for a dining room table.

As open concept homes become the preferred style for home buyers—and nearly every home improvement show on HGTV—formal dining rooms seem to be less and less common. Instead there are eat-in kitchens, breakfast bars with high stools, and maybe benches around a dining nook. But there's not much room for the grand old dining room tables that dominated our parents' or grandparents' homes. Are modern families too practical to reserve square footage for special occasions like dinner parties and holidays?

A fascinating story over at Vox talks about the history of the dining room table, which started with the Victorians doling out asparagus forks and finger bowls and showing off their fine china. That separate dining space started to disappear in the 1920s thanks to a rise in newfangled kitchen technology (electric stoves!) and people wanting to show off that new gadget. The prevalence continued to wane through the 1950s when the invention of TV dinners further dispelled the notion of eating only in a dining room. That trend continued through the 1960s with eat-in kitchens becoming commonplace and the 70s with ranch-style homes further doing away with the concept.

Now, new generations of homeowners are less likely to be interested in having a formal dining room or the tables that fill them. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that 43% of millennials prefer the look and feel of an open concept layout and casual dinner parties.

River House dining area with white painted walls and wood and iron dining table
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Elly Poston Cooper

That said, while apartments are getting smaller, the size of the average home has increased by 1,000 square feet in the last 50 years, according to Vox. That added square footage may have sparked renewed interest in dining rooms. As Apartment Therapy points out, interior design site Modsy saw a huge spike (156% increase) in interest in dining rooms between 2018 and 2019, and that was before a pandemic had us all hunkering down at home even more. As adults and kids alike worked from home, dining rooms became a hot commodity. Folks who had a formal dining room that was perhaps traditionally used only for Easter suppers and dinner parties, suddenly had a whole room to turn into a home office or remote classroom. While dinner parties may have become more casual, perhaps post-pandemic, people popping by open houses or scrolling through Zillow posts, will start seeing a room with dedicated table space as a huge boon.