Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Room of the Month - The Dining Room

“Them that has china plates themsel’s is the maist careful not to break the china plates of others.”  This insightful quip from Scottish writer James Matthew Barrie (best known as creator of Peter Pan) from the 1900’s rings true even today.  Barrie’s assessment of the situation?  Don’t mess with someone else’s plates because they will mess with yours.  So, this obsession with plates (in particular fine china) surely didn’t end with the modern invention of the microwave.  Every designer I know is a tad obsessed with these flat geometrically shaped devices used to transport food.  For me – I have way too many.  Since I enjoy a hodgepodge instead of matchy-match at my table, I find it hard to resist plates when I encounter them at vintage stores or discount retailers.

Marc Jacobs Waterford "David" at Macy's

So, what’s with my obsession?  It’s simple really.  Plates are accessories to the dining room.  In recent years, dining rooms have gotten bad press.  In our rushed and informal world, it’s not uncommon for me to hear things like: “Who does formal dinners anymore?” or “I never use them. I’m not registering for fine china”. I vowed this lackadaisical attitude would never take root at my house.  As a matter of fact, I rarely miss a chance to pull out the fine stuff – birthdays, anniversaries, friend parties and the like.  Heck – even if it means the boys wipe their hands on the chair seats, we pull out those china plates to use in the dining room.  I’m hardcore.

Besides the plates (which obviously hold a high level of fascination for me) what else is essential to a dining room? With the turkey season poking its head up in the next few weeks, I want to make sure that you are prepared to wow those guests with all that a dining room is meant to be.

Dining rooms need a bit of sparkle – if only for the fact that it’s a place where you spend time with people that are significant in your life.  A practical touch involves installing a dimmer switch to control the mood of your gorgeous chandelier.  Another consideration of the lighting is to install pink light bulbs.  (You may or not may not realize that many stores use pink bulbs to enhance customers’ complexions.)  Consider adding those little pink jewels to table lamps in rooms also.  A final addition to your dining room would be both a mirror (wall or otherwise) and don’t forget the candles!

A beautiful table by David Jimenez.

There are times when you want the room to look “nice” and there are the times when you feed your entire family of 40 for Christmas.  My rule of thumb: don’t’ decorate it for a group of 40 but keep that in number in mind when choosing a table.  You want to purchase one that is able to accommodate your largest possible crowd. Many of you are immediately drawn to a rectangular table that usually performs beautifully.

But don’t nix the circular table just yet.  Not only does it allow for better conversational flow but it has a tendency to beckon diners into the room.  In research conducted by Hall (the father of proxemics) people are more apt to talk to one another when sitting horizontally from one another.  Thanks to my recent education for that insightful fact.

Since no dining room is complete without a buffet (and I’m not talking the Chinese food variety here…), you really should not sign that final order form until you do some major measuring.  Here are some simple rules to follow:

Dining Tables:  are about 30 inches high.  Allowing 18 inches of table width per person is a good rule of thumb, but feel free to cut that number to 6 for holiday dinners (just kidding!)

Chairs:  need a minimum of 19-20 inches square in order to be physically comfortable to sit on.  If arms are added to these chairs (at a minimum width of 2 inches each) the measurements increases by the thickness of the arms and becomes 22 -24 inches wide.  Chairs should be 18 inches in height to provide maximum comfort.

Chandelier:  Hanging the chandelier 26-30 inches from the table top will allow for the possibility of conversation among all of your guests and avoid the bumping of heads when standing.  With this piece of dining room hardware, it’s not necessary to just stick with one chandelier – sometimes more than one in a room create a spectacular impact. 

Despite our desire to have the perfect table and chairs, your dining room can still be amazing with the perfect setting on your table.  As I said earlier, mix and match is a surefire way to create instant pizzazz to your table.  Grab knick knacks from nature to put on your table or purchase some gorgeous flowers and separate them along the table for punch.  Once again, candles play an important role in your tablescape. Place cards assure your guests that you thought of them individually before the meal and certainly eliminate the awkwardness of deciding where to sit.  Splitting up spouses and/or dates, as well as groups of friends, ensure that the evening is destined to be spicy.

Check out some of these for inspiration.

I love to cook, but with this busy schedule it can be brutal.  One of your delectable delights should be homemade to the core and absolutely perfect.  There might be room from that point to skimp on some yummy store bought items --- think Maggiano’s take out. The day before, set the table completely.  With that out of your way, there leaves little room for stress except to pick up your Maggiano’s and grab a glass of wine after you return.  It’s vital to remember that this is about time with our guests that we treasure not wringing your hands over the possibility of over dry chicken.  

With Thanksgiving upon us, my hope is that you found some sort of inspiration in dealing with your dining room as well as some brief entertaining inspirations.  As for me and mine, we are venturing off to my mamacita’s home near Branson, Missouri, this year to dine and sleep.  The turkey is mouth-watering but the pies…oh the pies… May you find your china plates all in tact after this holiday season and may you be able to share your love with those most precious to your heart.

Gobble, gobble-


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