By: TERESA AZEVEDO COUTINHO
Teresa Azevedo Coutinho runs her own interior design consultancy in Lisbon and found her niche in designing holiday homes for UK and Irish clients. Her company is expanding with the undertaking of international projects and the opening of a new office in Lagos.
THE CASUAL seating approach around a kitchen table or counter has become the norm. Dining rooms became the proverbial white elephants in homes. The space that time forgot.
Once it reigned as a home’s crowning jewel and then it became large, space-wasting and unloved and seemed to be totally
out of tune with our desire for more informal living, but now the tables are turning. Around half of today’s house hunters are demanding a traditional dining room where they can entertain guests or make family meals into an occasion.
After spending hours creating beautiful food, people don’t want to take their guests into a steamy kitchen where they’re surrounded by dirty pots and pans. The dining room is going back to a special room where we entertain.
With the advent of larger, informal spaces and oversized family rooms, builders have experimented with eliminating dining rooms but the demand stays strong. The dining room table, the focus of the room, is a major furniture purchase and when people buy good dining room sets, they keep them for years.
The key in today’s dining rooms is to make the form fit the function. Most designers begin work on a dining room by quizzing the people who will be using it. One of the questions I ask is how many people they usually entertain. You must consider your general lifestyle, as well as entertaining needs. Is this room for adult couples and formal entertaining, or for couples with young children with a lot of family dinners? This helps you choose the right furnishings.
A dining room’s decor should complement its function so if you are planning special get-togethers, why not enhance the space with glamour and sparkle. It’s also a night room, which lends itself to imaginative, dramatic strokes. If it’s part of your open plan living space, be sure it follows the colour schemes of the living space but use accent colours to differentiate the area.
Colours to get your mouth watering range from reds, oranges and yellows, although neutrals always work well. Avoid pinks and purples as they have a sedative effect – not ideal for eating or entertaining. Blue doesn’t affect the appetite but is considered good for encouraging communication. It also gives a clean, classic look to a table, particularly when teamed with white.
For daytime use, dining rooms should be light and airy and make the most of natural light. If the room is naturally dark, have pale or neutral blinds rather than curtains, which will block the light even more.
The room should have multiple lighting options that can go from functional to fashionable at the flick of a switch. It’s always inspiring to come up with a feature that’s fun and fanciful – a conversation piece with the wow factor.
Chandeliers, for example, are all the rage again.
To get the best balance of dining room illumination, opt for layers of light. It won’t look well-lit if the only source is a chandelier, and one bright enough to illuminate a room will be too bright for comfort when dining. Likewise, if the chandelier’s light is comfortable on the eyes, it will be too dim and make the room look flat. Start with a chandelier if a table will be centred in the room, then work out accent lights. The chandelier will determine the mood: casual, elegant, contemporary, traditional. Use lamps dotted around the room at different levels to vary the light. Candlelight is the softest of all options and creates an intimate atmosphere, perfect for dinner parties.
Chair design can help move a table toward a more formal or casual look. More ornate chairs are selling well these days although some people are opting for benches with bigger tables, giving a more relaxed, family oriented feel.
Before buying a table, determine the maximum number of diners you most frequently serve. Each diner should have ample elbow and leg room. Leave at least three feet behind each chair to be able to pull it out and for serving. Before combining mismatched dining pieces, measure the height of the table and the chair arms to make sure the seats can slip under the table.
What’s keeping you out of your dining room? Is it so formal that it’s not warm and inviting? Try a new colour. I’m all about creating drama in dining rooms and you can use hues and patterns that just wouldn’t work in other spots, like a deep colour or bold wallpaper pattern feature wall. You may just need to fluff your accessories a bit to make your dining room all it can be. The centre piece on your table is the perfect spot to bring in seasonal décor. Have chairs recovered and you’ll be amazed at how a simple switch of fabric on your seats will change the look of the room.
I challenge you to do some soul-searching and pinpoint why your relationship with your dining room has grown cold. Then take some overdue steps to fan the flames of passion once again. Follow the advice of interior design experts to create the ultimate gourmet space to suit you and your home.
For more information, please contact Teresa Azevedo Coutinho on 262 909 822, email [email protected]