Oh formal dining rooms. They're touted in real estate listings, but somehow they end up being some of the loneliest rooms in our houses.
In New York, even the thought of a formal dining room is laughable. A formal dining room? If you have one, you've undoubtedly turned it into a nursery, a closet, or an office. Who can blame you? Space is at a premium.
If you live in the suburbs, you may have a dining room, but if you're like many of my friends and family, that space is reserved for special occasions. Which of course means it gets used approximately two days per year. Even if you're the entertaining type, it probably only sees dinner once a week, and that's being generous.
This has always seemed like such a shame. Why turn what is usually prime first-floor real estate into an ostensible museum? How do you lure your family into this sacred space? One of my clients decided to forgo the formal dining room all together, turning the space into a stylish playroom for her kids. Brilliant if you have small children (and can manage to keep their toys somewhat under control).
But, let's say your kids are past that point. Or, that you'd still like to be able to host formal dinners from time to time. What to do? Well, you can always throw a bar in that room. That tends to lure people into the space during parties. That's a good tip for formal living rooms too. Nobody's using it? Add a bar. You'd be surprised how quickly guests will slip into a formerly forgotten room when it has a bar.
Cocktails aside, my absolute favorite solution for an abandoned dining space (as you've probably deduced by the photos) is to add bookshelves. Suddenly, your dining room feels more like a library reading room. And you know what you do in a library reading room right? Oh wait. I actually never spent any time in my college library, but I hear that people go there to work. So, you know, now your dining room has become a place where anyone can pull up a laptop and get to work. Kids can do homework. Adults can pay bills (since that seems to be what 99% of adulthood is about), etc. Then, as people become accustomed to using the room, maybe you'll even find yourself popping in for smaller weekday dinners, or a special weekend breakfast.
You can click through the images for their sources! They're also collected here.