As homeowners’ approaches to entertaining have evolved, so have their dining room desires. We asked local design and entertaining experts to dish on dining room trends in decor, layout and use.
1. Fun Over Formality
In recent years, homeowners have shied away from uber-formal dining spaces.
“Houses, particularly larger houses, have multiple places to eat,” says Baltimore interior designer Jay Dillinger. “If you’re entertaining, people want to be around the cook.”
As a result, formally appointed dining rooms see less use than in the past. But that doesn’t mean homeowners are forgoing dedicated entertainment spaces. Instead, some are giving their dining spaces personalized twists focused on the way they like to entertain.
Meghan Friedman of Redhead Design recently worked with one such couple, wine lovers who converted their dining room into a “wine den” with built-in cabinets and comfortable furniture. “It’s a grown-up entertainment space,” she says.
2. Celebrating the Buffet
“People are using the dining room very infrequently,” says Dillinger, explaining that even clients with classic dining rooms are more likely to use them as a staging area for food set out buffet-style than for traditional sit-down meals.
In addition, he says, homeowners are eschewing china cabinets and hutches; displaying china and crystal in the dining room is no longer a priority. However, they still need storage space.
Buffets and sideboards fill both modern needs, providing roomy, hidden storage and plenty of surface space for setting out food for parties.
3. Reclaimed Chic
Recycling and upcycling have taken the design world by storm — and that includes in the dining room.
“People are moving away from the dark-stained wood — the old traditional dining room furniture — and getting into pieces that have a reclaimed look,” says Friedman, who notes that the laid-back look of reclaimed materials is in keeping with people’s more casual approach to dining room use.
Homeowners might use wood or materials from old buildings in Baltimore, she says, or commission pieces with interesting found-object bases.
“People are using rustic pieces here and there and creating pieces with a little bit of ‘Baltimore’ in them,” she says.
This trend makes its way to the tabletop, too.
“The trend for china is toward mismatching a little bit and doing a combination of colors or textures,” says local wedding and party planner Elizabeth Bailey.
This makes setting an appealing table easy for people who might have partial sets of china, handed down from family members or even collected from local shops. Relying on mismatched plates and glassware is, “like if you go to your grandmother’s closet,” says Bailey.
4. Flexible Seating
The “mismatched” look extends to seating, too, as homeowners curate sets of cool chairs culled from different dining sets.
Modern seating doesn’t stop at the chair, either. Friedman’s clients are often interested in incorporating benches and upholstered banquettes into their dining room layouts.
For those who like the idea of a banquette but hesitate to add an expensive and inflexible built-in piece, Friedman recommends a setee or loveseat that can be moved as needed.
5. Unconventional Colors
Though traditional dining room colors — reds, salmons and blues — still grace the walls of many local homes, homeowners are increasingly thinking about color in new ways.
As homes’ floor plans open up, homeowners pay attention to how the colors of different rooms play off one another, says Friedman. Her clients often decide to paint adjacent rooms different shades of the same color so they appear to “fade into” one another.
On the table itself, color is key, says Elizabeth Bailey. “It looks really cool to add a pop of color in the water glass,” she says. “Maybe a cobalt blue. And the glassware doesn’t need to match, of course.”