I like home architecture, and reading about building and designing trends. One trend gaining in popularity is doing away with the dining room and creating one casual eating area in or attached to the kitchen. A lot of people with older homes that have formal dining rooms are turning them into offices, playrooms, and hobby rooms. I think this is a good idea in general. People too often get stuck on the label on the floor plan instead of rearranging spaces to work in their home.
I’ve just taken a slightly different approach that I am going to share.
We use our dining room as a dining room, and our casual “breakfast room” as a craft and office space.
Kind of weird, I guess, but it really works for us.
Why we eat in the dining room:
There are a few benefits I’ve found to eating in a separate room.
-Everyone sits to eat. I don’t want to leave little kids eating in a room alone so I sit with them, even if they are just having a snack and I’m not. If they were in the breakfast room, I’d be in the kitchen doing my own thing. But since I can’t see them in the dining room, I bring a book and am forced to sit. At dinner time, there no TV asking to be watched in our line of sight.
(Lest you think it is all formal snack time at the table, I present this picture.)
-No looking at a messy kitchen while eating. Nothing depresses me more than a messy kitchen. Making dinner makes a mess than can’t be cleaned up right away. Having to see it while I eat would ruin my mood, as I am crazy.
-A small change of scenery. No one likes to feel like they are in one room all day.
-Meals feel like more of an event, and break up the day, instead of having it descend into an endless stream of free play and snacking
Why our dining room works for us:
People would probably call it a formal dining room, but it is not formal. What makes it work is it is directly off the kitchen. No hallway or butlers pantry in between, it is just a step away.
It has a pretty view toward the pasture in front of our house, along the road. Off the side we can see the play area, garden, and our 150 year old oak tree.
It holds a farmhouse style table with two extra leaves (only one is in now. All the other furniture is from Craigslist. I like it, but from day one have never felt paranoid about kids using it, because it was already used and was not expensive.
The china cabinet holds our tablecloths, cloth napkins, and placemats that we use all the time. I don’t have any fancy table linens, because I am more likely to use paper napkins when we have company so they don’t think I’m weird. One drawer has candles and a lighter, that we use in the winter and for birthdays. AND THERE IS AN EMPTY DRAWER CAN YOU BELIEVE IT.
The top holds our formal china that we use every now and then, a few vases, some crystal we were forced to take from my in laws, and a teapot that has never been used. Oh well. I do use the cake stands for cupcakes on birthdays.
I still store my plates in the kitchen, because I lay things on them while I’m cooking, plate food in the kitchen, and they are right above the dishwasher for easy unloading.
So this is all very straightforward. We eat in the dining room, and the only things stored in the dining room and used in the dining room.
How we use the breakfast room:
This is where the kids color, do playdoh, and paint. They also do puzzles and board games they are trying to keep out of the reach of the baby, but those mostly happen on the floor. They use it for worksheets assigned by me, and homework for school.
I sit here for my weekly menu planning session, doing garden plans, dealing with paperwork, and writing thank you notes. If I had a laptop I would probably blog and upload photos here too.
It is also our pantry.
Why this space works for us:
I like that all these activities can happen in the heart of the home, so the kids can be working on something while I am in the kitchen or living room. If they need help or have a question, I am right there. But they are occupied and have a place to easily store their things, both of which make me happy.
It works well as a pantry to hold things that need to be easily accessible but not right in the kitchen. I don’t mind stepping in here for a can of something, a new bottle of ketchup, or a box of pasta. I would not want to keep everything in here, though, as it is too far to conveniently store oil, vinegar, flour, and such.
We have a round table that functions like a desk. It was left in an apartment Matt lived in when we was single, and he painted and stained it. The chairs actually were bought with the dining room table, but got moved in here because they are the right size and they match.
There is a basket that hold their basic art supplies: crayons, pencils, a few glue sticks and pairs of scissors. This lives on the table full time, and they are welcome to sit down and color or glue whenever.
Inside the cabinet are their other craft supplies that I take out when I feel it is needed. Rain, a project I am working on, crankiness, or something like that will prompt me to go into this cabinet. There is glitter glue, s lot of acrylic paints, midge lodge for papier-mâché, markers (ugh), stickers, a Spirograph, things like that. There is also a stack of coloring books and the like.
(I did not clean this before taking this picture. Obviously.)
The drawer above is a junk drawer with pens, stamps, batteries, and all that. (Isn’t this fascinating.)
The cabinet above that is another display cabinet. Why. I would like to have my cookbooks here, but they aren’t that attractive. I am constantly rearranging this cabinet because it isn’t that useful. Matt pushed for this to be just a plain cabinet with doors, but I had my heart set on this display area. He was probably right! I had envisioned it filled with creamware platters that I do not own, and never will. The little basket holds candy out of the reach of children.
The cookie jar, pencil sharpener, and strange collection of tools and wires rounds out this countertop.
On the right of the counter I keep a basket for papers and things I am currently dealing with. Grocery ads, coupons, catalogs, my weekly menu plan and to do list, pictures from the kids. Once a week I go through it and throw almost all of out, but some gets put away in the drawer below. I also put my phone and iPad in here when they are charging or not in use. (Ha.).
I have a drawer below that with folders for the kids. There is one for each kids artwork I am saving from that year (mostly it gets thrown out the day it’s created, only special ones make the folder), and a separate folder with their school stuff. At the end of each year I put the folder on a shelf in my closet, to be found upon my death.
The rest of the cabinetry is my pantry. Drinks and drink ware to the left….
Snacks, extra things, canned goods, and pasta to the right. All my everyday ingredients are in the baking corner of my kitchen, not in this pantry.
I leave you with photographic evidence of the insanity of open shelving all throughout the kitchen:
This would be like living in crazy town.
What was the purpose of this tour? I’m not exactly sure. Just to show an alternate way to use a floor plan with two dining areas. I would be very interested to hear how you use your dining areas if you have more than one. Or if you just have one, where do the kids color or where do you sit with a cup of coffee and a cookbook? Let me know!