I've been thinking about space that is designed for dining in, or just beyond the kitchen. Having recently moved from a 3500 square foot house to a house that is less than 2000 square feet, dining space is very much on my mind.
It has been my experience that when plans are brought to me by potential clients, there is often not enough space planned for the dining area. It is the most overlooked area in space planning that I've seen. So, here are what I consider to be very important issues. Some of these may seem simplistic, but in the course of whole house plans, for example, it is an area that can be easily overlooked, and perspective on paper can be misleading for those unfamiliar with floorplans.
Take a look at the plans below. This is a client's home and is a fairly large home for 2 people, no kids. The kitchen is a large kitchen. Notice the first plan with handwritten comments (mine) which is how it came to me.
Some time later, the second plan is what we came up with. I have some objections to that plan as well, as I had to defer to the clients' wishes, of course, but I was able to substantially enlarge the dining area and if you look at the lower wall of each plan, you'll see where some changes were made based on my suggestions. Not perfect, but much better. (The island and the table are too large for the plan, but that was the clients' wishes, and 42" is too narrow between the island and the cooking wall.) NOTE: the three big columns in the original plan in the south area of the image are outdoors.
It's a shocking example of how, if overlooked and accepted, this large kitchen would have had seating for 2, which, at the time, the clients had no issue with until I brought up additional lifestyle scenarios for their consideration.
Follow these tips for a more satisfying dining experience. That says a lot, and it should...dining with loved ones is one of the most beautiful things in life. To me, dining comfort is as important as anything that is planned in the kitchen.
1. What is the maximum number of people that you want to seat? Visualize several lifestyle scenarios. Planning for maybe 2-3 more people than you will typically seat, if space permits, is a common request and makes sense in most cases.
2. Analyze the space surrounding the dining area. Is there space to move around the table comfortably? Will people at the table feel confined? Is there enough room between fixed kitchen cabinetry and the table? Between doorways and the table? Account for chairs being pulled out as well. I will promise you that you will probably need more space than you think you need. Visualize people seated and others moving around the table. Those images will reveal the problems and/or solutions to you.
3. Is there another dining room? Under what situations will that dining room be used? Must it only be used for formal situations and furnished in a very formal style which may not be conducive to casual dinners with a large group? Think through how the dining room is best used...its frequency of use as well. This will help determine the size table to use in the kitchen or breakfast room.
4. Think flexibly! Can your table be expanded to accommodate more people? If so, are you ok with that? Can you create a hinged plywood top to put on top of your table top, covered with a table cloth if your table does not have a leaf? A great solution for rare occasions and if there is no other dining room or if you simply prefer to be in the kitchen.
In my case, I am finding in my new home, that, having expanded the table to accommodate 9 people in the breakfast room, I do not like the smaller space that is left over, even though I would not consider it cramped. As a result, I will be changing the living room into a dining room. Radical, but necessary, as, to me, ample space surrounding a table is conducive to comfort and relaxation and lingering meals.
The answer is this: There is no right or wrong.
5. Built in seating saves lots of space! Consider banquette seating to accommodate more people, save space, and sit with comfort (if planned properly.)
So much to think about, and all VERY important!
Here is the later version of the plan I referred to:
And here is the first one that was brought to me with this plan: