Ask Design Mom: Formal Dining Room

September 20, 2010

Any ideas of what I might do with our formal dining room? We have never purchased a formal dining set because we enjoy eating in our kitchen — it’s large, bright, and pleasant. So I’m looking for other creative uses for the dining room. Thanks! — Andrea Gerlach

Hi Andrea! At the Blair House, we like to eat in our kitchen too, so we use our dining room as a creative space. We built a giant table and surrounded it with adjustable height work stools — so all the kids could work comfortably, no matter their age. Then we added 2 lockers and an armoire that are filled to the brim with art and craft supplies. Papers and glues and glitters and fabrics. Markers and yarn and tape and paints. Even the sewing machine and the craft books.

We do all of our projects at the giant table. And the kids do their homework there too. We love it! When we want to host a big dinner party, the big table works for a feast as well. (The shots above show party guests in the art room at Olive’s birthday party last summer.)

What about you, Clever Readers? Do you use your dining room as a dining room?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy September 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm

We have a dining room that we use as a playroom/art room/kids area. We eat in our kitchen as well… it is such a cheery room, would be a shame to not eat in it!

Our dining room has a closet in it. My husband installed these great adjustable shelves from Home Depot . Some shelves are lower for all the time child friendly toys and games. The higher shelves are for art and craft supplies that need a grown up set of hands to help with. We bought some fun small tables from IKEA, some fun chairs, a few bean bags, an armoir to hold my laptop so I can spend time doing my own thing in there while my girls play…. it is a fun room!

My husband dreams of getting a fancy dining room table someday. This makes me sad to even think about. I love the fun child friendly space it is and to fill it with a table would mean my children are grown up! I can’t imagine that at this point in my life!


2 Design Mom September 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Your room sounds so lovely, Amy! I’ll bet your kids love it.


3 grace September 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

We use our dining room for everything! Eating fellowship school, artwork.
Its our home’s central meeting place.


4 Bekah Palmer September 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm

We have moved just about every year and in this house, we’ve put the computer in one corner, a reading nook in another corner, and an Ikea Expedit 4×4 on the remaining wall.

We leave the room open for wrestling matches, gymnastics practice, lego structures, board games, or anything else that takes a little space. So of course, we spend most of our time there! If we want to eat there, we bring in a table and chairs that are spread throughout the rest of the house.


5 Anne September 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

My brilliant friend turned her dining room into their music room. It has their piano in it and a well-lighted space for practicing the cello. They have plenty of shelving for holding music and instruments. For big dinners, they move in a table.

My favorite dining room was converted into a mom-central office – lots of cabinets and desk space just off (Not in!) the kitchen. I – want – it.

My own dining table is perpetually covered by a multi-day game – think Risk or Monopoly.

Do you have a favorite locker source?


6 Tanya September 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Great idea!! I love a space for creativity.


7 sara September 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I have not given up the idea of our dining room being used for formal dining one day, but we have an 8-person bar height table in the kitchen which is sufficient for all our dining needs. I teach piano lessons and have ended up using our dining room as half of the “music studio” (the other half being the adjoining living room). While the piano and formal furniture are in the living room, my desk w/ computer, an additional writing desk for piano students and homework, and an electric keyboard are set up in the dining room. Piano students work on the computer (theory software) and do worksheets at the extra desk, and I’m so glad that it is all visible from my teacher’s chair in the living room.

The people who lived in this house before we did had a pool table in the dining room. I don’t think this room has yet to be “dined” in :)


8 Marisa September 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm

This is perfect! I’ve been wanting a large craft area for myself in our next house, but felt selfish taking all that space just for me. Adjustable stools are the solution I didn’t know I was looking for! I can’t wait to show this to my hubby. I bet he’d even take on that massive table project, too. It’s great!

Thank you, very much. :)


9 Monique September 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

My dining room is an interesting mix of nerve center and storage area. You must walk through it to move amongst most important rooms in the house (kitchen, bath, family room). It can function as a dining room, but just on holidays.

The netbooks charge there (god bless wireless internet). In the evening, I lay out the kids’ clothes on the table for easy early morning dressing. If I’m going out of town for work, I’ll fill up the table with a week’s worth of outfits so my husband doesn’t have to try to match pinks. If I want to remember something, I put it on the table (because I walk past that table at least fifteen times a day). And, if I take the center piece off, it works great for quilt and garment assembly.


10 barchbo September 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

We use our dining room as…a dining room! Our house was built in 1939 and there is no eat-in space. We converted the small space available in the kitchen into a built-in desk for me, and we use the dining room for eating, parties, bible study, and for various work projects. We have an eat-in bar in the kitchen, but it only seats 2-3.


11 Andrea -- September 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I love the versatility of your big huge table, Gabrielle. I like the fact that you can still use the dining room for eating when you have large gatherings. A good tablecloth can dress up a more informal table anyway. A not-so-good tablecloth works too! We have used flat bed sheets, ironed and starched, as tablecloths for folding tables when we had an extra large party.

Gosh, if I had a grand piano, the dining room would make a wonderful music room! Or a pool table that converts into a dining table would be cool too! ( Money would be an issue for both of those options, though! I’m thinking that a multi-function creative space may be my answer.


12 Jan @ Family Bites September 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Oh gosh, I love that table and have since you built it. I love your creative uses for it!


13 Kim September 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

We don’t use our dining room for dining either, but it’s also the very first room you see when you walk into the house, so I didn’t want to use it for kids either. We made our dining room a library, on one end we have floor to ceiling built in bookshelves with cabinets as the base. Then some comfy seating, reading lights and a large coffee table for puzzles and playing games with the kids. We didn’t have a formal dining set when we moved in, but we did have a LOT of books! It’s worked perfectly for us, and has become my favorite room in the house.


14 Shelah September 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Our dining room is homework central. We have an old 1950s laminate table in there, and metal chairs, so the stuff is fairly indestructible. It’s right off the front entry, so I wanted a place that looks nice, but also could function in a house with four little kids. We rarely eat in there (it’s not convenient to the kitchen) but I don’t feel like it’s wasted space either. If you want to see, here’s a link:


15 jessica September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Our formal dining room is MY sewing, crafting, art making space. As a homeschooling mom of 5 I can’t shut myself away in a separate room to do my stuff, it needs to be right in the center of it all. That way I can sew or design for 5 minutes at a time throughout the day. I do have some handprinted curtains to close it off from view of the front door, if need be.


16 Suzanne from pretty*swell September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

We’re in the same boat — a formal dining room, but no real need for it b/c our kitchen is roomy. So, with a little help from IKEA, we turned it into a fun play room. Bright red walls are lined with toy storage bins, and there is a kid-sized table + chairs, plus my toddler’s easel. And still some floor space to play on. What once was the most underused room in our home is now my favorite!


17 Redneck Mommy September 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Our formal dining room is as informal as it gets. We use it as our family’s eating space, craft space, homework space etc. Luckily for me, it’s not the first room you see upon entering our house, so I have some leeway on how it looks and don’t feel it necessary to make it elegant. It’s as country as country gets around these parts. But it cleans up pretty when we have guests over.


18 elz September 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Our dining room is used fairly frequently. We’re lucky that we have space enough to have an eat-in kitchen and a dining room for parties. During the week it is the homework station, and on weekends, it’s party central.


19 Rachael September 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Like Kim, our dining room is the first thing you see when you enter our house, so we eventually converted it into a library. Now the view from the front door is very symmetrical and sleek–I love it. The room still doesn’t fit all our books, but it is literally the center of our home now, whereas when we used it as a dining room we still ate in the kitchen half the time to preserve the carpeted dining room from the food-throwing from the high chair set. It went from being my least favorite to my favorite room!


20 Barb @ getupandplay September 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I currently live in my parents’ large home (they are living abroad for a few years) with my baby and my husband. Our little family is dwarfed even by the kitchen table, let alone the dining room one. I keep the formal dining room and living room free of kid stuff and use it for entertaining. The dining room table becomes the buffet table. But most of the time it is just out of use.


21 candice September 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

We turned ours in to a library. It’s at the front of the house and we will never use it but we all love to read so we put up bookshelves and comfy chairs around a coffee table with lots of lamps. It’s been really nice to have.


22 backlinks September 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I live with my mom, and notices Everything that is moved even one inch. lol but the living room is immaculate. beautiful.


23 Jennifer September 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

We actually use our dining room for a dining room. I am in the South and I think you just have to have them down here – LOL. I have my china displayed and art on the walls, I love seeing it when we walk by – it is off the entry (and we have a very open floor plan). That said, we have a GREAT kids play area upstairs and a great sized kitchen table for homework, crafts, etc… I do enjoy having a “formal” dinner party in the dining room – but that might be mac and cheese/kid friendly. To me, gathering around the dining table for a holiday just speaks family -but that is what we did growing up with my parents and grandparents.


24 Chris September 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

i freakin’ love this table.


25 Ashlea Walter September 21, 2010 at 5:22 am

The idea of having the home centered on a creative space is bliss. Love! Right now, we use the dining room mostly as a dining room because our kitchen just might be one of the world’s smallest kitchens with zero eating space, but the paper and chunky crayons have been sneaking in to the dining room more and more. Makes me smile!


26 Vanessa September 21, 2010 at 8:38 am

I really want your table!


27 Kaleena September 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

I live in a tiny apartment but my husband and I daydream about our post grad school days, and it seems we already have a large house decorated.
I love formal dining room and don’t think we’d ever convert one of those, but, we’ve decided for us a formal living room is completely useless. Our thoughts are playroom (especially if we can add french doors to shut the room off), den/library/home office for my husband with a pull out couch for house guests or a big library with floor to ceiling book shelves and comfy chairs for reading.


28 Kate September 21, 2010 at 10:57 am

We have no use for a formal dining room! Our room that is supposed to be a dining room is a library instead. It has our books, a reading chair, our piano, and lots of art on the walls. In the future it might be a playroom for the little one I’m carrying. It’s easily gated if I feel that’s necessary.


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