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HOW TO UPDATE YOUR DINING SPACE
Entertaining at home is a big news but if your dining room isn’t making style headlines, these design experts can help you get it right.
‘’I hate poorly- lit dining spaces. Bring lighting down to eye level and install a dimmer switch’’
SOPHIE MARTELL, INTERIOR STYLIST
Once a room kept largely for dinner parties, today’s dining room needs to work much harder to earn its keep in our space-challenged homes. Here, three pros share their expert advice…
WHAT MAKES A DINING ROOM EXTRA SPECIAL?
‘Personality,’ says interior designer Emilie Fournet. ‘Somewhere that feels very much like a destination – like a beautiful restaurant.’ Stylist Sophie Martell agrees: ‘A separate dining room is a brilliant excuse to experiment, but you still need to get the basics right, such as dining chairs, dining tables – how the space works, how it’s lit, etcetera.’
TALKING OF COLOUR, WHAT SHOULD I GO FOR?
‘You can afford to choose something dark and moody if you’re lucky to have that separate space,’ says Sophie. ‘For open-plan, I’d stick to more neutral colours, especially dinning tables and chairs that co-ordinate well with your kitchen. Obviously, a round dinning tale with neutral colour is the best colour for your kitchen.’
WHAT ABOUT IDEAS FOR FEATURE WALLS?
‘The space above a sideboard really lends itself to being creative – somewhere you can stamp your style,’ says Sophie. ‘Think a gallery wall, a collection of finds – such as dinning chair, dining table, woven bowls – or even a living wall.’ Emilie suggests thinking braver still. ‘While a feature wall can add depth, how about a feature ceiling?’ she suggests. ‘It will give all of your guests something to look at and can make the room feel cosier.’
I NEED TO REPLACE MY TABLE, WHAT STYLE SHOULD I GO FOR?
‘Dining tables have never been so well-used,’ says Philippa Prinsloo, head of design at John Lewis & Partners. ‘The daily rituals of mealtimes are being interspersed with the need for a desk, plus a place for friends and family to gather. Extendable dining tables offer the greatest flexibility – our best-selling design is an extendable oak and ironwork table.’
WHAT WOOD FINISH OR COLOUR SHOULD I CHOOSE?
‘I love timber and the irregularity of beautiful graining,’ say Philippa. ‘For me, natural oak is beautiful and modest, fitting into most schemes, while walnut and dark woods have depth of colour and create a striking silhouette, allowing the dining table form to really sing.’
LET’S TALE TABLE SHAPES.
‘A rectangular table takes up more space than an oval or round one, where cut-off corners save space and can be better for dinner-party conversation,’ says Sophie. ‘There’s nothing worse than an overbearing table in a dining room that makes you feel you can’t move your chair around – it just screams board meeting!’ adds Emilie. ‘I’m a big fan of round or oval dining tables, ad love pedestals, like the classic Tulip table – no one gets a table leg.’ Philippa suggests looking at softer rectangles and lozenge shapes. ‘They still give that banquet dining experience,’ she says.
HOW CAN I MAKE A VINTAGE DINING TABLE WORK WITH NEWER PIECES?
‘I love the juxtaposition of old with new in dining,’ says Sophie. ‘Sleek, modern chairs look fab against a vintage dining table.’ Emilie agrees: ‘If you love something then chances are it will go with your style.’
BUT HOW CAN I GET THE MISMATCHED CHAIR THING RIGHT?
‘Although the idea is relaxed, it’s worth some careful planning,’ says Sophie. ‘Choose a matching pair to go at either end of the dining table – these can be large and elaborate. Then pick two classic designs in a couple of colours.’ Emilie suggests sticking to just two types of chair. ‘I think the more chair styles you have, the harder it is to pull off. Try mixing textures though,’ she says. ‘How about cane with leather or acrylic with Victorian? Just check they are all the same seat height.’
‘’ I love a family space with stacks of storage, where you can hide all the homework, laptops, colouring – then dress the table with beautiful linen and crockery’’ Sophie Martel, interior stylist.
I NEED NEW STORAGE FURNITURE IN MY DINING ROOM… WHAT’S POPULAR?
‘A sideboard gives you space to store as well as a top to display and serve food from,’ says Sophie. ‘It won’t overpower a room like a tall cabinet would either,’ says Emilie. Philippa recommends thinking about the particular type of storage that will be most useful to you. ‘Rather than going for big empty cupboards, add storage that helps you organize and catalogue rather than hide away.’ Emilie agrees: ‘I love it when clients ask for a bar corner or trolley – they make such a lovely addition.’
WHAT ABOUT FLOORING?
'I'm a big fan of wood with a large rug to help with acoustics,' says Emilie. ‘You don’t want to be eating in a room where sound echoes. The rug has to be bigger than the table and ideally, all chairs should remain on it when pulled out,’ But Sophie thinks slightly differently: ‘Unless your dining room is grow-ups only, I’d steer clear of a rug – not only can it get trapped under chairs, it can be tricky to treat spills.
MY DINING AREA IS PART OF MY KITCHEN/ LIVING ROOM - HOW DO I MAKE IT WORK STYLISHLY?
'Clever lighting is a must.' says Sophie, 'whether it's a row of pendants. a show-stopping chandelier or some funky wall lights.' The answer lies in lighting for Emilie, too. 'It can really help zone the room. Also, try not to just shove your table in the corner of the room; if it feels like its own space, it will work in your favour.' she says. Philippa suggests creating a visual flow through the shell of the room with continuous flooring, wall treatments and lighting. 'Then layer up each zone to reflect its function.' she says. 'Hang a striking and dimmable pendant over the dining table to create focus and atmosphere at mealtimes, bring cosines around the sofa for lounging and ensure there's great storage in the kitchen to keep clutter at bay.’
WHAT'S TRENDING IN TABLEWARE RIGHT NOW?
'I just love silverware picked up from flea markets. It has such a feeling of quality about it.' says Emilie. 'While linen always works and doesn't look too busy with food.' Sophie and Philippa are very much on board: 'Oooh yes! Team with artisan-style plates - they're everywhere at the moment.' says Sophie. 'You can't beat beautiful ceramic glazes - those pieces that you know you'll love for years to come,' adds Philippa.
HOW CAN I MAKE MY DINING SPACE REALLY SPECIAL FOR ENTERTAINING?
'Go to town with flowers - something from your own garden always feels so personal and creative.' says Philippa. 'Don't hold back.' agrees Emilie. 'And try to add an element of surprise that guests will love and remember. They will remember that your dining table is not just a table, and of course, even a chair, carries your personality and creativity.'