Old-timey movies and sitcoms show families sitting together for dinner or breakfast. We don’t do that as much, because everyone has a TV in their bedroom and/or is glued to their videogames and smartphone screens. Plus, we consume so much take-out that home-cooked dinners are a myth. But in a recent podcast episode, Rebecca Lavoie talked about her family’s habit of eating together. She said it brought them closer. According to her, it’s such a warm bonding experience that her kids’ friends often stay over specifically for the family dinners.
They enjoy that cosy ‘communal meal’ feeling they don’t get at their own houses. Lavoie mentioned it as a ‘weekly fail’ though, a feature of the show where every host talksabout a parenting fail or triumph. Her ‘fail’ for that episode was they had inadvertently broken their family dinner tradition. They hadn’t eaten together in months, because their kitchen was being refurbished, the living room coffee table didn’t quite give them the same experience.
It’s all about the table
Lavoie says they don’t have a designated dining room – the dining table and coffee table are all in the same open plan living area. However, the very existence of a dining table shaped their feasting habits. That’s the power of a dining set – it can dictate the way you eat. So it seems if you want your household to spend mealtimes together, it goes past cooking the right food. After all, if you have a large table you enjoy sitting around, then you can still make valid memories over a box of pizza or Chinese take-out.
The secret – it turns out – is in the table, not the dish. Start by confirming how many people you’ll regularly be seating. These are daily diners, or maybe you have a weekly joint meal so you need enough room to accommodate them all. The average family table can seat six or eight diners, though if you’re a single or a couple, you could do with a three to four-seater, or a small, round table like the Vortex, with its glass/ceramic top and its gorgeous, spiralling helical base. The table gets its name from this metal ‘leg’ coiled like a little indoor tornado.
If your home is only the smaller side, assign a corner of the living room or kitchen as a dining room. You might even use the patio, balcony, or deck, though you probably need bug zapping light fixtures to pull that off. On the other hand, if you have fewer weekday diners and a bigger group on weekends, you could get an extending table like the Eminence Square. Lots of models can fold to seat three to four, then expand to accommodate extra eaters. The extension mechanism could be a manual slider, a shielded lever, or an electronic switch.
Light it right
Of course there are other aspects that influence your dining experience. Décor, for example. Chandeliers have always been a marker of elegance and class as they hang over dining sets. But modern style can give your light fixtures a quirky touch. If you’re good with your hands and enjoy crafting activities, you could make a chandelier of your own. You want it to be one of a kind, a true depiction of you, so use pieces that have meaning or express your character.
Contemporary chandeliers have been designed using oddities like spray-painted feathers, coloured bottles, or bits and bobs from the attic. There’s one made of shiny forks and spoons that refractsraysof light for some extra shine and sparkle. They glint even better in candlelight, so it’s a good excuse to turn on the romance by turning off the light switch. You can also make eccentric dining area lamp-shades out of bronze drums and junk yard brass.
Reflections of style
You know what else you can find at a junk yard? Cute chairs. They don’t have to match the table or resemble each other. That odd mix of styles, shapes, and colours can make your dining ‘set’ really stand out. You could combine a carved lawn chair, a stone pedestal, and an upholstered antique. Just be careful they’re all the right height for your table, and ensure there’s method to your madness. You want the effect of a tasteful potpourri, not a hoarder with random bits of furniture picked off the street.
Alternatively, you could opt for benches instead of high-backed chairs. Throw pillows can soften the look, and if comfort is an issue, have your benches customised with seat padding and back support panels. Finally, for the illusion of wide space and natural light, accessorise your dining space with decorative mirrors. They open up your room, making it seem larger and brighter. You can stick pieces of mirrored glass to your chairs and tables too.