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Dining room
Dining room

Book early to avoid disappointment

I’ve had a complaint last week from a client who came into the showroom to look at some fabrics. No, luckily it wasn’t about our products or service. It was that he had just seen the first Christmas cards and decorations in a shop. Now bear in mind that although you’re reading this in November the article does get planned (yes I know that’s hard to believe) and written some weeks earlier.  

So here we both were having the conversation, or should I say moan, that inevitably follows at this time of year about how Christmas should be kept firmly in December and not last half the year, cards should only be allowed to be on sale after bonfire night, and any sign that appeared outside a restaurant or hotel before the end of September exhorting you to “Book now for Christmas” be taken down and filed somewhere neatly about the owner’s person, when I realised that actually some things do need planning further in advance than others.

For example, if Auntie Maud and Uncle Sid have already announced that they’d love to come for Christmas, along with all the family and usual suspects, there are issues to be addressed. Of course there’s the matter of presents, which if you’re anything like my wife have to be bought and wrapped by March latest, or if you’re like me need careful thought whilst downing Gluwein in the Christmas market on December 22nd. Then there’s where to sleep them all, an issue easily solved by the kids topping and tailing while the adults utilise inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags – or is it the other way round?

But then we come to the Christmas dinner, and here’s the problem. Things have all changed. We’re all so much busier, the pace of living is so much faster, there’s so much more to get done in so much less time. So we’ve streamlined our lives and got rid of our dining rooms, turning them into home offices or kids’ playrooms, or at the very least left them to gather dust. These days families hardly ever sit down to a meal together, and if they do it’s likely to be on laps in front of the TV, or at best in the kitchen/diner. Now that’s all very well and possibly even expedient some of the time, but I’m not sure that serving Auntie Maud, Uncle Sid et al with roast turkey and all the trimmings on a TV tray quite hits the mark.

So come on guys, what about it? This is the fifth year of my campaign to reinvent dining and the dining room. I’m still banging on about getting friends over for good food, good wine and some good old fashioned conversation. Let’s give ourselves the opportunity to slow the pace of life down at least a little, and enjoy the basic pleasures once again of sharing a meal in beautiful and peaceful surroundings, without Phil Mitchell’s monotone drone in the background.

For me the best dining rooms are striking, almost womb like, with built-in atmosphere. Strong colours such as emerald green, rich reds, or even charcoal work really well. It’s no coincidence that Farrow and Ball actually have a colour called Eating Room Red. For a real wow factor how about combining  dark grey with hot ginger. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous, or try things out that would normally be too bold for your taste in other locations. The dining room is somewhere that you will not be in long enough or often enough to become sick of the decor, as you might in say a living room. And don’t forget that most of the time you spend in a dining room will be in artificial light, so once again you can be as strong and moody as you like.

You could choose to paint the walls, or why not use a fabulous wallpaper? No need for a feature wall here, be bold and go the whole nine yards. There are so many breathtaking designs available in a massive range of colours, textures and finishes that you’ll be truly spoilt for choice. For a really sumptuous feel try one of the new generation of flock papers that have come to the fore in the last few years. Forget preconceived ideas about outdated Indian restaurants, today’s flocks are chic and elegant, and look great in either a traditional or contemporary setting. Or, if you just can’t bring yourself to have flock you’ll be bowled over by the latest ranges of papers embossed with glass or acrylic beads. For a more traditional feel you’ll find that this year has seen the launch of so many beautiful examples of rich pattern and colour.

When it comes to window treatments, it’s almost impossible to go too far over the top. The more dramatic and sumptuous the curtains, possibly topped off with a luscious deep pelmet, the better !!

Keep the lighting soft, but with enough light for people to see what’s on their plate (unless of course you are to cooking what George Michael is to driving, in which case turn that dimmer right down). A large central ceiling light over a dining table looks great. You can make it a real statement piece without worrying about people banging their heads, even if you have low ceilings. Finally, make sure your dining chairs are comfortable. After all, with all the practice we can get in before Christmas we’re going to be sitting on them a lot more!

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - November 2013