I’d love to invite you to dinner, but . . .
We’re having a dinner party this weekend, and while I was mulling over the menu, wine choices, seating arrangements etc etc something occurred to me; we’re in a bit of a minority group.
We belong to that seemingly ever-decreasing number of folks who still have a fully functioning dining room.
I know I bang on about this every couple of years or so, but frankly I make no apology. I really do think it’s a shame. 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 now ubiquitous kitchen/diner. Now that’s all very well and probably even expedient most of the time, but it does rather deny us the grand occasion.
So come on guys, what about it? Let’s re-invent the dining room, and get back to (or begin) 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 – by the way, many years ago when my 2 eldest children were small (the elder of whom is now my main designer and showroom manager !!!) we shared a lift with him in Spain, and he really is that miserable.
Besides, with the growing popularity of home delivery services like Just Eat and Deliveroo, even if you are to cooking what Donald Trump is to diplomacy there really is no excuse.
In the past I’ve always said that the best dining rooms are striking, almost womb like, with built-in atmosphere, but these days that’s not always the case. For sure, strong colours such as emerald greens, azures, gingers, rich reds or dark greys work really well (it’s no coincidence that Farrow and Ball actually have a colour called Eating Room Red), but so do relaxing, tonal neutral shades when used thoughtfully. Olives or strong taupes combined with soft stony greys look fabulous!
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 for a real wrap-round feel. There are so many breath-taking wallcoverings available in a massive range of colours, textures and designs that you’ll be truly spoilt for choice. Cole & Son have some of the best rich and full-on papers on the market, while the likes of Omexco, Elitis or Arte pretty much have it sewn up for stunning textures.
When it comes to window treatments in a dining room, it’s almost impossible to go too far over the top. The more dramatic and sumptuous the curtains, topped off with a luscious deep pelmet or chunky pole, the better.
Keep the lighting soft, but with enough light for people to see what’s on their plate (unless of course you’ve had a culinary disaster, 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, enticing folks to stay around the table chatting, drinking in the fabulous ambiance you’ve created (and the wine of course), and having a thoroughly good time.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - August 2019