I’d love to invite you to Christmas dinner, but...
Ok, ok, I know it seems unlikely that we’ll be able to invite anybody over for Christmas this year, but who knows, if we all just knuckle down, put in the effort, and try to stop the “Me, and only me” brigade from pretending the rules don’t apply to them, we might just have a chance.
So, just supposing we can have at least some of the family over for Christmas dinner, are we planning to give them turkey and all the trimmings on a tray in front of the TV, or what???
Yes, regular readers will have guessed by now, this is my roughly annual campaign to re-instate the dining room.
I know I bang on about it ad infinitum, but frankly I make no apology. I really do think it’s a shame. The confines of lockdown aside, 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 (which I suppose I begrudgingly get, given the current situation) or kids’ playrooms, or at the very least left them to gather dust.
These days households hardly ever sit down to a meal together (surely that would strengthen bonds in these difficult times???), 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. And what occasion is grander than the Christmas dinner?
So come on guys, what about it? Let’s re-invent the dining room, and look forward to better times, when we can once again welcome friends and family over for good food, good wine and some good old-fashioned conversation. Let’s give ourselves the opportunity and location 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 blues 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, using one of the gorgeous Little Greene paints, or why not choose a fabulous wallpaper? No feature walls 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, Designers Guild and Osborne & Little (particularly their collections by Matthew Williamson) have some of the best rich and full-on papers on the market, while the likes of Omexco, Elitis and 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.
Now that’s what I call a Christmas dinner to look forward to.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - November 2020