Burning Question: Are Formal Dining Rooms Out?

Anyone who knows us knows that we’re all about open living and multi-functional spaces, which is why one of the first things we did when we moved in was convert our formal dining room into a third bedroom and move our dining area out into our living room (which conveniently opens to the kitchen).

But although the whole dining room switcheroo worked for us, we wondered at the time if it would potentially turn off a large group of people who rank a formal dining room up there with hardwood flooring and a fireplace (as in it’s one of their must-haves). Lately it seems like a lot more people are embracing open living, in fact, it’s one of the fastest growing home trends these days. So our question is this: do you prefer a separate formal dining room or a dining area within a larger space?


  1. says

    I think another question to ask is who has a dining room at all. I also have a 60’s ranch (that I LOVE) but it has a smaller kitchen. There is no way I could seat more than 3 in my kitchen for a meal. (plus who wants to eat with all of the mess!) so I use my dining room all of the time–but it was built as a dining room living room combo. But I know so many people who don’t use theirs or use that room for something entirely different. I love mine!

  2. Ameleah says

    Our house doesn’t have a dining room, just a small breakfast nook in the kitchen, and it is on the top of my list of must have’s for our next house. I am very particular about layout though. The dining room must be easily accessible to both the kitchen and living room. I’ve never understood those newer homes where the dining room is off by itself at the front of the house.

  3. Kelli says

    If I had a spacious eating area in the kitchen, I would have no need for a formal dining room. I don’t host fancy, upscale parties, and it would just be a waste of space, to me.

  4. says

    A dining room was a must-have for us. Our first piece of furniture we bought together after we got engaged was an old antique dining room table at a garage sale for $50. We refinished it and recovered the seats and it’s our favorite piece of furniture, so when it came to house-hunting, we knew we had to have a specific place for our beloved antique table!

    Like previous people stated though, our house is older- our kitchen only has a bar area that seats two, so we use our dining space regularly.

  5. Jess says

    We’re huge fans of open living also so having a separate formal dining room was never on our “must have” list when looking for homes. Our home has an open dining area off the living room (kinda like yours except our kitchen is also open to everything with only a bar/island separating the spaces) and we love it!

  6. says

    In my dream home, I would want a large formal dining room that could be closed off from the rest of the house (but with some nice french doors so it would still feel open). My reason for this is that A) I have a huge family and being able to have everyone sit at the same table at Thanksgiving would be really awesome and B) we have lots of pets so being able to eat with guests in peace – i.e. shutting the animals out during dinner – sounds like Heaven. Currently we have a tiny “open dining area” and it makes me nuts because it just becomes a dumping area for mail and whatever else gets thrown on the table. Because of that, it still doesn’t get used. But again, it’s all about personal preference.

  7. says

    this is such a great question! we are thinking about building a (small) home and have been looking at floorplans. at first i really wanted a formal dining room (admittedly, it was partially just so that i could have a formal dining room to decorate!). but in a small home, it wasn’t justifiable for us to use that much space for a room that would only get used for holidays and parties.

    i say as long as there is adequate room for a good-sized table and chairs (and not just a corner of the kitchen), a formal dining room isn’t completely needed. but yes – my dream home would have one. :)

  8. Shannon says

    I much prefer open concept. We have a 1940s Cape Cod style home with a separate formal dining room and a kitchen too small for at able, though they’re connected by a door way. The open concept would make the room seem bigger (though we’re not willing to undertake that renovation). I don’t think a formal dining room PLUS an eat in kitchen (or open concept living room like you guys have) would appeal to me as a home buyer. I don’t want a room that we’d only use for big holidays, and I’d much prefer an open space that we could “dress up” for big events in which we could seat everyone.

    Unlike Staz, I don’t think we’d have the self-restraint to keep the doors to a formal dining room closed and the room uncluttered!

  9. Jen says

    As a young apartment-dweller, I don’t have a dining room anyway. But every time I have people over, no matter how large the group or how small my kitchen, *everyone* gravitates toward hanging out in the kitchen instead of the living room! When I finally buy a house, I will only consider an open plan. That way, there will be no division between the kitchen and the hanging out area.

  10. says

    We don’t have an eat-in kitchen or a formal dining space, but we have a gigantic living room. So, half of it has our dining table and china hutch, and we’ll market that as a living-dining combination when we resell. We’re pretty casual people, so I don’t think a formal dining room is really a priority. Having a sizable kitchen table along with a formal dining room seems kind of silly to me.

  11. Shaina says

    I’m not a must have for dining rooms, which is why our formal dining room furniture isn’t really all that “formal.” We only bought the furniture b/c our house has a formal dining area.

    I love the open concept for kitchen/dining. I would much rather have the less stuffy, contemporary approach to living and entertaining.

  12. says

    My husband and I just bought a 1928 storybook cottage with a nice big formal dining room. Considering our old house didn’t really have a dining space at all, I absolutely love it.

    I prefer houses with different rooms and defined spaces. A lot of our friends have newer houses with an open floor plan and while they are really nice for entertaining, I think I’d tire of being in the same one big room all the time. I like all the different areas in my house.

  13. says

    I actually think formal dining rooms are making a comeback. I think the economic uncertainty has something to do with it – people want to eat out less – and the whole green movement has given people a new appreciation for antiques and an ‘older’ way of living. I think not just dining rooms but what they represent – big family dinners on Sunday, staying home, talking to each other, tradition – is something that will continue to grow. When times are tough, people retreat, they cocoon, they spend less and value what they already have more. Just my opinion.

    I personally prefer the formality of a dining room, and separate rooms in general. I find with open living spaces there is no element of surprise – you can look in the front window and see everything from the living area all the way to the kitchen. There’s no drama to it. I like how dining rooms make a meal feel special. They enhance the food and create an ambience different from your everyday.

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