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Casual interiors for a contemporary dining room

Sheila Byers Sheila Byers
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The dining room is traditionally a place for conventions. We all know the rules of etiquette that govern our behaviour and table manners. Thus, the space of the dining room is very codified, from the position of the chairs around the table to the location of the buffet or sideboard. The culinary tradition has designed an immutable structure to accommodate the complex choreography that are our meals. 

But in our contemporary era, where new celebrity chefs have traded their hat for a cap and a rock star attitude, we are forced to admit that all these rules of etiquette are a bit old-fashioned. Who wants to keep their back straight, hands on knees at a relaxed dinner with friends? The global trend is moving closer to a simple and uninhibited kitchen suggesting more casual behaviour at the table. And as our spaces are molded in our daily actions, so it is the same for modern dining rooms. Inspired by this new culinary philosophy, we want to present examples of attractive dining rooms that challenge and question our ways of eating. Some are more obvious, others more balanced, and we hope you will find a few good tips to make your next meal more comfortable and relaxed.

A restaurant

​The inside of this restaurant is the only exception to this list of private dining rooms, but we wanted to present it as it sets the tone of this article. Thus, the interior of this new restaurant in Hamburg, produced by the studio BFGF for the German chef Tim Mälzer, puts aside all the clichés that you would normally attribute to gastronomy. Gone are the white tablecloths, woodwork, mirrors or dusty silk flowers! Instead, we are greeted by a rather grungy interior where the graffiti on the walls and the plastic chairs invite a younger, more vibrant audience. The colours and patterns, which are very lively, create a noisy symphony, a little crazy but strangely comforting and familiar. And that's what we appreciate in this arrangement: the duality between an intense and unsettling environment and a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

A contemporary bench

​A simple but effective way to change the experience of having your friends over for dinner is to exchange the classic chairs around your dining table for a bench. This seemingly more humble alternative has distinct advantages. It will have an immediate impact on both your posture, which will certainly be more relaxed, and on your relationship to the other guests. The single seat in effect creates a strong sense of community that invites dialogue and sharing. In this example from the Roomservice Design Gallery, the rustic and raw look of the furniture and interior help to create a relaxed atmosphere while retaining a cosy charm.

Between the kitchen and the dining room

Another simple way to design a relaxed atmosphere for your meals is to install the table in the dining room directly into the kitchen! No more ceremonial service, here the guests are in the heart of the action, literally a few metres from the stove. And for quieter dinners on week nights, you can cook while keeping an eye on the kids while they do their homework at the table. This example from German designer Marie-Theres Deutsch is particularly attractive. The rustic, mismatched wooden furniture adds a touch of vintage to this comforting and uninhibited neutral interior. Floral notes, both on the table and in the central courtyard that we glimpse through the window, add a warm touch, recalling the romantic spirit of tourist lodges and other scenic areas.

Varied proportions

Chalet Gstaad:  Dining room by Ardesia Design
Ardesia Design

Chalet Gstaad

Ardesia Design

We addressed the issue of chairs, but the kitchen table itself must not be left out! Indeed, the shape and position of the latter has a great influence on the way we interact at the table. Tradition has accustomed us to rectangular tables that accommodate four to six chairs on the sides and one at each end, but why not try something else? The example in the picture, made by the creators of Ardesia Design, is a square table that completely changes the dynamics between the guests: this egalitarian form creates more joint discussions than does a rectangular table that normally isolates people installed at the ends. One could thus imagine the impact that a circular or oval-shaped table can have. And why not go a little crazier? What would a dinner around a triangular or star-shaped table look like?

A new light

​Now that we have touched on the subject of furniture for our eating spaces, why not mention those things that influence the atmosphere of the dining room? The lamp hanging over the dining table has a determining impact on the atmosphere of a dinner. It adds a touch of personality and welcomes guests in its warm and pleasant halo. Also, to rejuvenate your dining room, set aside the crystal chandeliers and other extravagant creations that accumulate dust and require hours of maintenance and cleaning! Instead, try a simpler and more relaxed lighting, like these beautiful bulbs that simply hang over the table. This light fixture was designed by Italian Marco Stacchini and his team at msx2 Architettura. It demonstrates that simple solutions often provide a better outcome for contemporary décor. And, do not forget that the focus should be on what is on the table, and not what floats above! 

A culinary show

Do you ​know Teppanyaki? This is a type of Japanese restaurant where the chef prepares the meal directly in front of the guests with a hot plate installed in the middle of the table. The concept, which showcases the spectacular talents of chefs before a curious public, was popularised by the American chain Benihana in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, there are restaurants of this type all around the world. And why not incorporate the idea of a culinary show right in the comfort of your home? As shown in the photograph of a project by Italian architects Buratti + Battiston, simply install a low counter and chairs in your kitchen to create your own culinary event. Here your guests can enjoy a glass of wine while watching you perform your best and most impressive cooking techniques.   

Remain in light

Down with dark, heavy spaces lit by a single candle! The contemporary kitchen and dining room wants to be bright, open and airy. And we're not just talking about lamps; we're promoting natural light that will highlight your local and organic produce and dishes. If possible, install your dining room table near a french window to benefit from its light and, during the summer, natural ventilation. Otherwise, another alternative is to set the table under a skylight that will provide overhead lighting and a friendly welcome. In the photo, architect in Emmet Russell presents an ideal situation that sets the perfect stage for a convivial meal, morning, noon and night.

All in one

​To complete this list, we found this great example from interior designers Armory Brown LTD, which combines a variety of ideas presented in this article into a harmonious and consistent blend. While this is not as obvious as other projects, this room demonstrates a young and contemporary character. The juxtaposition of the kitchen and the dining room is handled gently here through a counter that turns into the back of a bench for comfortable seating. The more rustic touches like the dining table and ceramic brick splash back, are updated through integrated design chairs and minimalist furniture. The light atmosphere in these spaces is really attractive. Coupled with simple and clear finishes and decorative plants, the space suggests a Scandinavian character.

Ultimately, we can see how the contemporary trend is to open up and simplify the space of the dining room. A bit like a simple palate cleanser after a series of complex and convoluted course, this looks gives us a sense of pleasant freshness that makes us want to try it. 

Do you prefer a casual or more traditional dining room?Share you opinions in the comments!
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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