Many of today’s homes feature an open concept design, but homeowners still appreciate a defined space for dining. “The delineation can come from an area rug, light fixture, or wall finish that visually separates and defines the use of space,” explains Jesse Carrier, a principal, along with Mara Miller, of Carrier & Company Interiors, an interior design firm in New York City which recently collaborated with New Canaan-based Robert Dean Architects on a Wilton residential renovation.
For décor, the designers loves a good mix, such as rustic tables with mid-century chairs, mid-century tables with painted French chairs, and lacquered sideboards with raffia chairs. Centerpieces and table top accessories, like tureens, large decorative bowls, vases and candlesticks are all elements that further refine a space and add personality to the room,” Carrier observes, noting that lighting is the most “in” piece. With advances in technology, lighting has evolved from basic chandeliers to quasi-sculptural works of art and are often the focal point of dining spaces, according to Miller. However, Carrier and Miller are traditionalists, acknowledging that the table is the most important piece for function and design: size, shape, and material are key components to consider when designing a dining room — always beginning with function then form.
The majority of the homes that Michelle Morgan Harrison designs have formal dining rooms. “The trend is to go more hip than fussy so it’s the perfect space for a casual dinner party with friends,” says Morgan Harrison, owner of the New Canaan-based firm. “There are as many requests for glamorous rooms as there are more casual designs. Clients are seeking more durable dining tables such as glass, concrete, and solid live edge wood tables that can take more abuse than a highly polished finish.”
To make the dining room more impactful, Morgan Harrison contends that wallpaper is key. “I like to use grasscloth wallcoverings in metallics, whites, charcoals and jewel tones, as well as metallic wallpapers,” she notes. “Reflective surfaces add layers to a dining room.” She also often uses a contrast fabric on the back of chairs to add more shimmer.
Morgan Harrison notes that hardwood floors are in style but are adorned with rugs, ranging from silver sisal with metallic banding to Tibetan rugs. Carrier and Miller have also noticed a trend of incorporating all-weather, nylon, durable rugs. “Advances in textile manufacturing have made these acrylic and nylon fibers look and feel so good that many of these rugs can be mistaken for wools and cotton,” Miller says.
Designers are using window décor to create visual interest and a cozy atmosphere. “Window treatments that close out the outside world contribute to the dining experience,” says Sandra Long, owner of Laura’s Draperies, Bedspreads, and More in Norwalk. Sheer draperies add a traditional look. “Sheers soften the outside blackness and contribute to creating an intimate atmosphere for dining in the evening,” she states, noting the transitional look — falling between the traditional and contemporary spectrum — is trending. “Window treatments follow transitional furniture styles with less curves and simple, tailored lines. The sheer part of the shades add the right atmosphere to the windows. These shades are usually paired with drapery panels to frame the window,” Long says. “Draperies add color, texture, and interest to the room, and add formality without being stuffy.”
Drapery rods can be more elaborate with the addition of fancy finials, a smaller visual detail, according to Long, who has also observed a trend toward the use of gray for draperies. “We’ve been designing fabrics in a linen/cotton base that have a gray background but with geometric or small floral patterns in green, rose, or blue. Geometric patterns are particularly popular due to their ability to coordinate with any style rug,” she says.
With center hall colonials remaining predominant, Beth Krupa, principal/lead designer of Beth Krupa Interiors in Old Greenwich, sees the dining room as a valued celebratory space. “Since the center hall is adjacent to the living room on one side and the dining room on the other, the two spaces must be given equal attention and preferably planned for and designed at the same time to feel cohesive,” says Krupa. “Homeowners want these spaces designed more boldly than other areas of the home. Pushing the boundaries, dining spaces are often made livelier with personal worldly finds and playful colors. The idea of eccentric harmony lets us use cross-cultural references and vibrant color décor into visual displays on the buffet, in curio cabinets, or on the dining table. Vintage furniture and accessories can sit comfortably with contemporary forms.”
The dining room ceiling has also become an integral design space. “Picture flickering candles and clinking glasses playing off a textured, coffered, or metallic ceiling,” says Krupa, who also focuses attention on the walls, using wallpaper with bold prints, soft textures, or metallics, or a mix of both. The most captivating accessory, she notes, is a chandelier. “This showcases the personality of the homeowner and draws one into the room,” she concludes. “Using today’s trend of modern organic, I enjoy designing dining rooms that are refined yet geared to the modern way of entertaining, which includes everything from children’s parties to intimate dinners.”