Dinosaur Dining Room

By Steven V. Philips –

As houses shrink in square footage, formal dining rooms (FDR) are endangered and maybe headed toward extinction. None other than the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) forecasts this. Good! Fine by me as I am so ready for the FDR’s extinction. But if you’re stuck with a formal dining room, I have a few ideas.

With happy anticipation, I hopefully forge upwards towards the joy of missing the tension-soaked drama/tradition that is always staged in an FDR. You know exactly what I mean, unless you are the lucky Ozzie/ Harriet type that always have lovely, non-controversial Holidays and/or dinner parties. The ones I recall are where Uncle Leslie gets loaded and tells Cousin Dave that anyone who lives in Mystic is a moron. Or Wendy, who for the eighth year, tells her husband he’s so like Peter Pan that she’s leaving him. Again. This year it’s for the pool-boy, whose mother is your dinner partner.

Back to topic. How and where are we shrinking?

In the Formal Dining Room Era of the 50’s we were assured that flying cars were soon winging in. Our houses would be robotized and dustless. Wrong twice. What’s really coming is not Space-Age, it’s Space-less and no winged-Edsel either. The peak average home square footage of 2,521 square feet was reached in 2007, according to the NAHB. They’re currently projecting house size to be shrinking to around 2150 square feet by 2013.  So let us visualize the space of a two-car garage going, going, gone in two more years!

Not that the house’s price is shrinking, you silly geese. Downsizing baby boomers (sick of that phrase yet?) want higher quality appliances, fittings (bathroom grab bars anyone?) and overall finishes better than the old “builder’s grade”. Thus, less space and maybe more money. But thinking optimistically Green, you may get it back. Less space equals less heat/cooling. Grab bars equal no broken hips. Efficient appliances equal lower electrical bills. (My new refrigerator has knocked twenty five bucks off of the utility bill.)

Onward to the other soon-vanishing spaces. Disappearing next, thinks the NAHB, are formal living rooms. Half of builders are forecasting the FLR will merge with other spaces and thirty-three percent bet the FLR will fade away completely. Here comes the great room/kitchen  with a strong eat-in component.

Separate rooms for hobbies are disappearing too. Also zippo are more than four bedrooms and mudrooms. And, wait for it, they agree formal dining rooms (FDR) are very endangered. Like tea-sets.

As we used to say, the FDR is loosing the space race. See? It’s time for dissolution of the faux-need of you landed gentry to be ready should the King stop by your Estate for a bite of roasted stag. There’s so little Royalty about now anyway, except for my mother-in-law.

But hark, I digress from your unrecognized FDR Problem. You claim to use your heirloom FDR for dining. O sure. Do not fib to me. The chances are that you haven’t used it since your St. Swithins Day omelet party. It’s probably more likely that’s where the kids do homework, you have your computer or somebody is doing some craft.

Solution #1: Well, what if you’ve sold your kids to the zoo, are a Luddite and are very klutzy? Without kids and since you don’t have computer, you may still read books! (B-o-o-k-s. Google this word) So line those FDR walls with book shelves. It’s now a library and you’re looking very Mensa. Buy a smoking jacket. Also see #3.

Solution #2: What if you actually do have a home office, or you craft crafts? Hide those functions behind doors in cabinet wall units. You could also craftily lock the kids in these and be seriously creative. And see #3.

Solution #3: Here’s the Nobel Prize idea and you can blend it with #1 and #2 solutions. It’s a hidden “Murphyesque” Table. Your local cabinet shop can build you one with abutting storage areas for folding chairs. Just drop down the table for those rare actual eating events/bouts?. Purchase folding, but better than bingo-hall, chairs. Change their slip covers to match the occasion.

Solution #4: Add a real Murphy bed on the other wall and the FDR can then be the guest room too.

Happy New Year and New Spaces.

8 thoughts on “Dinosaur Dining Room”

  1. Oh the poor FDR. We actually do use ours at least twice a month to entertain groups of six or more. I love the idea of multi use though! The formal living room (FLR) might be right behind the FDR. Friends in MN did a similar multi use converstion and added walls of bookcases and a corner desk space. Their high school kids made use of it for homework. Still had a couple of chairs in the room but with a family room those FLR’s might be going bye bye too! I do love to decorate my FDR light fixture for the holidays. Ho Ho Ho

  2. Homes getting smaller, that is certainly a good thing. Your creative ideas for a FDR should get everyone’s creative juices flowing and thoughts turning to making each room a better environment for our families. I know I love the idea of built in cabinets for holding project materials and a million other things we acquire. If the room is seldom used for dining, then we should all follow Mr Philips’ lead and make better use of this space.

  3. Our FDR is the least room used in the house. We’ve been in our house for 7 1/2 years and I’d wager to say that we’ve had our holiday meal there about 5 times – that’s it in 7 1/2 years just 5 times!

    However the room does get used. The huge table seems to be the project table. Not sure what I’d do without that large working space. So having said that maybe I do relish having my FDR for an overflow area but not for an overabundance of food.

    Maybe it should be referred to as the “Formal Project Room”!

  4. I love this article and have actually been wanting to get rid of our FDR. I am thinking about tearing the wall down between kitchen and FDR and creating a larger kitchen space. But I love this thought about re-purposing the existing room into a new space. Thanks so much, Mr Philips for giving me more to consider!!!

  5. If, as Mr Phillips is implying, the FDR & FLR (has a political ring) will be disappearing from the future builders home plans, where are my children and their children going to warehouse all the family heirlooms I am currently warehousing? I know that those of you that pack up and leave the family homestead, don’t take the baggage that generations have taken the time to accumulate.

    One the opposite side of the coin, I certainly could do without the 503 square feet that has to be heated and vacuumed and painted and decorated, etc. Those square feet are required to store all this unused volume of furniture, brickbats, painting, doilies, china, silverware and oh those so precious throw rugs. Once I’m gone, this won’t be my problem any longer.

  6. Great article with the usual tongue in check humor I have come know and and adore. I have been aware of the FDR disappearance, but it is always nice to have, just in case….
    However, turning it into a library is a great Mr. Philip’s idea. Take it one step further Think of all the book clubs you could run in that room. Book clubs are the rage these days. Actual books and FDRs are disappearing. I say: save them both…

  7. Well, we have the useless separate dining and living rooms that we hardly use any more. But,… not sure I’m ready to give them up just in case. Will thinks about your ideas if I conclude they are becoming obsolete rooms.

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