Nowadays, Americans are finding themselves with less and less time to sit down for a proper meal. When people think of this fact, what usually comes to mind is the predominance of fast-food over home-cooked meals. But our nutrition isn’t the only thing suffering from this phenomenon. Many people are also experiencing the loss of a long-time, home classic—the dining room. Still, few are actually lamenting this loss as there is a growing perception that dining rooms are becoming old-fashioned.
However, this change is not a result of some sort of growing laziness or lack of concern for shared family time. Instead, our modern lives are mostly to blame for making the dining room obsolete. Today, adults are busier than ever and the work day doesn’t necessarily end at 5 PM. Fewer households have a stay-at-home parent who can prepare a meal every night and gather the family around the table.
And with kids having more homework assignments, extracurricular activities, and social outings, it is even harder to get everyone together at one time. Many family members eat their various meals at different times depending on their particular schedule. As a result, coordination around a dining room meal is very difficult.
The Rise of the Kitchen
But it is not all our fault. The dining room may have gotten a little too big for its britches. The trend of having dining rooms as a separate, spacious area off of the kitchen began in the 1920s. This trend continued in full force up to the 1970s but has begun to slowly taper off since then. With the explosion of more urban living spaces in the form of small apartments or lofts, the dining room became an unnecessary use of space.
In the case of houses, sure, most homes built today do include a designated dining area, but they also include much larger kitchens than a 1920’s family could have imagined. With these larger kitchens came more room for integrated cooking and dining spaces such as the humble kitchen table or the ever-popular center island. And whereas kitchens used to be quite bare and even perhaps bland in comparison to dining rooms, it is not uncommon to find upscale Currey & Company décor accenting modern kitchens.
With there being far more seating available in kitchens themselves, it is only natural that many of us choose to take advantage of this. Not only is the kitchen highly trafficked, but it is also easier to move from stove to Center Island and from Center Island to dishwasher. This may seem like an unnecessary comfort, but in our busier lives, every minute saved is precious.
In addition, the kitchen has an advantage over dining rooms by not being cut off from other living spaces. Anyone could argue about the ills of eating and watching TV at the same time, but the truth is often less dramatic. By having meals in a more open area of the home, it is easier for family members to maintain contact with other members who, for whatever reason, are not eating at the same moment. Although less structured, one could argue that this retains a lot of the spirit of mealtime in a dining room.
With so many kitchen spaces being able to easily accommodate dining areas, some might find having a dedicated dining room wasteful. Consequently, many dining rooms are being converted into home offices, playrooms, home gyms, and so much more. In this way, dining room spaces have grown to become the most versatile living spaces in modern homes.
Even if the room is still occupied by a table and chairs used mostly for special occasion meals, many Americans find themselves paying bills at the dining room table, doing arts and crafts at the table, and other things besides eating.
Because of this, it seems unfair to say that dining rooms are becoming old-fashioned. They may definitely not be what they used to, but not everyone has fully cast them aside. Instead, it is more appropriate to say that dining rooms are changing in a way that, for some, is not in line with their name.
But name aside, dining rooms are still being built into most homes because of their long history in our culture. Whether or not we actually use them for dining is a separate issue. At the end of the day, we ought to be grateful for their place in American homes whether we hold dear memories of Thanksgiving meals or fondness towards the place where our home business first took off.
Michele Duchet is an Interior designer at 1800lighting.com in NJ, USA and she works with schools and homeowners to help create a safe an elegant home decor, that feature lighting with a variety of lights and lamps.