THE IMPORTANT DINING ROOM
The Important Dining Room
If you have a dining room-or simply a dining area-atmosphere is important. It turns eating from a function into an event.
If you are lucky enough to have a dining room that doesn't have to double for another purpose, you can be really adventurous in your approach. Unlike the sitting room, where you spend much of your time and need a relaxing atmosphere in which to unwind, you are free to create a more exciting and stimulating mood. You may not choose to do so, but the opportunity is there if you want to take it.
Much may depend on the pattern of your eating. If lunches tend to be sketchy affairs, snatched in a hurry, or even eaten in the kitchen design, you will want to give priority to how the dining room looks at night-time. You may want to do this in any case, if you give a lot of dinner parties for friends or business contacts.
The easiest way to establish a sympathetic night-time ambience is to choose a strong, dark color for the walls. This looks soft and rich by artificial light, and provided the table has overhead lighting, will isolate the table-top in a private pool of illumination. The result will not only create an intimate atmosphere that encourages diners to relax and talk freely, but will cause glasses and silverware to come alive and sparkle. It will also allow any dirty dishes stacked else where in the room to fade discreetly into the shadows, encouraging the illusion that there is no hard work involved.
If you are going to isolate the table-top in this way, it's vital that whatever opaque pendant fitting you choose hangs low enough to contain it tightly, without obscuring the view across the table.
Finding the right height is critical, because a position that is slightly too high may cause the light to glare directly into the diners eyes. If you buy a pendant fitting with a rise and fall mechanism, you will be able to find the ideal level by trial and error-and raise the fitting right up and out of the way when you need to lay or clear the table. Otherwise, choose a pendant with a deep, opaque shade, and if you are still worried about possible eye-glare, choose a light bulb where the lower half has been silver. This would be a good idea, in any case, if you have preferred a translucent to an opaque shade, with a color that needs a strong light to show it off.
One further advantage of having a rise and fall mechanism is that if you want to dine solely by candlelight, you can raise the pendant fitting till it's out of eyeshot.
Candles add are a good way of disguising less than perfect surroundings. If you choose tall candles, make sure the flames are either above eye-level-which will probably mean teaming them with tall candlesticks or candelabra-or below eye-level. If the flames are on a level with people's sight-lines, they will tend candle-flames, however, have an unflattering effect on diners, because they throw shadows upwards, and make faces look tired. This may not matter amongst a group of young people. Indeed, one of the simplest and cheapest ways of dining by candlelight is to mass groups of tiny night-lights in shiny foil baking trays. They throw out a lovely tinny glitter.
As the table-top is the focal point of any dining room, lighting elsewhere should be condoned to where it's needed; perhaps just a light over switched off independently when no longer required,
The Dining Table
Dining rooms demand very little in the way of furniture. All you really need is a table, some chairs, and either a sideboard or something to act as a sideboard or something to act as a sideboard. The choice of period style is vast, and the adventurous can mix and match.
Unless your room is so narrow that a so narrow that a circular shape would look hemmed in, consider a round table. It encourages a fuller flow of conversation, because people can talk around or across it, which isn't the case with a rectangular table. Circular tables can also seat more people, because the place settings run continuously round the circumference, without any corners going to waste. In addition the middle is within everyone's reach, instead of requiring a central reservation that extends right down the length of the table. On the other hand, the attraction of the more formal rectangle is eternal. Its clean, uncompromising lines-echoed by rows of gleaming cutlery and porcelain-presents a picture of elegance no other table shape can match.
Ideally you should allow 66 cm (2 ft 2 in) for each place setting or 71 cm (2 ft4 in) if you using dining chairs with arms. This means a circular table with a 129 cm (4 ft) diameter will seat six people at a pinch; while a 140 cm ( 4 ft 6 in) diameter table will seat them more than amply. Similarly, a table with a 150 cm ( 5ft) diameter will seat eight people at a pinch; while a 170 cm (5 ft 6 in) diameter will seat them more comfortably, whereas the same amount on the end of a rectangular table does little to ease the seating problem.
Some circular tables come with an extension leaf which turns them into an oval shape; however, unlike the leaves of many square or rectangular tables, which slide under the main table-top when not in use, they have to be stored somewhere separately. If your dining room is fairly small, but you still the idea of an oval shape for entertaining, you could look for an old gate leg table with semi-circular leaves. Another alternative is a traditional Pembroke table. Then when the table is not is use you can drop down the semi-circular leaves at both ends, leaving you with a slender rectangle.
One advantage of square or rectangular tables is that they lend themselves to being pushed against a wall, leaving plenty of floor area free in smaller dining rooms. You can always pull them out into the room when guests are coming. If people are going to sit on both sides of a rectangular table, the table needs to be at least 75 cm ( 2 ft6 in) wide.
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