THE TINY DINING ROOM

The Tiny Dining Room

Benches can seat more people in a row than an equivalent-length row of dining chairs. Provided you team them with a suitable table., they take up less depth when people are sitting on them, as well as tucking right under the table when not in use. Look for a table with a central support, rather than one that has legs at the corners: refectory-style tables with cross-over legs, or the classic pedestal table. These will enable people to sit on the end of the benches and side themselves along to the middle, as well as enabling the benches to fit under the table-top after mealtimes.

If you don't like he idea of benches because there is nothing to lean back against, you could butt one bench up against a wall, and use chairs for the other side of the table. You could even build the wall-bench in, upholstering the seat and adding a padded back-panel; then make cushions for the chairs in a matching fabric. Indeed  in a minute room where you need to seat a lot of people, you could build upholstered wall-benches into there of the walls, with the table in the middle, rather like the pine eating stalls in some bistros. The size of table-top wouldn't have room for maneuver; too far and you'd stretching forward to eat at arm's length. If you are considering built-in seating, be sure to allow enough knee-room between the top of the seat cushions and the underside of the table top. The recommended distance is about 35 cm (14 in). The other space-saving alternative for tiny dining rooms is to team a drop-leaf table or wall-hinged table-top with folding or stacking chairs.

The Floor

Although carpets are quite and luxurious in a dining room, muffling the scraping back of chairs and all the to-ing and fro-ing from the kitchen. they are very impractical, even if you don't have young children--food inevitably gets dropped at some point. But if you are determined to take the risk, it's advisable to go for a close-pile carpet, rather than anything that will impede the movement of chair-legs. It's probably also wisest to go for a medium color-although as this is a room where little time is spent, you might consider a patterned carpet to help disguises marks. If you are worried about making the room look smaller, you could perhaps pick a small-scale geometric pattern. This would look particularly good with modern furniture although it would complement simple 18th-century furniture, which would share its disciplined restraint.

But almost any sense in a dining room: polished wood floors, sealed cork tiles and, unless you are afraid of breakages, ceramic or quarry tiles. Leno and vinyl can look handsome too-it's certainly a mistake to view them only in a kitchen context. If you team black and white vinyl tiles with Regency furniture, for instance, they will appear formal and elegant rather than ordinary and sensible.

The Walls

As dining rooms get little wear and tear, yet are very much on show when entertaining, you might consider covering the walls with fabric. This always makes a room feel warm and rich, and prevents voices bouncing loudly off the walls. But it's only a good idea if the walls. But it's only a good idea if the room is well ventilated. Otherwise the fabric might retain food smells.

Fabric would be impractical in any dining room where the table is up against the wall, because it would soon get splashed with gravy. The same would be true of a standard wallpaper, though you could give the table area a protective coat of spray-on matt varnish. However a washable wallpaper would make more sense; and a scrub able vinyl even better sense. Vinyl wall covering designs and textures have improved out of all recognition in recent years: to give just one example of their sophistication, there is a marvelous moiré-silk design that comes in exquisite shades like silver-grey and oyster. If you used the real thing, you could not expect a more beautiful result.
If you prefer to paint the walls, a shiny silk vinyl or eggshell looks soft but is practical. Emulsion paint cannot be washed clean very often without creating bald patches, but providing a practical surface may not matter if your table is in the middle of the room, and you sideboard or serving area has some form of splash back for protection.
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