Have you ever noticed when people are visiting your home that they tend to stay in or around the kitchen? Perhaps that's because that area is where many of us nurture and connect with our own families, and it's a good place to bond with guests as well.
Casual dining spaces were thus created as part of the kitchen or closely connected with the kitchen, and they are designed to be used as a part of our daily lives (as opposed to formal dining rooms that most people save for special occasions). Not only is it probably the place you sit and eat with your family, but it also might function as your children's homework zone, a bill-paying center, newspaper/coffee break spot, crafts station, and place to catch up with friends.
But just because your casual dining space is a great multi-tasker doesn't mean it has to suffer for style. There are lots of great furnishings that are functional and chic.
Size up your space
Casual dining spaces are usually on a smaller scale than formal dining rooms, so it's all about keeping it simple. Think carefully about the size you have available - is it rectangular? Square? Or would a round table work best? Use masking tape or pieces of newspaper to visualize the most appropriate size for your table, chairs, and extra two feet behind for you to move around comfortably.
Many casual dining tables are round, but square gathering tables have become popular over the last few years as well. Although a round or square table accommodates fewer people than the traditional rectangular table, they do offer a more relaxed and conversation-contributing approach to dining. Whatever you decide, be sure to choose tables and chairs that are proportional to your space.
What's your style?
Casual dining furniture comes in all kinds of styles, from country to uptown modern. Since casual dining areas usually share space with the kitchen and/or family room space, you'll want to make sure that the style of your furniture is compatible with the style of the entire room.
Casual dining room furniture can be found in rustic, casual, country, formal and modern styles, making it a breeze to find pieces that complement your existing style. Better yet, it comes in a huge variety of materials, so you can find the pieces you really love:
- Wood: The traditional and classic material is known for a natural look that is durable and low maintenance. Wood is a perfect fit if your style is casual, warm and natural.
- Wicker: Traditionally neutral in color but now available in many shades, wicker is a lightweight and versatile material that works in both indoor and outdoor areas. Woven wicker is made from different natural materials, including rattan, bamboo and cane. Lightweight, easy to clean and sturdy, wicker is a great option if your style is country, elegant or cozy.
- Aluminum: Aluminum is a firm and sturdy material that is lightweight and easy to move around. It also is easy to clean, resists corrosion and stands up well to the elements, making it a popular material for many furniture designs and styles. Aluminum is a favorite material used for contemporary, streamlined pieces.
- Wrought Iron: Wrought iron is a strong, sound material that ranges from contemporary to traditional in style. Because of its heavyweight composition, wrought iron will not tip easily, making it ideal for windy environments. Wrought iron is frequently chosen for formal, classic environments.
- Mixed Materials: Some people prefer outdoor furniture that combines more than one material, such as a chair of teak and aluminum or a table of glass and wicker. Mixed materials complement spaces that are eclectic, incorporating elements of many different design styles.
Have a seat!
Seating can be really untraditional and fun in a casual dining area. Throw the rulebook out and find the seating that works best for how you use the space and shows off your personality. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Try mixing the fabrics on your chairs - instead of having them all look the same, cover a couple with a complementary fabric. Or choose a couple of different chair styles in the same wood finish or material.
- A pub or bistro table with counter stools, swivel chairs or barstools can be a great addition for a small dining nook or a corner of a kitchen. When people are sitting at bistro tables they are almost on the same eye level as someone who may be standing nearby, which encourages conversation.
- How about a freestanding bench along one or both sides of a rectangular or square table? The look is fun, relaxed, and practical for seating several children at a time.
- A similar idea is to incorporate a cushioned bench or L-shaped bench, which could serve the dual purpose of storage space - several styles feature a top that lifts to reveal storage space beneath for shoes, toys, umbrellas, jackets, and so on.
- Try adding in another style. Super-modern chairs or 70's retro casual chairs are a fresh and surprising addition to a traditional wood booth or table. As long as the table or chairs complements the rest of the room, a little whimsy creates a fun and eclectic look!
Keep in mind that because of its multi-purpose nature, you want your casual dining furniture to stand up to plenty of use - a good piece of furniture can give you years of function, comfort and enjoyment. You may pay a bit more for better quality but, in the long run, quality furniture will last for many years, and you will save money by not having to replace it frequently.