I love a formal dining room, and in a house full of boys, I count on it for its civilizing effect. We have always eaten meals in the dining room, with china, napkins, and (when appropriate) candle light. Candles are not only romantic, but they hide a multitude of sins, including spills, culinary mistakes, and boyish lapses in manners. Sometimes dinner is the only time in a day we get to spend together as a family and (with the exception of the odd teenage or cranky parent moment) it is a blissful oasis of civility and good humor. We often have music on in the background and usually try to pick something suitably unobtrusive. When something more vigorous is in order, volume control is key. I’m an advocate of family dining and I know my dual personality is too. Dining rooms should be used!
Last summer, I painted our dining room blue and I’ve been meaning to upload pics since then but I was holding out for good ones. It’s quite a small room, but what I particularly like about it is the way the light plays on the walls, creating different hews throughout the day. I’ve tried taking photos at different times of day, from different angles, with and without the flash, and have so far been completely incapable of doing it justice. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the color is subtle and does not overpower the room at all. Despite its not being photogenic, I love my dining room — all it needs now is a red oriental rug (I’m looking) which I think would complement the walls better than the dark blue.
I love china and like to have out a mix of new (mostly Spode, thanks to my mother-in-law, Pam!) and family antiques. Another gift from my mother-in-law, the solid cherry, 1960s vintage Harden hutch we won at a local auction years ago. The table and chairs, also cherry, are 60s and 40s respectively. There’s a lot to be said for furniture of that vintage — although not antique, it’s much better made than anything you can find in furniture stores today. The (unmatched) Hitchcock style chair in the back right of the picture is from my grandmother Cameron’s house.
The corner shelves and Gothic chair are both from my father’s mother’s family, the Sargents (Or are the shelves from the Farm? Dual personality, do you remember?). In any case, I like the way they look together.
So here’s to the under-appreciated dining room and its civilizing role. Next time you sit down to a meal with loved ones, be sure to do it in pleasing surroundings. It’s good for the digestion and the future of civilization!