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Monday, March 8, 2021

The Dining Table Is Not Dead

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If you know me, you know my feelings on the open floor plan (read my full rant here). I’ve long taken issue with the notion of erasing dividers between rooms and forcing everything into one multifunctional space—often at the loss of the formal dining room, or any real dining table at all. And, if the coronavirus stay-at-home orders have taught me anything, it’s that the dining table (and dining room, ideally) is more important now than ever.
As I approach week eight of working (and eating, socializing, everything else) from home, I’ve found that a good routine is imperative for maintaining my sanity. Key to that routine is having boundaries—between work time, relaxation time, social time, and sleep time.
My dining table has been central to keeping those divisions. It’s a space that’s categorically my bed, not my sofa, and not my kitchen counter—but that’s not to say it isn’t multifunctional. In fact, it is a versatile piece that facilitates myriad quarantine activities.
When it’s time for work, I lay out my computer, keyboard, and other desk essentials on my dining table to begin my day. When the workday’s over, those items are moved aside for a table setting, where I eat a solitary dinner before retiring to the sofa to make headway on the latest binge-worthy show. If there’s a Zoom happy hour on the docket, the dining table plays host to that, too, but with a different set up (computer on a stack of books plus a glass of wine and a candle for good lighting). My dining table is flexible enough to play multiple roles, but also separate enough from other spaces to enforce divisions between the day’s activities.
While I’m sitting there, I can’t see dirty dishes piled in my sink or the laundry that needs folding in the bedroom or, yes, the TV beckoning with its bottomless pit of Netflix options.
And I’m not alone: Many others—both those living alone and with large families—have found new use for their once largely ignored dining rooms. For some, they are now dedicated art spaces for kids, where projects can be left in progress without disrupting cooking or other family time. For others, they’ve transformed into game tables, places where families can gather for a round of Monopoly or Catan—or to work on a puzzle—that’s decidedly separate from the work or school desk. Perhaps the ultimate example of this flexibility is Chenault James’s custom table from our Whole Home, which transforms from a dining table into a ping-pong table for hours of family fun.
You see, that’s always been the beauty of the dining table. Whether it’s a 10-foot-long one in a formal room or a 3-foot one in a one-bedroom apartment (hello!), a dining table encourages more thoughtful—and yes, aesthetically-pleasing—time spent away from the kitchen and television and office. (And, hopefully, away from your phone, too.) What we’ve learned more recently is that the dining table experience doesn’t to just be dinner. Though when this is all over, the first thing I’m going to do is invite all of my friends over to sit and share a meal—not on my sofa, not around a kitchen island, but at my trusty dining table.
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