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Formal Dining Rooms: Are They Necessary?

Goehring & MorganMarch 7, 2016

Are formal dining rooms out of style? Well, that depends on whom you ask.

Many people only use a formal dining room a few times a year for special occasions — Thanksgiving, holiday meals or for intimate dinner parties.

The formal dining room has become less ubiquitous for several reasons. For one, many homes now have eat-in kitchens and breakfast nooks where families can gather around a table for casual meals. Cultural and generational shifts also are a culprit — it’s now okay to eat in front of the TV or for family members to retreat to separate spaces to eat a meal while finishing work or homework. Our multitasking culture makes it difficult for families to sit down at the same time every day and eat dinner, so it’s no surprise that some buyers are passing on formal dining rooms in favor of floor plans that work better with this lifestyle.

While some clients are still interested in a more traditional formal floor plan with a separate dining room, some buyers opt to forgo these individual spaces or design larger “great room” configurations. This leads to an open floor plan with a lot of communal eating and gathering spaces, including a breakfast nook or a snack bar outfitted with stools. Plus, some homes also have outdoor areas that expand the living space of a home, allowing families to dine outdoors year-round if the weather permits.

Still, some buyers like formal dining rooms because they serve as showpieces for family heirlooms or antiques that may not make sense to place elsewhere. According to U.S. Census data, nearly 51 percent of homes constructed between 2005 and 2009 had dining rooms, so many people still like this traditional element in a home.

Ultimately, it’s all about your preference and your family’s needs. Some families sit down together at the dinner table every night. Others would rather grab their plates and head to the family room to watch their favorite television show together. Another family may have different schedules that makes eating together on a regular basis more difficult.

So, when designing your custom home, is a formal dining room necessary? Yes, if your family needs it. But if your lifestyle doesn’t warrant it, then a use the space for something that is better suited for you and your family.