Eating areas, when you think about it, consume a large amount of living space in a home. A strong argument can be made that precious square footage is gobbled up with too many places to eat. Do you honestly need a dining room, a breakfast room, a breakfast bar, and island seating? Maybe some of you do, but I would bet that some of you would not come to that conclusion if you put into context how you use these areas on a routine basis. To create good home design overall, it may be a good idea the reconsider how these spaces are use and perhaps put them to better use.

Dining Room

Formal Dining

A formal dining room that can expand to seat eight comfortably.

A dining room is definitely a required space in your home design. Whether it is formal or informal all depends on your lifestyle and design circumstances. If used as a formal place to eat, how often will you use it for that purpose? If you frequently host dinner parties, then a large dining room in addition to a daily eating space, a.k.a. breakfast room, for the family is the best use of square footage on your floor plan. Weekly family meals, which may include extended family members, can also justify the use of this additional square footage. Sunday dinners are a good example of this scenario. On the other hand, if you only use this space on occasions such as thanksgiving, you may be cheating yourself out of usable space in your home. What you’ve really done is turn a percentage of your floor space into a showroom for your dining set.

I’m not advocating the elimination of the formal dining room per se. After all, it is an important part of the floor plan DNA. What I am saying is that you should devote only the slimmest of square footage to this room based on your dining habits. You have to think and design with resale in mind, even if you never plan to do so.

Breakfast Room or Nook

Breakfast nook

This eating space is an extension of the kitchen and utilizes a minimum amount of space.

A breakfast room may also be considered a necessary space in addition to a dining room. However, let’s examine how it should be approached. Should you design another room for your daily eating or should you design a nook. A nook is nothing more than a recess or a corner seclusion big enough to host a small dinette set. Another way to describe it is an extension of the kitchen. If square footage is a precious commodity, a nook, is the smart solution. Your eating space then becomes an extension of the kitchen, rather than a completely separate room. In this case, you can still have a formal and informal dining spaces without greatly expanding the area of your floor plan.

Breakfast Bar

Breakfast Bar

This kitchen uses an eating bar instead of a breakfast room for daily meals and snacks.

By adding a breakfast bar, you can realistically eliminate a breakfast room or nook and use the extra square footage for something else in your home design. If you can get past the ideal of having to have a kitchen dinette set, you can explore other design options for a better use of space, especially in smaller homes with limited square feet. One option is to design an island table. Make the island big enough so that you can add seating for at least four. You can design the island at a standard base cabinet height for the eating area or you can lower the eating section to accommodate standard table chairs. This design solution is also referred to as an eat-in-kitchen.

A second option is a eating bar. Eating bars are generally designed on linear or angled islands that comprise of the kitchen sink and dish washer. Typically they seat more than four, which is common for an average dining table. However, there is a slight downside to this option. Bar stools or bar chairs are require for adequate seating height. For families with small children, this can be a hazard for these little people. Until they are near or pass the preschool age, it may be better to provide them their own kiddie table.

Consider Your Dining Habits
OK, I know some of you are traditionalist and believe that you must have a kitchen table. But, you’ve seen the homes that include a dining room, a breakfast room, island seating, and a eating bar, right? I call it design gluttony. It’s not for me to tell you how to use the space in your home, but I would be remiss if I didn’t provide options on how to maximize your limited square footage for a more useful purpose. However, the intent of this article is to get you to rearrange your thinking about eating spaces in a house. To preserve valuable square footage in your home design, consider your dining habits and other living needs, then design accordingly.

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