i+D - January/February 2018 - 46

The Demise of the Dining Room - By Michele Keith

What about

Pros and Cons
"Open plans can both enhance and detract from the dining experience," says
Swadron. "Challenges, such as the temptation to turn on the news or the game,
can completely compromise the rare opportunity for face-to-face social interaction."
While Myers-Fierz believes designing communal spaces in new construction is
easier than creating other rooms-fewer details to deal with-she encounters three
troublesome issues rather often:
* The frequent lack of wall-to-wall carpeting creates "echoing"-the noise of
shoe-clad feet, electronics, voices.
* If the design calls for a lot of color, it takes careful planning to make it work in
a large space that metamorphoses from, say, a dining area to the kitchen to
the lounge than in one smaller room.
* The inevitable "floating furniture" in a great room means that backs of pieces,
which can include unsightly seams, are visible. Special attention, therefore,
must be paid to ensure that everything looks perfect from every angle.
Regarding great rooms, Shields reveals: "Not only am I combining the dining and
living rooms, the kitchen is also being integrated. I get to solve the dilemma of how
to combine the traditionally hard elements of a kitchen with the desired soft and
comfortable elements of the living room. It's an exciting area to design."
But, nothing is easy, he adds. "The idea about having more space in a great room has
been tempered with the growing desire for larger-scale furniture. By the time
a kitchen island sized for activities is combined with a sectional sofa and large dining
table, space can evaporate. It takes careful planning to achieve a well-functioning
and comfortable great room. On the other hand, people have gained a lot of flexibility
with great rooms. For example, more expansive walls create more possibilities for
artwork and self-expression."

Extinction, Renewal, Reformation, or...
Without a crystal ball, no one knows what the future holds for this space in the home.
The designers we spoke with, however, would not be surprised if one day, formal
dining rooms came back in a big way. That's simply the cycle of design.

is a New York-based writer
and nonfiction book author
who focuses on design-related
topics. Her work has appeared
in The New York Times,
ASPIRE Design & Home,
Luxury Listings NYC,

"I'm LEED-certified and suggest options whenever possible.
With the exception of baby nurseries, people are generally more
concerned about lighting, probably because it's been in the
news in a huge way and the government has made a big effort
to inform the public about the benefits of LEDs. Even so, the
amount of knowledge regarding sustainable design is meager."
It's easier with new homes than old ones, she adds, where she
can use items like geothermal heating systems that are proven
to work well and eventually save money, or sometimes offer
a tax benefit. These prod clients into giving green products the
thumbs up.
"We are always mindful of the types of materials we present
to clients for any room of the house regarding suitability
from a durability and maintenance standpoint," says Wayne
Swadron. "But, of course, client reactions vary. They will often
commence a project with instructions to 'incorporate as much
green tech as possible,' which, when we explain what they are
actually asking for, changes to 'incorporate as much green tech
as reasonable,' which turns to 'Oh, is that what it looks like?'
or 'Is that what it costs?' So, ultimately, most green concepts
remain concepts."
Chris M. Shields finds he is most often the driver of
sustainability concerns on a project. "I try to lead by example,
and hope it rubs off on the people I serve. I do find people are
interested in and want to learn more about sustainability when
I bring it up."
Still, he adds, "There continues to be a lot of misconceptions
about the performance of sustainable products, and
performance can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
But, it's my responsibility as a designer to do my best to leave
a home better than I found it, and that includes its impact on
both inhabitants and the environment."
What can be done to improve things? The experts have
some ideas:
* First, according to Swadron, "As designers, it is critical to
educate ourselves about sustainability, and then be prepared
to offer clients suitable choices."
* "Manufacturers must do a better job educating consumers
with their advertising and marketing," believes Myers-Fierz.
* "The industry should follow the lead of the organic food
movement," suggests Shields, "by creating an easy-tounderstand scale for environmental impact. It could go
a long way to creating awareness and culture change...
much as we make selections now when we see the calorie
count on a menu."

Expansive spaces
that combine
kitchen, dining, and
living areas can be
challenging, but full of
opportunity. Designed
by Wayne Swadron.
(Image: Adrian Holmes)


One might think the pro-great-room client would be keen
on using sustainable materials in building them. Not so, says
Jody Myers-Fierz. "Sustainable products have been around
for a long time, yet I'm rarely asked about them for residential
design. It's more common in commercial projects."

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