When Matt and I were first married, we bought a large rectangular dining room table. Envisioning a large family in our future, plus years of Thanksgivings and entertaining, it seemed the logical choice.
Years later, after selling our first house and moving to New Zealand, we had moved to California and started our next house search. When we first toured our current fixer upper’s downstairs, Matt and I decided we’d make the fireplace room, right off the kitchen, into our dining room. We’d already agreed we only needed one major dining area. (We’d had a “formal” dining room in our first house, in addition to a kitchen nook, and we found we ate often in the nook and rarely in the formal dining room. As I suspect happens in many homes.)
After moving in, we made the fireplace room into our dining room as planned. We put our long rectangular table in there and proceeded with life (which at that point included a 6-month-old baby).
FIREPLACE IN THE DINING ROOM: A GOOD IDEA?
However, as we went through a winter here (the winters here in southern California, believe it or not, do get cold enough to light fires!), I started wishing that our fireplace room had a cozy couch or chairs instead of a table. I wanted us to be able to curl up in a comfortable spot with a blanket and a book on cold winter days, or a place to play on the floor as a family in front of the fire. (Which we did sometimes even with the dining table–we’d just shift it a little.)
While the heat from the fireplace isn’t essential to keeping our home warm (we have central heating throughout the house), it was more about the ambiance and coziness, for me. We did a couple swap-arounds where we swapped the couch in our great room with the table in the fireplace room to test it out. (You know us, we’re all about testing things out before making final room decisions!)
After months of back and forth (because, you know, I can’t make final decisions without reeeeeeeeeeeeally being sure it’s the best decision of the bunch), we decided that the fireplace room needed to be a cozy couch & armchair kinda room.
That meant the dining room would need to be on the other side of the kitchen.
Final Home for Our Dining Room Table
Thanks to our kitchen remodel, we had taken out the wall between that side of the kitchen and what we called “The Great Room.” This meant that our dining area would still be right next to the kitchen (which makes the most logical sense), but would also have another open living space on the other side of it.
Day by day, as we lived with the large rectangular table in that space, I realized something. I realized that we didn’t need a big rectangular table, for several reasons. (Read our post “7 Reasons We Ditched Our Dining Room Table.“)
And after downsizing to a small dining room table we already had, we noticed several benefits.
SOME OF THE BENEFITS TO OUR SMALL DINING ROOM TABLE
1. No one left out.
With the big rectangular table, there was always someone who seemed to be on the edge, away from the heart of the conversation. With our new smaller table, everyone is just as “in” as everyone else!
2. The cozy feel.
Going to a smaller table for a family of four immediately felt cozier. We weren’t so spaced apart or separated.
3. Closeness of all kinds.
Not only were we physically closer (and therefore able to better help our young children with dinnertime when needed), but we noticed how much more “together” we felt around the small table. Like a couple who goes out for a romantic dinner and wants a cozy booth, we found that this was our family’s equivalent of a cozy table at home.
For what we do about large gatherings and entertaining, see here.
Our Family-friendly Dining Chairs
We can’t go without mentioning our chairs! I got this style of dining chair for two…no, make that three…reasons.
#1: I liked them.
They’re fun and light and casual and let you know we’re not taking things too seriously around here.
#2: They were inexpensive.
My ideal dining chairs would be something more like this, but I’m waiting to get my dream dining chairs until my kids are older (a.k.a. past the spilling-everything-age). Which leads me to my third reason I wanted these chairs…
#3: They’re low-maintenance.
Cleaning is a cinch! See those white canvas parts? They slip right off and can be washed quickly. And they dry even faster than they wash! Someone spills or gets grimy hands on them, no problem! Mama is totally chill about it!
#4: SFR (bonus reason!)
Plus, do they or do they not remind you of Swiss Family Robinson? Like the family could have just whipped them together themselves out of island bamboo and canvas sails from the ship, then put all the chairs together for use up in the treehouse. (Some days, my whole goal in life is just to live on an island with my family, in a treehouse. I know, I know…obvious problems…but I wave those away like in any good daydream.)
So, while we didn’t end up using our original long table or having our dining room where we originally thought we would, we’re loving the cozier setup we have now! (And if you’re curious what we did with our large dining table, see where we talk about that here!)
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