Why You Shouldn't Give Up On Your Formal Dining Room: Client Project Reveal / by charity buchika

Kid friendly dining chairs 

Photography by Alice G Patterson Photography 

We've all had a love/hate relationship with formal dining rooms for the past several years... and I'm not so sure the advice we've gotten from the interior design community has been altogether helpful. 

We've been told to scrap our dining tables and turn those unused spaces into home offices or playrooms or reading rooms. 

Which is all well and good. 

Unless - like our recent clients - you happen to want to use your dining room for, you know, dining. 

Just like with their living room's design, they wanted their dining room to be a space they could really use and enjoy with their kids - without having to compromise beautiful furnishings and decor.

Here's what their dining room looked like before.

Family dining room makeover BEFORE

This space was fine for them to use as a family - the tie-on chair cushions could be removed for cleaning if necessary and there really wasn't anything precious in harm's way that could get broken as people jockey for their place at the table.

But there wasn't anything particularly appealing about it either.

As it is now, though, it proves we can ditch our stuffy dining rooms and turn them into cool, classic, family-friendly spaces... that still look, feel, and act like dining rooms!

kitchen and dining room ideas

The overall design is relatively simple and unfussy.

We got the gorgeous new table from Harden Furniture, which means it's very well made, plus Harden uses fantastic sustainable practices, which I appreciate.

Kid friendly dining room rug

We kept the existing rug and chandelier, as well as the heirloom marble topped sideboard. 

Dining room sideboard idea
Marble tabletop

You can't get much more traditional than sconces, but the ones we chose are sleek and modern - not old-fashioned in the least.

Lighting ideas 

The combination of traditional pieces with fresh, preppy elements make the room feel both updated and important.

And then of course, there's the paint color.

Best dining room colors

Oh, that paint color! Isn't it beautiful?!

We pulled it from the rug knowing we wanted to use something bold. And since blues are always timeless, we knew it would be an enduring choice, but this jewel toned hue is actually very trendy right now. If I were the type of person who says, "It's having a moment," I'd say that about this blue. 

You don't need a lot going on elsewhere in the room when you're using a paint color this bold. In fact, it's best to keep furnishings clean-lined and simple and accessories to a minimum. That way the total effect isn't overwhelming. 

Dining area ideas

As far as kid-friendliness is concerned, we used a few simple tricks here for making this beautiful dining room more manageable for the family.

First, we covered the new dining chairs in Sunbrella fabrics. Performance fabrics like these stand up to normal wear and tear and clean up better than regular upholstery fabrics. And since designers and homeowners alike are currently clambering for functional home fabrics, companies are creating more and better options all the time. 

Kid friendly dining chair
Kid friendly dining chair

Just for fun, we covered the host and hostess chairs in a contrasting fabric. That "mix and match" look for dining sets is super popular right now. 

Kid friendly dining chair

The menswear-inspired plaid lends a little masculine vibe, which helps keep the room from being too fussy.  At the risk of dating myself, I have to say that I can't help but picture Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl sporting one of his expertly tailored suits in this very plaid. 

Preppy with a capital "P"!

Preppy style chair
Kid friendly dining chair and kid friendly rug

Our other trick is to use a heavily patterned rug in a dark color palette under the table. That way, even if you wind up with stains that won't come out, they'll be well-camouflaged. 

Kid friendly rug

We added a few extra touches of color and personality with the window treatments and the artwork.

Window treatment ideas

Adding Greek key banding to simple drapes makes them positively stunning. The high contrast of their light color against the dark walls is a nice spin on "classic prep" style.

Window treatment ideas
Greek key trim

By hanging the drapes high and wide, we created the illusion that the windows are larger than they actually are.

Window treatment idea

We took down all the small art pieces and brought in just two large, colorful pieces for a bigger impact.


This botanical chart from Teaselwood Design is big and bold enough that it doesn't get lost against the dark walls, even from a distance.

Wall decor idea
Wall decor idea
Dining area

This painting that is a memorable piece for the family and was a wedding gift adds a little dash of levity and a big dash of modern style.

Wall decor idea

And what's a client space reveal around here without lots and lots of flowers?!

Floral design idea
Floral design idea
Floral design idea 
Floral design idea
Hydrangeas arrangement
Hydrangeas arrangement
Floral design idea Teaselwood Design
Floral design idea Teaselwood Design
Floral design idea Teaselwood Design

I hope this has convinced you that it's possible to have (and use) a beautiful formal dining room, even with kids at home.

Dining area
Dining area ideas

How soon will you be turning your makeshift home office, playroom, or reading room back into your family's formal dining room?