Dear James: For our starter home, we are considering a dining area instead of a dining room to save money and floor space. What are some good design ideas for this concept? — Rick B.
Dear Rick: With today's lifestyles and high building costs, eliminating a seldom-used dining room is becoming more commonplace. On a limited budget, this allows you to concentrate on rooms you'll actually use. Also, a smaller house typically has lower utility bills and lower maintenance costs.
When you recall parties and family get-togethers, you will probably remember most people gathering in the kitchen or by a big television. By avoiding the need for a large dining table and many chairs, you can gain a substantial amount of usable floor space.
From a floor plan design standpoint, it might be a better idea to build a larger kitchen and incorporate the dining room area into it or into an adjacent room. This can save quite a bit of floor space, reduce construction costs and improve the functionality of your dining/kitchen area.
Another advantage of combining the kitchen and dining room areas is for the enjoyment of the cook. With the combined open area, the cook can be a part of the activities of the guests or family members. Remember how your mother likely was tucked away in a kitchen and really only mingled with your guests after the dinner was served.
There are several simple design methods to create a separate dining area without erecting walls. One method is to change the flooring material between the kitchen and dining areas. This is often enough of a change to indicate the two areas are designated for different uses.
Using hardwood floors lends itself well to accomplishing the change in the flooring appearance. If your budget is tight, laminate floor can be used in the same way. The colors do not have to be significantly different. Often, just a change in the pattern is adequate to distinguish the two areas. Installing flooring with a decorative border in one of the rooms also helps.
Another option is installing a ceiling alcove. This is a relatively inexpensive design feature, and it can enhance the appearance of both rooms. It also provides a good location to add some recessed lighting.
Different lighting levels in the two areas can also indicate they are for different purposes. Install separate wall controls for the lights shining into each room so the intensity can be varied. The dining area is generally not lighted as brightly as the kitchen.
If you are planning to add a fireplace, gas or wood-burning, to your home, install it between the kitchen and dining areas. Install a relatively small one so there is plenty room to walk and see around either side of it. Smaller ones are also less expensive. If you install a gas fireplace, consider a see-through, two-sided model.
A final design option is a half-wall with slats between the two areas. When sitting in a chair, it should be about head height. From a distance, it is easy to see activity through the slats. When sitting in the chairs along the half-wall and looking across the slats along the length of the wall, it provides a sense of privacy.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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