Just because a room has “formal” and “dining” in its title, doesn’t mean it has to be either, as these five rooms attest. If you can count on one hand the number of occasions you use your formal dining room as a place to serve a meal, it may be time to consider a more active use of the space. This doesn’t mean you have to let go of its purpose entirely; as you’ll see in the examples below, there are ways to incorporate your formal dining into your informal life room without losing its luster.
Give it a new title. Or 100.
Nothing warms up a heart or a room like a good book. This dining room enters a new chapter of comfort, design, and function by serving as a home office, a den, and, occasionally, a place to enjoy good food and good words with friends. To add character(s) to your room, start with a warm neutral and add bookshelves as you see fit.
Table the discussion.
King Arthur had the right idea, and so does this interior decorator, who incorporates curved chairs and sofas in this formal dining room design. While the table remains the center stage, the room is softened into a lounge with its soft fabrics and comfortable seating. The easiest way to achieve this look is to find a compatible sofa and a table with adjustable height, one that could transition from coffee to dining with a stretch of the legs (and not the imagination).
Devour some knowledge.
This Michigan cottage has the right idea, and no doubt this formal-dining-room-turned-homework-station has seen its share of light bulbs. The genius behind this design is that it incorporates the flow of the house; kids come home through the front door, drop their bags at their desks, and head to the kitchen for a snack. It’s a good example of how to use your formal dining room to fit your specific needs; if it ends up hosting more projects than people, you have your answer.
Make it work for—and play with—you.
This interpretation made us gasp for two reasons. On the one hand, it gives the space for all members of the family to work and play. On the other, it offers full sliding doors to seal off the space when you don’t feel like prepping it for guests. After all, the next best thing to having a full, professional housecleaning is being able to close the door on the mess for a few minutes.
It’s all in the game.
If your home is behind the eight ball for space, cue up your formal dining room. Puns aside, your dining room is mostly likely the most underused room in your house—and it’s often in a prime spot. We love the way these homeowners found a way to make their favorite game part of their home’s appeal and functionality. A room that serves as both a dining and entertaining space? Score.
You may be surprised how much bigger the rest of your house feels once you start using all of its rooms. Isn’t it time your formal dining room got in on the action?