worth waiting for – formal dining room ideas
We’ve lived in two homes since marrying. Both have one thing in common – we didn’t decorate large parts of the house for years. Yes, budget was a main reason for this. I am very consistent in my style and what I want, so I chose to wait to save money for what I wanted, knowing it was an investment into things I’d keep for years. The other reason is because I just don’t think you know how you’re going to live in a house for a long time. But if you’re on the hunt for formal dining room ideas, welcome to my home. Let’s dig in.
try before you buy
When you buy a home chances are you look around and think “oh, this room would be perfect for this, or we could put our Christmas tree here” but then when you move in and live in it, you find that changes.
In our first home the very front two rooms were our living and dining rooms. Neither were necessary for newlyweds so we chose to invest in a gorgeous bedroom first. Nothing feels more decadent than going to sleep in the bedroom of your dreams. You’re the home owner – to hell with what your guests think. I don’t care if they see a perfect living room we never use. I wanted our space as newlyweds to be finished.
So therefore the front two rooms sat empty for over three years. We jokingly called it our ballroom because it was this open floor plan of wood floor and gorgeous floor to ceiling windows!
Eventually I hired an interior designer, and longtime friend, to help complete the rooms and it looked beautiful and finished the home.
do you use your dining room?
When we moved into our current home a similar thing happened. Our dining room is in the very center our house and is viewable from almost every room. It has 25’ ceilings and is really large. So it’s emptiness was extremely conspicuous. Not only would our guests walk in and ask “how long have you lived here?” and be surprised to hear that it had been around three years, but I would walk past it every five minutes being a stay at home Mom to see this caverness space of emptiness. The only thing I did to the space upon moving in was the paint it in the same color scheme as the rest of the house and put our old furniture in it. So it at least somewhat blended in, if only in wall color!
But the truth was I just didn’t need a dining room and my vision for formal dining room ideas I wanted wasn’t in the budget. We had so many other projects to complete that it was at the bottom of the priority list.
Most importantly, I had no idea how I would entertain. Entertaining to me at that time was having people over to the pool, hot dogs and a lot young babies and children running wild! Who was sitting down to a formal dinner?! No one!
how do you entertain?
A few years ago it felt time to make our dining room the space it deserved. We had the budget, I had a vision and my interior designer (another longtime friend, it’s important to hire someone you trust who gets your taste) and after pouring over formal dining room ideas from magazines, I went to work creating it.
My thought process had always been: how will I entertain? Am I a formal hostess? Do I prefer buffet style entertaining? What would Thanksgiving look like? Or what kind of dinner parties would I be hosting? I other words, what was my style?
The answer was always formal casual. Along with clothes, raising my children, marriage approach and home thoughts it’s always this idea of perfectly imperfect. I wanted an elegance and formality, with a kick your feet up and feel relaxed atmosphere. I have never wanted a show home style house where you walk in and felt nervous. At first some people do just because my home is more pulled together than most, but then they see me with no shoes on, no make-up and picking up the milk I spilled on the floor (not my kids – I’m the messy klutz in the family) and my friends kick their shoes off and put their feet on the sofa and we chill. I have no tolerance for anything else – me casa es su casa!
My idea of a dinner in our dining room isn’t a sit, pass and serve type of dinner. My in-laws do that and I love it. But for me, a buffet of get up and grab adds that informality I love.
I also love having stations – food, beverage, serving pieces.
what’s important to me
So a few things were key to me:
- A large buffet for food spreads.
- One area designated for drinks, mixers, and everything you need to help yourself.
- An area for the plates and silverware to be laid out for easy access.
- Storage – lots and lots of storage. All of the above had to have the appropriate things in their designated station. So that when it came time to set out the plates and silverware, everything was in that part of the room. No hunting and gathering. The drinks and wine opener, cocktail napkins, etc. were by the drinks. All of my serving platters and bowls by the buffet.
Thinking through how you will use a space is so important. A buffet may not be right for you if you prefer sit and pass. In that case maybe you need a china cabinet to house it all to grab from one piece of furniture and set on the table.
So let’s walk through my dining room in the hopes of giving you formal dining room ideas. The original floor plan did not have built in’s flanking the fireplace. There were large cut outs. The previous owners had pieces of furniture in them with mirrors on the wall. So we giant spaces on each side to work with. The fireplace came with the house – and let me tell you, that did not get touched. It’s one of my favorite things in the house. I’m in love with the crisp white color and wood working. Perfection! And so beautiful to have in the winter.
The area to the left houses my plates and silverware. Since I was going full on custom I splurged and had the drawer’s custom made to my specifications. I laid out all of my silver (it’s stainless steel actually not real silver) and what I wanted in each drawer, and took exact measurements. Our fantastic cabinet designer built each drawer around my measurements. I also splurged greatly by having them lined in velvet. He and my designer initially thought I’d use my typical gray but I surprised everyone by using red. I wanted that almost Louboutin sexy reveal. It has that element of surprise and elegance when you open it. The cabinetry owner jokingly called them “The Queens drawers!” So true. Hey, if the crown fits. These drawers make me feel like a princess and I get giddy every time I open them!
Below the silver ware is where my plates are. We used the peg board model in there so I could adjust the placement of everything as things changed. I didn’t want to get locked into that area since I do get that things change over time.
The counter is Carrera Marble. Typically, I’m not a giant fan of this because I don’t think it’s user friendly but since this space wouldn’t be used often I decided to go for it. I love it. The center doors open and push back for what I want to use the space, but close for a finished look. There are glass shelves that are adjustable as I change what I display over the years. The side cabinets have the same.
The right hand side of the fireplace is my drink station. I have wine and bourbon set out with high ball glasses right there. My husband likes bourbon on occasion so it’s nice to have it ready for him.
Ideally I would have had a sink and wine cooler below the drink area but there wasn’t plumbing for this and we were spending enough money as it was so I skipped on this. Plus, I kind of wasn’t sure I wanted water access right there. We have another area within a few feet that has the wine cooler so it works fine. But I did consider it!
The very top of each cabinet each has four doors that open to wide open storage space. Here’s why – as I’ve shared before, our kids and I decorate my manzanita centerpiece for every holiday. I wanted to have my holiday décor right there and easily accessible. So that’s where I keep it! It’s way up high so I just grab a ladder and it’s out of the way.
I was adamant that that storage space not have dividers behind it and go all the way back as far as possible. The more space the better!
So that’s our built-ins! I have so many more photos to share and tips for formal dining room ideas, but this is enough text for one post!
Cabinetry by: Dukeman Custom Woodworking
formal dining room ideas
shop inspiration Product Ideas
Be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I send it out every Friday with easy to click links. That way you’ll know when I continue my tips on what to consider when designing a built in or for more formal dining room ideas!