Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Come Dine with Me

Designed by Tutto Interiors, Photograph by John Carlson

The holiday season is just around the corner, and preparing our homes for entertaining family and friends is moving up the priority list. We asked a group of taste-making designers to share their work and to find out if their clients prefer casual or formal dining spaces. Open-concept design has ruled for some time. Are formal dining rooms making a comeback? Read on to see what they have to say.

Design by Heather Duggan Interiors, Photograph by Dane Cronin

Photograph by Dane Cronin


“Ready to shift away from their traditional décor, these clients wanted to stay true to the clean-lined architecture of the house and keep the design simple and edited. This dining room is really about a minimal aesthetic, while embracing texture to keep things interesting. The sleek chairs are upholstered in a cozy boucle, and the carved buffet cabinet topped with 3D airplane art that really gives this space some dimension and interest.” – Heather Duggan, Heather Duggan Interiors   


  • Today’s dining room is more of an open concept and a space that is used, rather than a show piece, so having protective textiles is important—you’ll inevitably have a spill that needs to be wiped up.

SOURCES: Lamps and Dining Table, CAI Designs

Design by Tutto Interiors, Photograph by John Carlson

Photograph by John Carlson


“The homeowners of this Bloomfield Hills home on Turtle Lake were looking for a formal dining room with ample seating at the dining table and a server that would accommodate several sets of dinnerware and serving pieces. As far as the aesthetics of the space are concerned, they placed complete faith in me to ensure the dining space would complement the rest of the design in the home. While these homeowners were looking for a formal dining space, I would say half of the homeowners I work with are moving towards a more casual living space. They either have an open dining space that flows into the kitchen, or a nook in the kitchen with a less formal table that acts as a dining area.” – Cheryl Nestro, Tutto Interiors


  • Think through the optimal amount of seating without overcrowding the space. If you are a family that is kitchen centric, you may want to incorporate an open dining space that is connected to the kitchen.

SOURCE: Fabrics, Tennant & Associates

Design by Ellwood Interiors, Photograph by Martin Vecchio

Photograph by Martin Vecchio


“The owner of this Birmingham home worked with architect Brian Neeper to create an open floor plan that maximized movement between indoor and outdoor spaces while entertaining. Hand-blown glass crystal pendants float over a marble rectangular pedestal table that sits on a white oak herringbone floor. The subtle texture, neutral colors, and earthy accents created a sophisticated space that is comfortable, inviting, and chic. I think by nature guests congregate in kitchens. The natural flow is to move casually from kitchens to larger kitchen nooks for informal dining. We still see formal dining spaces in larger homes where entertainment for more than 12 people is required.” – Amanda Sinistaj, Ellwood Interiors


  • Create a space that is inviting and interesting either with wallpaper, furniture, or beautiful art so that people are drawn to use the space.
  • Integrate interesting lighting—chandeliers, multiple pendants, or indirect lighting that can enhance the mood.
  • Be clear on the style. If you want something moody—deeper, saturated hues can help. If you’re looking to incorporate the outdoors, consider glass walls or large windows to let the light flood in.

SOURCES: Fabrics, Tennant & Associates and Pindler

Design by It's Personal Design, Photograph by Beth Singer

Photograph by Beth Singer


“This historic Birmingham residence was part of a full-home renovation where the clients were looking for a clean and sophisticated—but casual eating space. This is the sole eating area in the home and it is connected to their kitchen. I’m seeing a movement toward casual living, where everyone seems to gather in the kitchen. In general, formal dining rooms aren’t used very often, so more money is being spent on everyday kitchens, lighting fixtures, etc. to make the main gathering space fabulous, but practical.” – Ann-Marie Anton, It’s Personal Design


  • It’s best to consider your lifestyle and how you entertain, and then make design decisions from there. A lot of homeowners are moving away from formal dining rooms because we just don’t entertain in the same way we used to.