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By Lisa Schryver, Brand Publishing Writer
You remember your dining room, right? It's that quiet room off the kitchen with a table and chairs in it.
You had such high hopes for it when you moved in. Visions of guests gasping in awe as you serve a delicious meal with ease while they sit around your perfectly dressed table danced through your head. “How DO you do it?” guests will wonder as you dim the lights to the perfect ambient level.
You had plans for that room, but then life happened. And there the dining room sits.
It’s time to bring those fantasies of epic dinner parties to reality. Don’t worry, says Sarasota-based Syril Lebbad, a designer for Baer’s Furniture, a family owned chain with 15 locations throughout Florida. “A fabulous dinner party can be within reach, but first you need the right furniture,” Lebbad says.
Choosing the right dining furniture can be tricky. Lebbad says a common mistake is putting too much furniture in the dining room, so she suggests a simple tip to avoid overcrowding.
“The normal rule of thumb is you want anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 feet of space between the edge of the table and walls and other pieces of furniture,” Lebbad explains. “That is so that when someone is seated at the table there is room for the hostess to pass or other guests to pass behind.”
This will also help determine the shape of the table and whether you have enough room for serving pieces such as buffets or sideboards.
“Dining rooms once were much bigger than they are today, especially in residences up north — and now those folks are moving down here,” she says. “They used to be able to put a sideboard and a china cabinet in a dining room, but often our smaller room just won’t accommodate all the pieces.”
If you have room for a serving piece, think about what you will be serving, Lebbad advises. Hot dishes will require something with a stone top, whereas if you will be serving mostly cold dishes in the dining room, wood or glass surfaces will do.
Before choosing decor pieces, take a look at the available space. If your dining room has a lot of vertical space, don’t be afraid to use a mirror above a sideboard to add height. Frame the piece with a pair of tall buffet lamps for a professional look.
“Because a lot of times these rooms are not used during the day, you can be a little more dramatic in those spaces than you would in other areas of the house,” Lebbad adds. “You’re working with candlelight and sconces and other elements to bring more ambient light to that space, so you can feel free to use stronger colors if you like.”
Find a light fixture that ties in with the architecture of the home, and be sure the finish coordinates with fixtures in the kitchen and other areas for a cohesive look.
“I generally like to pick a light fixture that’s about half the width of the table beneath it,” Lebbad explains. “Normally, we hang them 30 to 36 inches above the table. The exact height depends on whether a client approves a design that includes a centerpiece.”
Lebbad notes that large or tall centerpieces are for everyday use in the room. They should be removed from the table if you are planning a dinner party so they don’t hinder conversation.
The space you have available, in some ways, also determines what type of party will be thrown. Depending on the size and layout of your dining room, guests can serve themselves from a buffet or sideboard. If the space feels cramped, it may be necessary to bring out each course one at a time.
If formal, sit-down dinners aren’t your thing, consider lighter fare or a more interactive menu, such as a build-your-own bruschetta bar. A tiered serving set filled with different options for your guests can also double as your centerpiece.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with various colors and styles of dishware. Your grandmother’s dish set can coordinate with other dishes for a twist.
“You can have fun with color, and you don’t have to have everything match, either,” says Lebbad. “The more eclectic your table, the more fun and more of a conversation piece it is for your guests when they’re sitting there.”
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