Dining areas, whether it is a separate room, kitchen bars, nook, or outdoors, are some of the most-viewed photographs on our website. This is partially due to the wide variety of styles evidenced within these spaces. However, as different as your dining space design may be from that of another PrecisionCraft client, the space’s easy elegance and simple sophistication is universal. What type of dining space you prefer, and how many, does require some thought. Read about four types of dining spaces to discover which one best allows you to live beautifully within your custom log or timber home.
noun [c ] US /ˈdɑɪ·nɪŋ ˌrum, ˌrʊm/
1 a room in which meals are eaten, as in a home or hotel, especially the room in which the major or more formal meals are eaten.
Let us first address the definition of a dining room. The term, whose Cambridge Dictionary definition is shown above, includes any room in which main meals are eaten. However, when you hear the words “dining room”, you likely think of a separate space, or at minimum, a clearly defined area.
While the architectural development of the modern dining room occurred over a period of two centuries, there are milestones in its design evolution worth noting. One of the most important markers is the concept (and subsequent perception) of a designated dining area. During the Industrial Revolution, a wider distribution of money occurred. [i] Thus, the dining room, previously thought of as a space exclusive to the upper class, soon became de rigueur amongst the burgeoning middle class. Designing dining spaces necessarily followed.
“It isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters, as what’s on the chairs.” – William S. Gilbert
Frequently designed for use during holiday meals, client dinners, and special occasions such as graduations or anniversaries, today’s dining room spaces widely vary in layout and feel. For example, the dining room of the Park City, Utah residence shown below, offers a smooth flow into the main living space while still having distinctly established lines. Its modern design accomplishes an elegant, airy feel, yet features a non-vaulted ceiling. This is made possible because its design incorporates timbers to designate the space, as opposed to walls.
Now, compare the Utah dining room design to that of the Texas dining area below. Unlike the former, the Cedar Creek, Texas home’s dining room utilizes walls. These walls serve to designate the actual space, but also add (in the instance of the stone), a striking texture and lovely warmth to the room. Further, the incorporation of walls still allows the room to flow as related to the rest of the main living areas because it boasts both a gently sloped ceiling and large, multiple windows. This perfect combination welcomes the sun into the room, filling the ceiling with natural light.
Most PrecisionCraft homes offer designated dining rooms, but very few PrecisionCraft homes contain only one dining space. Nearly every client designs two (or three and even four), less formal areas in which meals are meant to be enjoyed. One such space is the breakfast bar.
noun [c/u ] US /ˈbrek·fəst , bɑr/
1 a raised counter in a kitchen that has room alongside for seating and is used for eating light meals. (Merriam-Webster)
Unlike “dining room”, with a first appearance in print occurring in 1601, [ii] the word “breakfast bar” was not seen in English until 1890. However, despite being nearly three centuries newer, the popularity of designing a breakfast bar into a residence is as indisputable as it is understandable. Breakfast, as is well-known, is the most important meal of the day from a nutritional standpoint. For some, however, it is much more.
British writer and critic, A.A. Gill once wrote, “Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing. It is the mouthful that is the commitment to a new day, a continuing life.” Thus, the famous flexibility and convenient access of a breakfast bar is, for many homeowners, designed far beyond simply a place at which to eat. It is a focal point of the entire space.
“Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing. It is the mouthful that is the commitment to a new day, a continuing life.” -A.A. Gill
Whether your breakfast bar is intended for its named purpose, e.g., eating breakfast, or designed as a snack space for rambunctious grandchildren, (or tea for the tired grandparents!), incorporating a breakfast bar into your design is a smart idea. Accessibility alone makes it a highly practical addition.
The Steamboat Springs, Colorado breakfast bar below, is an ideal example of this convenient access. It is part of the kitchen, and yet separated from the kitchen work triangle. This design keeps guests comfortably seated at its counter, located away from busy kitchen activities, but still facilitates their participation in the conversation. Because its design includes not one but two kitchen counters, plenty of preparation space, both adjacent to and opposite of, one’s guests is provided.
Juxtapose the Colorado resort-area home above to the breakfast bar of the luxury Kentucky residence below. The latter is distinctly different in design, boasting a breakfast bar also intended as a kitchen work area.
The large countertop includes a deep basin sink, placing some food preparation activities amidst those seated at the bar. The design also incorporates the dining room which is clearly defined with both a vaulted ceiling, as opposed to the flat ceiling of the kitchen, and sturdy, handcrafted, log beams. See this modern-day Bowling Green log post and beam lodge home here.
Perhaps no dining space is more opposite a breakfast bar than that of a nook. In direct contrast to the easy accessibility of a breakfast bar, nooks are intentionally designed for cozy seclusion. And, though nooks do not have to be solely for dining, they are frequently designed with this purpose in-mind.
noun [c ] US /nʊk/
1 a small space that is hidden or partly sheltered.
An especially relevant fact about the word “nook” is its list of synonyms. It is a list that includes words such as recess, booth, and perhaps most telling, sanctuary. It is the last one that most often leads to adding a dining nook into a home design. Of course, this is because few spaces in your residence provide sanctuary from the noise and bustle of life more than a dining nook. Dining nooks also tend to vary more than other dining spaces. Partially, this is due to each person’s idea of sanctuary being a personal preference. The nook below, for example, is a client’s addition to our exclusive M.T.N Design architectural standard, the Inglewood. By incorporating an octagonal breakfast nook, these owners not only designed a lovely sanctuary, they increased the architectural interest of the residence’s exterior.
For some, the eight-sided, spacious breakfast nook above may not be quite cozy enough. If this includes you, browse the M.T.N Design Boone concept. This Appalachian-style timber frame home boasts more than one cozy nook, including a charming 45-square-foot coffee bar perfectly nestled away from the main living spaces, yet still near enough to the kitchen to make washing-up a snap. When American teacher and poet*, Anne Spencer, wrote, “A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one’s husband…” we think she had a charming breakfast nook in-mind!
“A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one’s husband…” – Anne Spencer
Regardless of your definition of a nook, or even what defines cozy, one thing you will likely agree upon is your need for an inviting outdoor dining area. In fact, outdoor dining spaces tend to unite PrecisionCraft owners in an universal appeal perhaps more often than any other dining area.
Outdoor Dining Spaces
adverb [c ] US /ˌæl ˈfres.koʊ/
1 (especially with reference to eating) in the open air.
1 done or eaten in the open air.
Al fresco lovers abound and agree that patios, decks, and sunrooms are perfect spaces in which to dine. Somehow, dining amidst nature’s abundance simply makes meals a tad more scrumptious. And, this is true no matter what style of outdoor dining space you design.
Writer Rosemary Truesdale writing for the home chef blog, The Table, sums it up thusly, “[…] the outdoors are best served up with a bottle of rosé…and a crudité platter.” [iii] Truesdale also provides a succinct history of the practice, writing that outdoor supping originated amongst medieval hunting parties, providing on-the-spot sustenance prior to embarking on the hunt. From there, she posits, an evolution occurred from the idea of the picnic in 18th century England, to the German beer garden (post-American Civil War), and finally to the American and Australian frontiers (think American cowboys dining on the range and Australia’s famous chop picnics).
“…the outdoors are best served up with a bottle of rosé…and a crudité platter.” – Rosemary Truesdale, The Table
Nowadays, outdoor dining spaces incorporate kitchens and fireplaces. Some areas, however, overwhelm in their simplicity, and the Branchville, New Jersey residence below is a lovely example. These owners designed a modestly sized al fresco dining space that perfectly accommodates seating for six along with ample room to maneuver.
A polar opposite to the New Jersey waterfront retreat’s outdoor dining space is the expansive, patio space of the Arizona residence shown below. This fully custom timber frame home offers al fresco dining alongside an outdoor kitchen. Easily accessed via the accordion doors of the great room, its covered patio also includes a fireplace and smoothly flows into additional open-sky patio space, allowing its owners to take advantage of the high desert spring sunshine.
A Final Thought
As with every space in your luxury home, designing your dining space is uniquely personal. Thoughtful design includes more than simply ensuring adequate space exists for family and friends. It requires an understanding of your tastes, your lifestyle, and you. Before you begin your next luxury home, we invite you to contact us for a conversation about your future home’s design.
Interested in design budgets? Read, Budgeting For Interior Design.
Curious about cabinets? Read, Cabinets: More Than Just a Pretty Face.
Explore ten tips about kitchen design here.
*Anne Spencer was also a well-known civil rights activist, librarian, and gardener.
[i] Berman, L. S. (1997). Penn Design These (Historic Preservation). Retrieved from Penn Libraries Scholarly Commons
[ii] Cambridge Dictionary
[iii] A Brief History of Al Fresco Dining, via The Table; Rosemary Truesdale, June 13, 2016