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Is Domestic Dining Becoming More Intimate?

If you happen to be a kitchen designer, architect or interior decorator in the Washington DC area, your answer would be a resounding, ‘YES!’ Putting your finger on the pulse of modern American lifestyles will tell you that the days of ‘long table dining’ with the family are changing into something more intimate. Granted, nothing can, or will ever, replace the comfort and security of having the entire family gather for a nightly or holiday sit-down; but the trends in new kitchen designs are suggesting that the majority of the domestic dining will not occur under these conditions or, as you will see, in the typical dining area.

The trend isn’t really seeking to replace those tried-and-true gatherings but, instead, to heighten the importance of such social gathering around the eating experience. The re-emergence of the popular ‘breakfast nook’ and ‘banquette’ areas are becoming increasingly more popular and standardized in today’s kitchen designs and makeovers. These areas, whether structurally created or visually stationed by virtue of furnishings, are quiet, secluded settings whereby intimacy is encouraged. They take into consideration the fast-paced lifestyle that’s occurring in the modern family and provide a more reserved area in which to spend a little time together; and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that idea!

Architecturally Defined

Whether a featured component within the generalized kitchen area or secluded and still abutting the kitchen area the breakfast nook has been a popular, casual addition to new kitchen designs. These areas are often characterized by structural ‘bump-outs’ of the kitchen area and are, quite typically, nearly entirely wrapped in windows. The predominance of window space adds to the casual and natural ambiance of the intended use of the space. Here, the snack or meal is enjoyed in the company of one, or two, or simply used by one individual who desires a comfortable, warm place to read a book while sipping on their coffee or tea. It’s a place where two friends can sit at ease and chat without engaging in the calamity of the balance of the home.

The décor of these nooks expands upon the natural windowed theme. The furniture is casual, often wicker or iron replete with comfortable cushions, and typically stands alone in that it doesn’t seek to match or coordinate with the other furniture nearby. It has its own space and is defined as its own space by virtue of décor and embellishments. The theme is almost exclusively of nature and natural–again, maintaining that natural lighting effect. Whites, yellows, oranges and light earthy greens are usually chosen to translate this space into a natural area of peace and retreat.

Making Good Use of Open Space

The size of the American family seems to have stabilized into smaller member units. The couple with 4-6 children living in the home is clearly not the norm as it was a few decades ago. These days, one or two children per household, appears to be the more contemporary norm of occupancy in the modern home. In accord with this trend, the furniture associated with the domestic dining areas have become smaller by scale and more homes are dedicating such types of furniture to a more dedicated, formal dining area that is to be used for extended family gatherings. Whether the formal furniture is dedicated to its own room or is scaled-down in a larger room, open space is created that needs to be addressed.

Such vacant spaces have invited a fresh look at the concept of banquettes. These banquettes tend to be defined by virtue of their own accommodations and seek to serve the abbreviated family unit for a more casual dining experience or simply serve a smaller representation of the family unit in a quick, yet intimate showcase. The décor of these areas, quite frankly, somewhat assimilates those ‘booth’ areas of a casual family restaurant. There is almost always a bench-type sitting area included within the ensemble, but may also be supported with an additional casual chair, or two, as well. There is little exclusive decorating, unlike the breakfast nook, that surround these banquettes, nor is there a good reason to do so. The thematic intention is to provide a very casual experience for the ‘patrons’ in an atmosphere that is personable and private.

The real beauty of the banquette is that they are achieved via an available vacant space or alcove, handsome and practical furnishings, and a desire for the family to be physically that close together for their gatherings. Above all else, these areas can be very fun and entertaining–not to mention that their subsequent integration into a kitchen or dining area is quite affordable. In creating or segmenting an area to be used for a banquette, you are actually retro-fitting an entirely different room experience without ever swinging a hammer or painting a wall. Of course, the benefit of creating an intimate dining space like this has no end to its personal rewards.