“Of course, who has a dining room table anymore?”

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, May 9, 2014.


Hmmm…good question. A strange yet intriguing one. It was uttered during a conversation we recently had with a professional framer about hanging pictures . She was talking about proper height at which to hang certain types of framed art, mirrors, etc. Such thoughts had never passed my mind before when accomplishing such a task other than: does the picture fit? Yes? Good. No? Move it elsewhere.  But she discussed all sorts of things to consider, from windows and glare to wall heights and other objects in the room to perspective. That’s where the dining room came in – perspective. Would people be viewing the picture standing or seated, like in a dining room? A formal dining room, presumably.

In response to her rhetoric, I almost piped up, “we don’t have a dining room, anymore,” but I remained silent instead. She wasn’t looking for an answer, but her remark hit home. Only a few months ago, we transformed our (formal) dining room into what we now lovingly call a “yoga room.”  When we first moved in, having a dining room made sense in theory as a place to eat and entertain (duh). In practice…well, things started out that way but slowly evolved into something else. When entertaining, our guests usually migrated away from the dining room, ending up on outside on our porch (during nice weather) or congregating in our kitchen or den. For ourselves, we rarely used the dining room for eating, preferring instead a smaller nook in the kitchen or, like the land o’ the free, home o’ the brave, red-blooded Americans that we are, parking our dinner plates in front of the television. The dining room became a place for projects and clutter, and we soon found ourselves annoyed by our big, bulky dining room table that was just another obstacle in the way of the vacuum.

So we got rid of it. And we don’t miss it. We have modular tables that can be combined if we really need to go from downward-facing-dog to upward-facing-dinner-host, and we plenty of other areas in which to work on projects and stash clutter.

While the conversation with the framer had moved on, my mind wandered on another thought. What other rooms are becoming scarcer in houses these days? Take the living room. Or parlor. Or sitting room. Or whatever old fashioned name you or your grandmother might like to call a space solely for conversation.

Y'know, JUST like this. Exactly like this.
Y’know, just like this. Exactly like this.

The living rooms I knew growing up were only for adults and they only contained uncomfortable furniture, small tables, and lots of knick knacks and pictures. They were where my mother met and talked with friends over coffee. They were off limits to sticky, messy food. They were quiet places without stereo equipment and televisions. We have a “living room” in our house. It’s got our better set of furniture, lots of bookshelves, and a a few knick knacks and pictures. It’s a nice room in which to read and have coffee (no sticky, messy food please), but it also contains a television and a couple game consoles. It’s not always a quiet room, especially when the games are played and angry language echoes within its walls. Oh how my grandmother would swoon at the thought! [2017 edit: Actually, she wouldn’t today. We consolidated all our gaming stuff into the den. Our living room is now free of technology, save for lamps.]

Moving on, do any of you remember when “computer rooms” were in vogue? And what were they meant for? Gold stars to anyone who dimly answered “uh…computers.” When personal computers came into the market in a big way in the 1980s, they had to go somewhere in the house. But where? On the kitchen table? In the family room?? Next to the bathtub??? No, no, and heavens NO!

That’s where computer rooms came in – a space (or, if retrofitting, a spare room/guest bedroom) which held your pretty Apple IIe or IBM PC or Commodore 64 and all its accoutrements – cassettes, floppy discs, that awesome dot matrix printer, and for the super wealthy, a fax machine and, sweet jeezus, is that a…modem? There was no fumbling with portable electronics before bed or while brushing one’s teeth. If you wanted to use the only computer in the house, attached firmly in place with wires and cables of all sorts, you had to go to the computer room. And if someone was using it, you had to wait. Oh kids, it was such a sad and sorry past in which to live!

It’s interesting to think of what other spaces in our houses might someday become obsolete, or the types of new ones that might pop up in the future.  The concept of “home” has changed drastically over the past couple decades (though it has always been in some state of flux it seems). As we integrate and become integrated with new technologies, redefine what it means to be “social,” and become more aware of new and different housing options, no longer does a cookie-cutter, development driven approach suffice. Not that mass housing is going anywhere, but we each make, break, and relate to our homes in a multitude of ways. As our housing needs evolve, so to do our houses. Nobody’s complained about us not having a dining room anymore because we’ve proven that it doesn’t make sense for us. Maybe we’ll transform the room again in a few years into a…I don’t know…library (to help save print media) or antique museum (for all our old computers and cell phones). But for now, if you want to join us for dinner, we’ll be in the den, in front of the television, which we’ll kindly keep off for the duration of conversation, or…until Jeopardy starts. Go ‘Murica.

5 thoughts on ““Of course, who has a dining room table anymore?””

  1. One of the things I actually missed about my last apartment was a dedicated dining room. I love entertaining, and in my house growing up we always spent time around the dinner table talking, or in the living room talking, so I guess in my mind those are “staple” rooms if you’re going to have people over.

    We had a “den” (what we called the computer room), and while it was a “cool” thing to have at the time, it also served to let my parents keep an eye on us once the Internet came into existence, to monitor where we were going and who we were talking to. I sort of like having dedicated spaces for things – I just moved not too long ago, so my computer is in my bedroom as I re-arrange stuff, and I actually don’t like it. I’m looking forward to having my desk and everything away from my bed again…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that I don’t like the commingling of work and relaxation spaces in the home. I like having separate rooms with separate purposes. (Loft living is not for me, ha!) Even our smallest apartments, we still tried to carve out particular spaces for work, gaming, relaxing, etc. In our house now we have just enough rooms for everything we need, and it’s great! And even though the dining room isn’t the dining room anymore, it’s there in case we ever need it.

      I was out of the house by the time the Internet rolled round to regular folks, so I never experienced that whole thing about parents hovering over their kids online (much like my siblings do now with their children). The most annoying thing my folks could have ever done was listen in our phone conversations by picking up on another line. Haha…ancient history!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That sounds like a really cool set- up you have!

        Ha! Yeah I was lucky. My parents didn’t really hover. We just knew there was always a chance our parents could walk in and see what we were doing. Internet was more supervised, but that just meant a patent was in the room working on something else while we were online. There was definitely a level of trust between us that other families didn’t always have, which was nice. We learned to fend for ourselves haha.

        Haha the phone. We were always getting listened to, but it was never on purpose! Three kids and two adults… someone was always picking up the phone to see if the line was available!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I myself don’t see a need for a dedicated dining room, but I like to have a dining space as an extension of our kitchen. I never understood the computer room thing, my dad was big on this, but I just always kept my computer in my bedroom.

    I do currently have an “office” setup in my basement, which consists of my computer desk, with monitor/computer, big speakers, and of course my guitars and amps. This is where I can do work, game, practice and record, so it’s not traditional computer room, but just my modern take on an office/entertainment personal space.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the computer room might have been the precursor to the home office, which, as you described, is pretty prevalent in most homes today, whether it’s for work or play or both.

      Growing up, the computer room in our house was a way for my parents to keep “entertainment” separate from sleep. We weren’t allowed to have TVs in our bedrooms, and if you happened to have more than one PC…well…I didn’t know anyone that rich! Haha. So the one PC got its own space. Though that room was also the “office” and the guest bedroom. (And boy did it suck whenever we had company, because then the PC became even less available!)

      Liked by 1 person

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