To Keep or to Convert Your Dining Room? It’s a Matter of Taste
By: Rose Bennett Gilbert
Q: We have a lovely dining room, but like most of my friends, we eat most meals in the family room, sometimes (blush) in front of the TV. I’m thinking of scrapping our “formal” dining table and chairs and using the room for my office. A smart move, or is it downright decadent not to have a “proper” dining room?
A: Let us listen again to John Saladino, designer, architect and champion of classic taste, who once opined: “The dining room is the only ritual left to the modern American family.”
In my book, it’s a ritual we need. Today, especially, when we’re all turning into semi-serious cooks, coming together to enjoy glorious food in a lovely candlelit setting is my idea of the ne plus ultra of civilized domestication.
But I didn’t write the book on the modern lifestyle, so let’s turn to designer Gale Steves, longtime editor of such taste-making magazines as Home, Ladies’ Home Journal, American Home and Woman’s Day. In her new book, “Right-Sizing Your Home” (Northwest Arm Press), Steves takes a clear-eyed look at today’s family life, and says, “Once upon a mealtime … the family gathered around the dining room table. Sound like a fairy tale? Well, somewhere along the way, we all got too busy, and now, so many time-challenged members eat on the fly — and certainly not in the dining room!”
You might eat in the dining room, if yours was as welcoming as the one we borrowed from Steves’ book. Filled with light through the wall of French doors and furnished with a cheerful — but relaxed — combination of wood and painted furniture on a flower-strewn needlepoint rug, this is a room too pretty to become just “a space you walk through on the way to another room,” as Steves warns.
However, if that’s the sad case at your house, she has suggestions for the space: Let it function as a home office, pool room, music space, (or) a quiet place to read …
“Or,” Steves says with her trademark twinkle, “You could start having weekly dinner parties.”
Q: Need a short course in modern furniture design?
A: Put the newly renovated and greatly expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on your summer travel schedule. Located in Richmond, a center of America’s colonial history and heart of the old Confederacy, the museum has just doubled its exhibition space with a cool stone-and-glass addition.
The expansion allowed the curators to open up storage areas and bring out the museum’s remarkable collection of furniture — and not just the 18th-century treasures made by the likes of Hepplewhite and Chippendale, always so dear to Virginia anglophiles. In today’s galleries, you’ll find signature prices by the likes of French Deco masters Emile Jacques Ruhlmann, Eileen Gray and Jean-Michael Frank — not to mention America’s own Donald Deskey, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
In fact, Tiffany’s glass masterpieces are the subject of a dazzling exhibit on now through Aug. 15. This Virginia museum is the show’s only venue in the U.S., so make it one of the most exciting things you’ll do on your summer vacation this year. The glass-studded oak screen Tiffany made for Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, Conn., is alone worth the trip. Get all the colorful details at www.VMFA.museum.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM.