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Check out our useful hints and tips articles to help you get the best out of your home interiors projects.

Making the most of a modern dining room or area

Dining table. Photograph by Gargi Bhuyan

If you've recently been "Downton-ing" on ITV, you'll realise how much the dining experience has changed.

Stifling formality is largely a thing of the past. These days, dining rooms, often combined with the kitchen, tend to be much more vibrant and frequently-used areas. In contrast, you're less likely to want a heavy, dark wood table and formal seating in an occasionally-used and musty room.

Two key questions for starters

There are two questions to consider when figuring out how best to present your dining room or area. Firstly, is it to be a just-for-best area, or one that your family will be using on a fairly continual basis? In most cases, with space at a premium, it's likely to be the latter. Also, you may have a range of different activities to accommodate - from semi-formal dinner parties to regular snacking. It may also be used at other times - for example, kids doing homework, browsing on your laptop, or reading a magazine with a cup of coffee. The second question is what kind of impression do you want people to have when using it? How do you want them to feel?

Lightness and modernity

The answers to the above questions might well point to creating an airy and welcoming environment for all the activities that take place there. Of course, light décor and furnishings also give the impression of greater space. Another step away from tradition could be to have a kitchen-diner feel with a breakfast bar accessorised with stools. If space permits, this could be combined with a smaller table and chairs for intimate or small-group dining.

Stores such as MDM Furniture offer a wide spectrum of cracking seating options. Bright, modern, stylish, and, in these times, extremely reasonably priced, you can find chairs and stools that use clever design concepts such as faux leather or moulded plastic frames in eye-catching bright reds and sky blues, clean whites or midnight blacks. Add sparkling chrome legs and you have made a comfortable but modern statement to appeal to the eye of guests and enhance the experience for those who use them every day.

Incidentally, whilst you might choose a consistent colour scheme through both your furniture and decorations, there is also no law that says all chairs must be the same colour. So, a matching style but in different shades could add real brightness and personality.

Adding those extra touches

With your basic style decided, it's time to add just a few finishing touches. For example, if you'd like to make an area seem slightly larger, try using bold, wide, horizontal stripes on the main wall. A shelf, decorated with plates that fit the design of the room, can add a touch of style. For the windows, roller blinds, patterned shades, or plantation shutters can add a dramatic or colourful touch (as well as being easily manipulated and maintained). Or, for a bit of fun, how about a restaurant-styled blackboard on the wall with 'today's menu'?

These few tips should set you thinking about what you want your dining area to be, and how you might present it. Remember, though, that the key aim is surely to make it a convivial place for any and every gathering!

Photo credit: Gargi Bhuyan

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